Who is England's No1? Joe Hart's rivals for Three Lions goalkeeper jersey
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 03/09/17 8:22pm
Is Joe Hart still England's best goalkeeper? We look at the rivals to his Three Lions starting spot...
The retirement of record scorer Wayne Rooney dominated discussions about the England team last week - but ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, boss Gareth Southgate has a tough decision to make about who plays in goal.
While England are expected to take six points from their trip to Malta and Wembley date with Slovakia over the coming week and a half, Southgate may use this international break to invest in a new No1.
Joe Hart, so long the automatic choice between the sticks, has endured a tough start to the season on loan at West Ham from Manchester City, following a mixed campaign with Serie A side Torino.
After Southgate named four goalkeepers in his squad for this round of internationals, we take a look at each of the shot-stoppers - and who could be the manager's preferred choice…
Hart has been an England regular for seven years, working under Fabio Capello, Roy Hodgson and Gareth Southgate since establishing himself in the line-up after the 2010 World Cup.
With 71 caps to his name, the 30-year-old has far more experience than any of his likely rivals. Yet, following a couple of high-profile errors at last summer's European Championships, Hart's subsequent club form has raised questions over whether he is a shoo-in as shot-stopper.
Hart has had a tough start to this season, conceding 10 times in three Premier League games. In fact, if you combine the end of his loan spell at Torino in 2016/17, he's now gone 22 league games without a clean sheet, letting in 20 goals in six games.
Hot on Hart's heels is in-form Jack Butland. The Stoke stopper became England's youngest goalkeeper to start an international match since 1888 when he deputised for the injured Hart as a 19-year-old in 2012. While a fractured ankle cruelly ruled him out of a place in the Euro 2016 squad, now the fit-again 24-year-old is ready for the full-time role.
Butland has been beaten just twice in his first three Premier League games and earned the man of the match prize for his performance in the 1-0 win over Arsenal, when he made six saves. "A lot of top teams would want him," said Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness. "He's a big boy and a very confident young man."
Pickford only received his first England call-up less than a year ago but the former international youth team star - who has represented his country from U16s through to U21s - is on the fast-track to the top.
After impressing in Sunderland's 2016/17 relegation season, Everton spent £30m to bring the 23-year-old to Goodison Park this summer. He's relished the step up. "From the beginning, he has been really comfortable, he has not looked nervous and he gets the confidence of being the number one," said boss Ronald Koeman. "We think he will be the best in the future and he is on a good way."
Also in the England squad and vying for first-team recognition is Burnley's Tom Heaton. The 31-year-old - who first came into the England frame ahead of Euro 2016 - made headlines with a stunning display at Old Trafford last season. The former Manchester United youth player will hope to get near to that level on a consistent basis through this campaign to push his case .
On the fringes of the squad, Southampton's Fraser Forster remains a potential England goalkeeper. The stats are certainly in his favour: since the start of 2014/15, no Englishman has kept more clean sheets than Forster (35), while this season he has made the joint-most saves inside the box in the Premier League. The 6ft 7in giant was Hart's understudy at Euro 2016.
Jamie Carragher: "There's been a lot of talk about Joe Hart over the last 18 months, but I never felt there was anyone really challenging to take his place.
It's still early in the season but Butland and Pickford look top class.
"But now, there's not just Butland but Pickford as well. And I think between now and the World Cup, considering the start West Ham have made and that it hasn't been a great start for Joe Hart, and the performances of these two, I could easily see one of them starting for England at the World Cup.
"Is it a bad start Hart is going through, is he going to come back from that? It's still early in the season but Butland and Pickford look top class, especially Butland in the game against Arsenal."