Alec Swann - Time for struggling Hart to be replaced

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

England need to win both of their World Cup qualifying games next week to guarantee safe passage to Brazil next year.

On home turf, Roy Hodgson’s side should fancy their chances against both Montenegro and Poland and it will be something of a surprise if England aren’t heading to South America come next summer.

Their capacity to underachieve and/or underperform remains and that isn’t going to change any time soon but for now the ball is very much in their court.

Yet if you watched the Champions League encounter between Manchester City and Bayern Munich from the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening, you won’t have failed to notice an issue that will have to be dealt with.

I’m referring, rather obviously, to the goalkeeping of Joe Hart who, if he is the best that our country have got at the minute then we’re in some difficulty.

Our number one has been playing a long way below his station for a while now and Wednesday’s effort was a sure sign that all is not well with the City custodian.

He looks ill at ease and badly short of confidence and these qualities, if that is the right word, serve no professional sportsman well.

So with such important fixtures on the horizon, the question has to be asked of whether Hart should be stood down from national duty.

And here is where the crux of the matter lies.

Some comment on the issue suggests that to throw a relative novice into the fray would be daft given the magnitude of the occasion. Experience is king and Hart should be left where he is.

But to go into these games with a goalkeeper who is seriously out of form, surely, is risking an awful lot and what’s the point of having a squad if you aren’t prepared to make use of it?

To suggest that Hart’s understudies will possibly be overawed by the occasion is a touch patronising and you don’t gain experience by sitting on your backside.

So Mr Hodgson, it’s time to earn your money.

Big games require players in form and Hart is in nothing of the sort.

There is no doubt that he will come again as ability doesn’t just disappear like that, but next Friday evening, with Montenegro in town, he should be nowhere near the area he is used to occupying.