Who on earth is going to be West Ham’s No 1 next season?

On-loan goalkeeper Joe Hart has left the club with more questions than answers

Premier League and FA Cup winner, former England number one, Champions League experience; on paper, the signing of Joe Hart to West Ham was a no brainer. However, in reality, it’s been a far from glamorous relationship.

With the sale of Darren Randolph in the summer, we looked to Hart to replace the Republic of Ireland number one. Many speculated, due to Hart’s pedigree, he would be the starter by default over Adrian and those speculations were correct. After our poor start to the season, Hart found himself on the receiving end of criticism from the fans, which hasn’t stopped from some even to this day.

Due to Joe’s ineligibility to play away to his parent club Manchester City in the league, Adrian replaced him as starter as he had done during the League Cup campaign. After making vital saves in the game and receiving a huge amount of support from the Hammers fan base, the Spaniard replaced Hart for a good while.

Hart started cup games but now that the club is no longer participating in them, he was recently thrust into the current relegation fight. Although he suffered in the defeat to Burnley, he kept a clean sheet against Southampton and I hope he can now be a vital part in the club’s battle to avoid the drop. So where does that leave his career? He’s still in contention with the England number one spot but Hart wasn’t picked for the recent England friendlies.

And Stoke’s Jack Butland and Everton’s Jordan Pickford look like safer bets to be the man that starts in goal at the upcoming World Cup As for Hart and West Ham, it’s not clear what lies ahead. If we choose not to make the loan deal permanent, we’d need to fi nd a replacement, possibly even replacing Adrian as starter depending on the pedigree of ‘keeper they bring in. But would Adrian stay next season if again a replacement immediately strolled in taking his starting place?

Perhaps investment in a young player for the future is what is needed. Nathan Trott is waiting in reserve and perhaps will get his chance to shine next season. An English goalkeeper such as Butland who currently looks likely to be relegated with Stoke would be a huge buy considering potential and age but his price tag may prove too high

Unless he pushes for a move himself, though it’s unlikely we would be the only bidders for him. Tom Heaton may struggle to regain his place at Burnley with Nick Pope currently in form under Sean Dyche, so perhaps he could be enticed to battle Adrian, providing the Spaniard is still with us. Perhaps we should try our luck at Championship level? A good, budding and ambitious ‘keeper who won’t cost too much is surely better in some ways than just buying a random goalkeeper to fill the void?

Maybe the route we went down with Adrian should be reconsidered? A hungry foreign goalkeeper who wants to impress in the Premier League, providing we stay up, is a good option to look at, and they shouldn’t be too expensive either. The nightmare situation would be if we get relegated then our options will be even more limited. Would Adrian want to stay, despite his loyalty to us, with the potential that his career could suffer at the same time?

If Hart had a huge surge in form, we may be enticed to offer him a permanent deal but that would only be under special circumstances. Many fans would still side with Adrian and perhaps the club generally should be loyal in any case to Adrian by default.

The former Real Betis man has become a cult hero with the West Ham faithful and has a special connection with the fans. Is that enough to warrant a contract though? Whatever happens, the main priority is the Premier League survival of the club and whoever is between the sticks on matchdays needs be as helpful as possible in our efforts to stay up. That is something all fans will surely agree on.

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