Joe Hart looks certain to retain his starting berth for England in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Sunday 4 September. The goalkeeper completed a deadline day loan switch to Serie A side Torino after being dropped by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, but will likely be given the nod for Sam Allardyce's first match in charge after Southampton rival Fraser Forster was forced to withdraw from the 23-man travelling party bound for Trnava due to an injury suffered in training.
The Football Association (FA) have not specified the problem, believed to be affecting his arm, although Saints have appeased potentially concerned supporters by insisting that it is "slight" and that his withdrawal is simply a precautionary measure. With Burnley captain Tom Heaton already called up, Allardyce has elected to bring Forster's new St Mary's teammate Alex McCarthy into the squad.
"Alex McCarthy has been called into Sam Allardyce's England squad following Fraser Forster's withdrawal through injury," the FA confirmed in an official statement. "The Southampton goalkeeper replaces his club-mate and will join the camp at St. George's Park on Thursday evening."
The decision to include McCarthy seemingly highlights a concerning dearth of options available to Allardyce as Jack Butland closes in on his return from two ankle injuries.
While the 26-year-old developed a strong reputation as a superb shot-stopper after graduating from Reading's academy, he failed to establish himself as first-choice goalkeeper at either Queens Park Rangers or Crystal Palace before joining Claude Puel's Southampton as backup to Forster in August. He does have some prior international experience, however, earning three U21 caps and also being named in the senior squad for friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil in May 2013.
England's players gathered at St. George's Park on Monday, with versatile West Ham winger Michail Antonio the subject of much interest after being handed his maiden international call-up. Phil Jagielka, Danny Drinkwater and Theo Walcott were also recalled, but Ross Barkley was controversially omitted along with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Mark Noble and Marcus Rashford. The Group F clash with Slovakia is the Three Lions' first match since the four-year reign of Roy Hodgson ended in a humiliating Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland in Nice.
Meanwhile, at U21 level, Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom has been called into Gareth Southgate's squad for Tuesday's Uefa European Championship qualifier against Norway in Colchester as a replacement for Chelsea's Dominic Solanke. Reading midfielder John Swift and Sunderland 'keeper Jordan Pickford have also pulled out of that penultimate home tie.