This week West Brom manager Pepe Mel called Ben Foster the best English goalkeeper in the game. I've just returned from the Norwich v Manchester City game where I saw two of England's finest keep clean sheets, with Man City not finding a way past John Ruddy, and Norwich not able to beat the current England number one, Joe Hart.
England are in a fortunate position, they have four top class goalkeepers in Hart, Ruddy, Foster and Forster. Joe Hart has regained his place in the Manchester side after earlier being benched due to a dip in form. Since returning to the fold Hart has put in some fantastic displays to cement his place as England's number one.
However the "who is the understudy to Hart"? is the real question that needs to be answered. At the moment you would say it has to be John Ruddy and Fraser Forster, Ruddy for his consistency this season and Forster for his inspired Champions League displays. Looking into the statistics provided by Squawka you may be surprised to hear that John Ruddy has kept more clean sheets this season than both Hart and Foster combined. Ruddy picked up his 10th clean sheet of the season today, although admittedly he was not troubled by the uninspired Manchester City attack. We do have to remember of course that Foster was troubled with injuries and Hart was dropped for several games mid-season.
If we keep looking deeper, you have to admit that John Ruddy's resume this season is quite impressive. He has successfully claimed 94% of crosses he has gone for, which is exactly the same as Joe Hart. Although Ruddy has claimed significantly more (64 to 32) showing his command of the area. He claimed numerous dangerous balls today and organised his defense consistently. Foster has a 90% success rate when coming for the ball, but that is based on just 21 total attempts (claiming 19 and failing with 2).
Lets move down another level to saves. Ruddy has been tested significantly more than either keeper, obviously having played more matches than Hart and Foster. Ruddy has been called into action 59 times, Hart 31 and Foster 17. All of these stats are subjective because a goalkeepers performances hinges on what he sees in front of him and how well the team and in particular the defence perform.
So you would expect Joe Hart to be tested less than Ruddy and Foster, he has the likes of Kompany, Clichy and Zabaleta protecting him, not to mention Yaya Toure and Fernandino. However by that logic you would expect him to be keeping more clean sheets. It gets a little trickier as they haven't played the same number of games. However If you are going to anoint Joe Hart the starter based on experience, then the 2nd spot needs to go to John Ruddy based on performance.
The one issues with Ruddy is always his ball distribution, especially his kicking. However it's not significantly worse than the rest to make that a reason for him not to be on the plane. Foster made himself unavailable for England because he didn't want to be a back-up. If he learned from his mistake and appreciated it was an honour and not a chore to represent your country then I have no problem with him coming back into the fold. However as far as I'm concerned, it's Hart #1, Ruddy #2 and between Forster and Foster for the final spot. Let's be honest, the 3rd choice keeper isn't likely to feature in Brazil anyway.
However today at Carrow Road the chant of "England's number one, England, England's number one" reigned down, but it wasn't coming from the Manchester City fans aiming it at Hart, it was coming from the Norwich fans, directed towards their number one!