Hart is England's best - Southgate defends under-fire goalkeeper

Pressure from Jack Butland and Tom Heaton will not lead to Joe Hart being dropped from the England side to face Malta on Friday.

England goalkeeper Joe Hart   -  Getty Images

Joe Hart will start England's World Cup qualifier against Malta after retaining the faith of national team boss Gareth Southgate.

Hart is the most capped player in the Three Lions squad following Wayne Rooney's retirement from international football but his place has come under scrutiny over the past year.

The 30-year-old endured a mixed time after being sent to Serie A side Torino on loan last season after it quickly became clear he did not feature in Pep Guardiola's plans at Manchester City.

Another loan to West Ham followed but Slaven Bilic's men have opened the season with three consecutive Premier League defeats – Hart conceding 10 times in the process.

By contrast, Jack Butland has impressed at Stoke City but, speaking at a pre-match news conference in Ta'Qali, Southgate confirmed he is not ready to upset the status quo at this stage.

"I believe he's our best goalkeeper at the moment," he said. "Three games into the season, I don't think anyone else has played to a level to force us to make a change in that position. Joe's in on merit.

"It's going to be difficult. Malta don't allow many chances – we have to take that challenge on."

Southgate told reporters he had chosen his first captain of the post-Rooney era but is yet to inform the players yet.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane has been tipped to take the armband.

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