When Manchester City signed Shay Given from Newcastle on Sunday, most at Eastlands will have been pleased by this capture. But not quite everyone. Given will instantly become City’s first choice goalkeeper, displacing Joe Hart. This in turn will leave the young goalkeeper as nothing more than a bench warmer, at least for the remainder of the season. He hasn’t been as impressive this season but who can blame him when he surely must have been unsettled for months at the prospect of losing his place to any of the big name keepers that were linked with City, not to mention the indifferent form of his teammates.
Hart could learn a lot from someone like Shay Given who is extremely experienced and more importantly, someone who has been a brilliant keeper for at least a decade now. But any mentoring from the Irishman would only go so far, as the best way for any player to learn is to be playing. The more games he accumulates at the tender of age of 21, the better he’ll be for it. There are also longer term repercussions for Hart too.
It has been well documented that Fabio Capello does not select players for the England squad that have not been playing regularly. Now he may feature in the squad for the friendly against Spain on February 11th but beyond that, it is difficult to see how Hart will gain a place in the squad for qualifiers later this season if he is not playing regular club football. There are a number of English keepers who play every game for their club and thus would be more deserving of a place in the squad.
David James currently has the England number one jersey locked down for now, but at his age Capello must also be looking towards the future as I doubt James will be around for the Euro 2012 campaign. Therefore, if Joe Hart has any aspirations of claiming the position, he needs to be playing week in week out, just to give himself the chance of being noticed. Yes, time is more than on his side but I feel that he is England’s most promising keeper and would personally have no objections to throwing him in as number one now. If he responded well to the challenge (unlike Scott Carson has previously), you could then easily have a keeper who would be first choice for his country for the next fifteen years.
It would be in Hart’s best interests to move on and find regular football elsewhere come the summer. There would be no shortage of Premiership clubs that would be interested in his services and could get him for a decent price. Even if he was to move to a smaller club, impressive form there wouldn’t hinder his international chances and could even land him a move to a side that regularly competes in Europe (with the smaller club making good profit on their investment). I hope that Hart has the ambition to be more than a number two and can go on to realise his potential, if not at City, then elsewhere.