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Pickford England’s future No.1

We look at three men who could replace Hart

England manager Gareth Southgate dropped goalkeeper Joe Hart for Tuesday’s friendly with France, instead looking to give Tom Heaton and Jack Butland game time. The gaffer assured fans it was always his plan to rotate the squad, but Hart’s future looks, at best, uncertain.

The 30-year-old shot-stopper returns from a season-long loan at Torino to find he has fallen way down the pecking order at Man City, and the backroom staff at the Etihad have made no secret of the fact they see no future for the England goalie at the club. To make matters worse, there hasn’t been many big clubs showing an interest in taking him either.

It’s a curious tale, but if Hart doesn’t secure his future at a major club this summer, probably in the English Premier League, its likely Southgate will not be slow in dropping him. We look at the options open to England for a long-term replacement between the sticks.

Tom Heaton enjoyed a memorable season for Burnley, forcing his way towards the front of the queue, ahead of more established internationalists like Fraser Forster. The Southampton ace played in the final of the EFL Cup this year, but blew hot and cold for much of the campaign, leaving the door open for Heaton’s consistency to shine. 6ft 1inch Chester-born Heaton certainly deserves his call up, but at 31 he’s slightly older than Joe Hart. A great age for a keeper, but not the man to keep goal for years to come.

Jack Butland has youth on his side, at just 24 years old, and is certainly shaping like a man with a big future in the game. The towering Stoke number one is no stranger to the England squad either, going to Paris with four caps already in his training bag. Has represented his country at every level from U16 to the senior squad, and also appeared for Team GB, so Southgate will know what he brings to the table. Endured an extended stint on the sidelines with a nasty ankle injury, and it’ll be a concern that it may return, especially later in his career, but at present he’s fit, ambitious and hungry to make up for lost time.

Jordan Pickford has attracted rave reviews from critics this season playing for Sunderland, and it’ll be a surprise if he isn’t kept on by a Premier League side. Everton are expected to make a big money move for the England U21 star, and he’s seen by many as the natural successor to Joe Hart. Newspapers reported a £30m transfer fee, and for a young goalkeeper, that’s phenomenal. If true it would make him the most expensive British keeper to ever pull on the gloves. It’s no fluke either, Pickford was one of the few standouts for Sunderland in an otherwise difficult season. What is worth noting here is that respected Toffees boss Ronald Koeman had been linked with Hart, and probably could’ve got him cheaper, but chose to invest in Pickford. That won’t be lost on Southgate and his coaching staff.

A look at what the future holds for England’s U20 stars