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Competition tight for England's number one - Southgate

Gareth Southgate meets James Tarkowski and Nick Pope at St George's
Gareth Southgate meets James Tarkowski and Nick Pope at St George's
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England boss Gareth Southgate admits he knows who he would start in goal in the Three Lions' World Cup opener was tomorrow.

But while he will leave his mind open ahead of the first group game against Tunisia on June 18th, Southgate knows competition is fierce for the number one jersey.

He named four keepers in his squad for the friendlies with Holland, on Friday night, and Italy, next Tuesday, with Clarets keeper Nick Pope getting a first call alongside Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Joe Hart.

Burnley skipper Tom Heaton is also in the frame as he steps up his return from a shoulder injury.

And Southgate said: “It is a really tight competition between all of those guys.

“If we had a game tomorrow, we know who we would select and we wouldn’t want a lack of clarity going into the tournament.

“We'll be clear on that decision but it's not one that I'd want to announce now because there's a lot of football to be played and opportunities for people to impress.”

Hart is the most experienced keeper in the squad by some distance, with 74 caps, but was out of the West Ham side from November until the last round of Premier League games just over a week ago, when he made an error leading to Burnley's third goal at the London Stadium.

But Southgate feels his knowhow is important: “I spoke with Joe a few weeks ago and it didn't look like he was going to play before these games.

“At that time there was only three goalkeepers fit who had international experience, as Tom Heaton's not fit at the moment and Fraser (Forster)'s not in the side at Southampton.

“Joe has 74 caps and is a big personality in the group so we felt it was important at this point that we kept him in the squad.

“He's been unfortunate that West Ham have had a spell in which he had to miss a game, because it was against Man City, and the other goalkeeper performed well.

“Joe's now only had one game back in, so it remains to be seen whether he gets a run of games between now and the end of the season.”

The Three Lions squad reported to St. George’s Park yesterday, with James Tarkowski joining Pope after his first call up.