New England No.1 looks set to be City's keeper for years to come
It is a measure of sport’s fluctuating fortunes that Shay Given was one of four A-listers used by BT Vision to market their new TV package of Premier League fixtures.
One game into the new season and he is already deemed surplus to requirements at Manchester City. Hot property one minute, outcast the next.
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This, without even playing a game. Or committing the kind of high-profile blunder that might require Robert Green to don a flak jacket and helmet for early season trips to away grounds. The Premier League carousel of heroes and zeroes spins ever faster.
Joe Hart’s exceptional display at Tottenham yesterday, which almost single-handedly kept the lilywhite invasion at bay, was a ringing endorsement of Roberto Mancini’s decision to dump 34-year-old Given in favour of ‘the future of English goalkeeping’ (copyright: anyone with access to a keyboard).
Mancini, who showed the kind of faith in Hart that another Italian manager had been unable to only seven weeks ago, was rewarded with a bravura performance oozing agility and certainty. How there could have been any doubts about Hart’s readiness to cope with the pressure of tournament football is hard to fathom after his afternoon in the sun at White Hart Lane.
So where does this leave the excellent Shay Given? Mancini hopes "Shay will stay", but the former incumbent will not fancy his chances of regaining the jersey if Hart carries on this way. "He's a big man, a big goalkeeper and he respected my decision," Mancini said of Given, which hardly chimes with Given's threat to leave when he was on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
The position of goalkeeper is a curious one in so many ways – and being the number two No.1 even more so. Unlike a back-up striker or midfielder, who could easily notch up 20-30 appearances a season, he could experience three months of complete inactivity.
Assuming Hart maintains a clean bill of health, Given might have to get himself used to Carling Cup run-outs – and nothing else. He will be in exalted company on the City bench of course, but at this stage of his career, it is hardly what he would have had in mind.
Salvation could arrive in the shape of Arsenal. It is merely re-stating the obvious to observe that Arsene Wenger needs a solid citizen in goal whom the defence can trust not to flap at crosses or make elementary errors in big games.
Asked why he had been so inactive in the transfer market when there is money for him to spend, Wenger said today: “For years we have no money, now we have money and we cannot find players to buy. Many teams who have good players do not want to sell.”
Given is a big player and City might not want to sell to a rival. They have the funds to afford not to and keep an unhappy reserve goalkeeper in case of injury or a sudden breakdown in Hart’s form.
But Given should instruct his agent to beseige Wenger’s mobile and persuade the Frenchman that the Irishman is the answer to his goalkeeper prayers. You kind of sense he already has.