Hart’s World Cup dream slips out of reach

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY SI­MON PEACH BYCARLMARKHAM

JOE Hart’s World Cup dreams ap­pear to have gone up in smoke as Gareth South­gate pre­pares to name the Eng­land squad bound for Rus­sia.

Months of spec­u­la­tion, scru­tiny and in­trigue come to a head this af­ter­noon, when the 23 men charged with tak­ing on the world’s best next month are re­vealed.

Their delight will con­trast markedly with the dis­ap­point­ment of those miss­ing out, with Hart — com­fort­ably Eng­land’s most ex­pe­ri­enced player — said to have missed the cut.

De­spite the 75-cap goal­keep- er’s strug­gles for form and ga­me­time, South­gate spoke glow­ingly about his pro­fes­sion­al­ism and lead­er­ship when third-fid­dle to Jor­dan Pick­ford and Jack But­land in March’s in­ter­na­tional meet-up.

The Eng­land man­ager also un­der­lined the im­por­tance of the West Ham loanee’s role in getting his coun­try to the World Cup and just last Au­gust called the crit­i­cised shot-stop­per the coun­try’s “best goal­keeper”.

But Burn­ley’s Nick Pope has usurped him in the peck­ing or­der af­ter South­gate called Hart (above) on Mon­day to tell him he would not be in the squad head­ing to Rus­sia.

It is a bold call, but South­gate said in March he was be­ing “re­ally straight with him through­out” the se­lec­tion process.

“Joe’s pro­fes­sion­al­ism has been bril­liant with us,” the Eng­land boss said af­ter the March friendlies. “He’s al­ways per­formed well for us.” South­gate’s choices will be pawed over at a press con­fer­ence at Wem­b­ley to­mor­row, when the process will be in fo­cus as well as his plans for the cap­taincy and goal­keeper in Rus­sia. The ma­jor­ity of play­ers will meet up on Mon­day. Eng­land have friendlies against Nige­ria at Wem­b­ley on June 2 and Costa Rica in Leeds on June 7, with the Group G opener against Tu­nisia on June 18. SAM Al­lardyce’s five-and-a-half­month reign at Ever­ton is ex­pected to be brought to an end to­day.

It has been re­ported that the 63-year-old would be in­formed at a meet­ing with Tof­fees ma­jor­ity share­holder Farhad Moshiri that his ser­vices are no longer re­quired.

The writ­ing has been on the wall for sev­eral months de­spite Al­lardyce’s pub­lic protes­ta­tions to the con­trary. The for­mer Eng­land man­ager has failed to win over a large sec­tion of the Ever­ton fan­base de­spite lift­ing the club from 13th in the Premier League when he took over at the end of Novem­ber to fin­ish eighth.

Al­lardyce (be­low) seemed to ac­cept his fate af­ter the Tof­fees’ fi­nal match of the sea­son, a 3-1 de­feat by West Ham on Sun­day.

He said: “Con­tract for next year. Confident? I can’t quite say confident af­ter all the ru­mours I’m read­ing in the pa­per. Gen­er­ally there’s no smoke with­out fire. We’ll wait and see when we meet up.”

A dis­mal start to the sea­son un­der Ronald Koe­man had Ever­ton fear­ing be­ing sucked into a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle but sta­bil­ity and a push towards the Europa League spots did not pla­cate the Ever­ton support af­ter Al­lardyce was given an 18-month con­tract.

For­mer Wat­ford man­ager Marco Silva is the favourite to take over and could com­plete the move to Good­i­son Park six months af­ter the club failed to prise him away from Vicarage Road.

The Hor­nets re­fused to let Silva go only to sack him in Jan­u­ary, cit­ing the dis­rup­tion caused by Ever­ton’s “un­war­ranted ap­proach” for a ma­jor dip in their form.

Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paulo Fon­seca has also been linked with Ever­ton as well as West Ham, while for­mer Manch­ester United boss Louis van Gaal, An­dre Vil­las-Boas, Sean Dy­che and Ed­die Howe are other names re­port­edly in the frame.

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