England must make Hart decision
Southgate should drop struggling England goalkeeper for France friendly
Wayne Rooney's role against Scotland should seriously concern Joe Hart.
England's record scorer wasn't involved.
He was conspicuous by his absence as the Three Lions laboured to a 2-2 draw in their 2018 World Cup Group F qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Manager Gareth Southgate has displayed a refreshing ruthless streak when it comes to pensioning off fading stars. And Hart should be the next in line.
The Three Lions head across the Channel for a friendly against France on Wednesday morning.
If Hart isn't involved, he may be ushered towards the sunset, presumably at the same speed he applied for Scotland's two goals.
Leigh Griffiths' pair of wonderful free-kicks, either side of Hart and just two minutes apart, had the feel of an obituary.
Both strikes were exquisite, accurate and whipped away from Hart's despairing hand.
But neither strike was in the corner. The second, in particular, was within touching distance of the goalkeeper's glove.
“I thought (Hart) was excellent. He’s going to be disappointed with conceding any goal but we’ll have to look at the goals again.”England manager Gareth Southgate absolving goalkeeper Joe Hart
But Hart never got there. He wasn't even close.
Harry Kane's stoppage-time equaliser saved Hart because Hart couldn't save England.
The 30-year-old almost gifted victory to a side predominately filled with journeymen and lower-league toilers.
Waiting in the wings, his rivals are ready to replace him.
Fraser Forster, Jack Butland, Tom Heaton and Jordan Pickford might not have kept a clean sheet against Scotland, but they would have expected to save at least one of Griffiths' free-kicks.
In truth, the late goals marked the end of a year-long period that began in ignominy, continued with embarrassment and culminated with the horror at Hampden Park.
First, Iceland humbled Hart. Then Pep Guardiola humiliated him and Torino provided a reality check. Now the Scots have limited his job opportunities.
England's biggest clubs will hardly be queuing up for the services of the unwanted Manchester City goalkeeper. His salary demands are almost as intimidating as his growing number of high-profile errors.
Like a boxer with a glass jaw, Hart has a tendency to shatter when facing set-pieces.
At Euro 2016, Wales' Gareth Bale hinted at an underlying weakness and Iceland's Kolbeinn Sigthorsson appeared to confirm it.
In both instances, Hart laboured in vain to reach reasonable set-pieces from distance.
Guardiola then kicked a man while he was down by claiming he couldn't kick properly.
The City manager called for a No. 1 with superior versatility, a goalkeeper equally adept with gloves and boots.
Flag-waving defenders of English football were outraged, as if Guardiola had offended their proud reputation for producing elite goalkeepers.
Hart was raised in England, where to be among the best goalkeepers in the country meant being among the best goalkeepers in the world.
Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton, Ray Clemence, Chris Woods and David Seaman offered longevity and dependability between the sticks for decades.
A remarkable and consistent competition for places ensured that the goalkeeper was the one position that didn't overly tax an England manager's thinking.
By the time Hart came around, the production line had faltered, but the confidence largely remained.
If Hart was the best in England, he surely had to be one of the best in the world, because that had generally been the case since Banks in the mid-Sixties.
But Wales, Iceland and Torino slowly pricked away at that bubble.
The Premier League winner at City didn't stand out in a crowd of Serie A goalkeepers.
In this regard, Hart has a lot in common with the man he may eventually follow into the international wilderness.
Hart is still only 30. Rooney is just a year his senior, but both men seem older.
Hart made his England debut in 2008, picking up 71 caps along the way.
Like Rooney, he endured by default. There really wasn't any other alternative.
And, like Rooney, the reputations of his Manchester club, league and football nation overwhelmed any nagging suspicions about his inconsistency.
Mistakes were glossed over. Blunders at major tournaments were considered part of a broader, nationwide malaise. Any suggestion of decline was largely ignored.
In the end, it took a dispassionate foreigner, one unaffected by English football's hyperbole, to offer an objective appraisal.
For Guardiola, Hart was an industrious, no-nonsense professional, but flawed. The goalkeeper could never be fully trusted in key moments.
When Southgate analyses the Scotland game, he may reach the same conclusion.