Former goalkeeper Peter Shilton says a return to old-fashioned defending is needed if England are to make an impression in next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
While England’s relative lack of goalkeeping options, compared to the days when he and Ray Clemence vied for the jersey, is often lamented, Shilton believes the spotlight should be focused further forward.
England have conceded only three times in six World Cup qualifying games against modest opposition, but have been found wanting against the world’s top strikers in recent years.
They recently conceded three in a friendly against France.
“We need to be better in defence in important games and we need to shore it up,” Shilton, who holds a record 125 England caps, said in the build-up to this week’s World Cup qualifiers when Gareth Southgate’s side can seal top spot with victory over Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday.
“We need to look at the options in defence now. We need real defenders who can defend first and foremost. The little bit of football you get from defenders is secondary to me. “You have to have tough defenders so when balls come into the box you they are there first. We need leaders too if we are going to have a chance at major tournaments.”
West Ham United keeper Joe Hart is expected to be between the posts against Slovenia but Shilton questions whether the Manchester City loanee should still be automatic first choice.
He believes Stoke City keeper Jack Butland should get the nod against Slovenia or in Sunday’s game in Lithuania.
“I think Gareth Southgate has got to play Jack Butland over the next few games before the World Cup,” he said.
“It’s not a foregone thing with Joe in my opinion. He obviously has competition now and Gareth definitely has to give Jack a game and take it from there depending on how he performs. “I think Joe has the experience which is important when you go into major tournaments but Butland has never really had a chance to prove himself.”