England's Number One

Inspired by the carnage of the Capital One Cup I couldn’t help but admire the goalkeepers. I thought both Belgians Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet pulled off some fantastic saves. To have keepers of that quality vying for a number one spot must be a great headache for Marc Wilmots. It got me thinking about how we compare. When I think of England Goalkeepers I think of England greats like Peter Shilton, David Seaman and Gordon Banks. All three are written into English folklore. World Cup ’66, Mexico 70, Mexico ‘86, Italy ‘90, Euro ‘96, France ’98, Japan/Korea ’02. All memorable tournaments for the three ‘keepers respectively.

That brings me to today. Where do we stand? Since 2008 Manchester City’s Joe Hart has arguably been our regular number one. In between we have experimented with Ben Foster, Fraser Forster, John Ruddy and young Jack Butland. They are without a doubt, very good goalkeepers. When you look at the youth ranks we have players starting to get themselves established.

Angus Gunn, on the books at Manchester City is described as one for the future with sharp reflexes and strong wrists. At Exeter City 19 year old U20 Christy Pym is now established as club number one. George Long at Sheffield United is one to keep an eye on. Chelsea’s Jamal Blackman starred recently for Middlesbrough in the 14-13 penalty shootout defeat against Liverpool in the Cup and has been recalled as back up for Courtois and Petr Cech. Training with those two can only help improve you. Sam Johnstone of Manchester United has spent the past few years bouncing between the divisions for various clubs on loan. Jon Bond from Watford has transferred over from the Welsh pool and is considered the main rival to U21 number one Jack Butland.

Jack Butland has everything he needs to play at the very top level. Now at Stoke City the former Birmingham star is competing with the gifted Asmir Begovic. Still only 21 he has played for England at every level and was a one of the star performers of the Great Britain team at the London Olympics in 2012. Jack Butland will be our number one. The question is just when. Now in the Championship with Norwich City, John Ruddy has fallen out of favour. He was exceptional in when they were in the Premier League. Ben Foster has been quality for West Brom in recent seasons. He was voted their player of the season and players player of the season last year.

Fraser Forster has been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. He is big, he is strong, he is consistent and he has kept the most clean sheets in the league so far. He has great reflexes and his agility for someone of his build is astounding. If the Saints end up in Europe next season then they can thank him in abundance. Current number one Joe Hart is building with stature the more games he plays. He has sharp judgment, cat-like-reflexes, a lack of fear and he makes outstanding saves. He has very high technical and physical abilities. With penalty saving and shot stopping as his main strengths, he has been touted to be the next England captain.

When you look at goalkeepers across Europe, only Manny Neuer stands out. Courtois, Lloris, De Gea, Cech, Casillas, Sirigu, Ruffier, Diego Lopez to name a few are all world class. Should we be envious of the talent between the sticks across the globe? No, Joe Hart and Fraser Forster deserve to be mentioned alongside those names. Euro 2016 is now in sight. So is the chance for Joe Hart or Fraser Forster to join Peter Shilton, David Seaman and Gordon Banks as an England great.

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