Hart still number one, insists Southgate

England goalkeeper Joe Hart in action against Scotland
International friendly: France v England
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Tuesday, 13 June Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 live, live text commentary on BBC Sport website

England manager Gareth Southgate insists Joe Hart remains his first-choice goalkeeper – but warned he now faces tough competition for his place.

Hart, 30, conceded two free-kicks against Scotland on Saturday and will not feature in Tuesday’s friendly against France in Paris.

When asked who was his current number one, Southgate said: “Joe Hart. In the games we’ve had, he’s been excellent.

“That said, I don’t want anyone to feel completely comfortable.”

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Hart once again looked uncertain when conceding twice from Scotland’s Lee Griffiths in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier – an area he struggled with when Gareth Bale scored for Wales and he was beaten by Iceland’s Kolbeinn Sigthorsson from similar range during a poor Euro 2016.

Southgate will give 45 minutes each to Burnley’s Tom Heaton and Stoke City keeper Jack Butland in Tuesday night’s friendly with France in Paris, something that was always planned and not a reaction to Hart’s performance in the 2-2 draw at Hampden Park.

And Southgate added: “We go into next season and we don’t know who will be playing at which club or who will be in form.

“In the games we’ve had, Joe has been excellent for us. The two goals he let in on Saturday were the first two he’d let in in this qualifying campaign.

“We owe him the point from Slovenia after one of the best saves I’ve ever seen and his contribution around the group in the time I’ve been manager has been excellent.

“But we want competition for places and it’s good we’ve got other players in all positions pushing for places.”

Southgate’s goalkeeping options
Joe Hart – age 30, 71 caps, uncertain future at Man City after last season on loan at Torino
Tom Heaton – age 31, 2 caps, superb season for Burnley
Jack Butland – age 24, 4 caps, fit again after lengthy absence with ankle injury
Fraser Forster – age 29, 6 caps, played in 2017 EFL Cup final for Southampton
Jordan Pickford – age 23, in current U21 squad, superb for Sunderland last season

Southgate revealed Hart will have examined his performance against Scotland, and the concession of those two late goals, in fine detail.

He said: “He would have looked back at that with our goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson and myself. All of the coaching staff would go through that, as we would with all the other areas of the game.

“There are always things you can learn.”

Southgate has plenty of options – with Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford set to push his claims for England in the forthcoming European Under-21 championship, while Southampton’s Fraser Forster is in France.

Fraser Forster<!–

Forster was disappointed to be the odd goalkeeper out in Southgate’s selection and the England manager said: “I’ve spoken to him and of course he’s disappointed. I know he’s travelled quite a bit and not had the number of matches he’d have liked.

“It’s very difficult. I was conscious of Nigel Martyn doing the same when he was with England.

“We’ve got these four guys, Jordan Pickford, and a couple of others who come into the equation but I wanted Fraser to be part of this squad in June.

“He is close. I’ve had to make a decision about this game, and I can’t make him feel any better other than show him respect and communicate with him. But there’s no reason any of those guys can’t push into the number one spot.”

Heaton and Buckland will get their chance to impress on Tuesday, with Southgate saying: “Tom has had an outstanding season at Burnley not only in terms of what we’ve seen, but statistically he’s probably the highest performing English goalkeeper in the league this year. His character around the place is excellent.

“With Jack, I worked with him at under-21 level and I went to an under-20 World Cup with him and an under-21 Euros.

“I know his mentality and the strength he has. I’m looking forward to seeing both of them against France. It’s a special moment for Tom to start against France and for plenty of others.”

Southgate added: “Players have got to play their way into that sort of situation to contend for the number one position.

“I know Jack is a goalkeeper of high potential and I have huge belief that Tom wants that position as well. Let’s see what they do next season with their clubs and the way they perform each week.

“Jack’s experience is as good as any other young goalkeeper in terms of an English goalkeeper. He’s played in the Olympics as well, so a great international pathway.

“At the moment, Joe has been excellent and there’s good competition for places.”

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