West Ham keeper's performance against Chelsea has put back in contention
Joe Hart’s recent form merits an England recall | Brian Glanville
Goalkeepers! You never really know. For many weeks Joe Hart, so often capped for England, languished on the bench at West Ham United. Having, for all his many England caps, been jettisoned by Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, and shuffled off to a West Ham team which kept him on the bench, unused. Till last weekend when he returned to the West Ham goal at Stamford Bridge and with a gloriously resilient and defiant display, enabled Hammers to escape with a point.
One newspaper marked him nine out of ten. It soon began to be bruited that he would return in the coming World Cup to the England squad, if not the England goal, in Russia. When he was abruptly discarded by Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, the chief charge against him seemed to be that he did not distribute the ball well, above all with his feet. So he spent trial time, you might say, in exile with Torino.
But when has so crucial a demand on goalkeepers been to ask them to distribute with their feet? It wasn’t, after all, so many years ago, that keepers could pick the ball up in their own penalty area, rather than boot the ball back down field when it arrived from one of their own defenders. Surely the most important facets of a goalkeeper are to stop shots high and low at his net, and, especially important in English football, to grab the high crosses.
At the moment Jordan Pickford, in the much troubled Everton goal, seems the favourite to play for England, not least because he is known for good use of his feet, in distribution. But does he truly command his own area when the high crosses come in?
There is sometimes room for doubt. If Hart conmtinues in the dazzling form he showed at Chelsea there could well be a case for elevating him from England’s number three to number one again.
A curiously enigmatic pronouncement by Fabio Capello, the not much mourned ex-manager of the England team. “For this World Cup,” he says. “England have youngsters with great talent and knowledge. It is possible that these young men don’t feel the pressure so they might play without tension. A key problem in my opinion is that they come very physically tired to compete with teams whose players are not so fatigued.”
Is there a lurking paradox?
Noble of Chris Coleman to say that he will go down and stay with the Sunderland ship if (when?) they go down to the actual third division at the end of this season. I never did understand why Coleman, after doing such a fine job with the Welsh international team, decided to go to struggling Sudnerland at all. There was a brief sign of a dramatic revival after that remarkable win at Derby, but disaster followed yet again in the ensuing match.
With huge incurred debts and an inadequate playing staff, even the prospect of Sunderland being available without payment from their current owner seems a pretty bad bargain.
What goes around comes around. Though Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola fumed at an inadequate referee at half-time, getting himself so expensively banished to the stand, it could be argued that some kind of rough justice had been done.
True, there was nothing wrong with the disallowed goal scored by Sane when he put the ball in the net and was quite wrongly given offside as the ball had previously been played by Liverpool and Milner. Yet it seemed more than likely when City scored their second-minute goal that Liverpool had been wronged. Liverpool’s Van Dijk angrily claimed he had been fouled by Sterling.
City also had reasonable claims for a couple of penalties but in the event it was Liverpool in the second half who turned the tide and scored twice. More than enough after their 3-0 win at Anfield to carry them through to the next round. And this without the important presence in midfield of their suspended skipper Henderson. All credit to the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp whose tactics deserved to prevail.
Much credit too to an inspired Roma who so unexpectedly turned the tables on Barcelona at the Olympic Stadium. Three-nil was a handsome and quite unexpected success against a Barcelona team which looked home and dry.
How City could have done with the goal scored in Rome by their former player Edin Dzeko.