Belfast Telegraph

Joe Hart's World Cup dream slips out of reach

 

By Simon Peach

Joe Hart's World Cup dreams appear to have gone up in smoke as Gareth Southgate prepares to name the England squad bound for Russia.

Months of speculation, scrutiny and intrigue come to a head this afternoon, when the 23 men charged with taking on the world's best next month are revealed.

Their delight will contrast markedly with the disappointment of those missing out, with Hart - comfortably England's most experienced player - said to have missed the cut.

Despite the 75-cap goalkeeper's struggles for form and game-time, Southgate spoke glowingly about his professionalism and leadership when third-fiddle to Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland in March's international meet-up.

The England manager also underlined the importance of the West Ham loanee's role in getting his country to the World Cup and just last August called the criticised shot-stopper the country's "best goalkeeper".

But Burnley's Nick Pope has usurped him in the pecking order after Southgate called Hart on Monday to tell him he would not be in the squad heading to Russia.

It is a bold call, but Southgate said in March he was being "really straight with him throughout" the selection process.

"Joe's professionalism has been brilliant with us," the England boss said after the March friendlies. "He's always performed well for us."

Southgate's choices will be pawed over at a press conference at Wembley tomorrow, when the process will be in focus as well as his plans for the captaincy and goalkeeper in Russia.

The majority of players will meet up on Monday. England have friendlies against Nigeria at Wembley on June 2 and Costa Rica in Leeds on June 7, with the Group G opener against Tunisia on June 18.

Belfast Telegraph

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