Pickford, Butland and Pope had better seasons – Southgate explains Hart axe

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Gareth Southgate has confirmed Joe Hart’s dwindling form with West Ham cost the goalkeeper a place in England’s World Cup squad.

Hart has been England’s number one during their past three major tournaments and remained first choice during qualification despite being loaned out by Manchester City to Torino and West Ham over the previous two seasons.

However, the 75-cap veteran struggled at London Stadium and was dropped in favour of Adrian for the second time this term during the closing weeks of the campaign.

Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and the uncapped Nick Pope are the goalkeepers included and Southgate expressed sympathy for Hart, along with Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand, who saw Danny Rose, Ashley Young and Fabian Delph preferred as left-sided defensive options.

“Ryan and Joe have played a lot over the last two years so they’re not decisions we took lightly,” England head coach Southgate told the Football Association’s official website. “I could’ve had easier conversations by keeping them involved.

“With Joe, we’ve got three other goalkeepers who have had very good seasons and the decision I was faced with was do I keep Joe in and have experience around the group? Or give the three guys who have basically had a better season a chance?

“We felt the players all needed to be in on merit after their performances this season.

“Ryan is also very unfortunate in that it’s probably one of the strongest positions we have. Ryan has had a decent season but I just felt the others were ahead of him.

“Both calls were really tough. They’re both good guys and have contributed a lot throughout qualification, so it wasn’t an enjoyable part of the job and I feel it’s important to acknowledge their contribution in getting us to Russia.”

Liverpool teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold has continued a dream breakthrough season with a maiden international call-up ahead of next weekend’s Champions League final against Real Madrid.

“The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved,” Southgate said. “When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it.

“We’ve also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.”

Unlike his sidelined Liverpool colleagues Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gomez, Adam Lallana has returned to action following an injury-plagued season but the playmaker must be content with a place on the five-man standby list alongside Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski, Jake Livermore and Lewis Cook.

“History tells us that one of those standby players may end up in the squad, as it’s very unusual for us to get through the end of the season and our two preparation games without any issues,” Southgate added.

“All of the guys on standby have been really professional in their approach to this. They recognise there’s still an opportunity and we’ve had a lot of conversations over a period of time with them about their situation.”





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