LONDON (Reuters) - England boss Gareth Southgate said leaving goalkeeper Joe Hart and defender Ryan Bertrand out of his World Cup squad after they featured throughout the qualification stage was one of his toughest moments as boss.
Hart, who has been capped 75 times and was first-choice keeper in the last three tournaments, was the highest-profile casualty as Southgate named his 23-man squad on Wednesday.
Everton’s Jordan Pickford, Stoke City’s Jack Butland and Burnley’s Nick Pope are the chosen stoppers who will be vying to start in Russia.
“Ryan and Joe have played a lot over the last two years so they’re not decisions we took lightly,” Southgate said.
“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.
“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.”
The 31-year-old Hart struggled to keep his place at West Ham United this season where he is on loan from Manchester City.
He made 19 Premier League appearances, conceding 39 goals and kept only four clean sheets. He did start nine of England’s 10 World Cup qualification games, however, conceding only three goals and producing a superb display in Slovenia.
Southampton left back Bertrand, who has 19 caps, was one of his club’s most consistent performers this season and has done little wrong when regularly selected by Southgate.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge