Sport Soccer

Sunday 25 February 2018

Given left with stark choice after Hart grabs his chance

Manchester City's goalkeeper Joe Hart makes a diving save from Tottenham Hotspur's Jermain Defoe (out of picture) during yesterday's Premier League match at White Hart Lane. Photo: Dylan Martinez
Manchester City's goalkeeper Joe Hart makes a diving save from Tottenham Hotspur's Jermain Defoe (out of picture) during yesterday's Premier League match at White Hart Lane. Photo: Dylan Martinez


'For now, Joe is my number one." Roberto Mancini's words yesterday were not a surprise as Joe Hart's performance at White Hart Lane had been exceptional. Hart was handed the opportunity and he took it but, Shay Given now has a decision to make.

"I hope he stays," Mancini said after Manchester City's scoreless draw. "I have two fantastic goalkeepers. Joe expects to play. Shay expects to play but I must make a decision. I told Shay about my decision and obviously he does not agree with me but he is a big goalkeeper and a big man and he respected it."

Given's choice is simple. Does he stay with the most exciting club in England and hope that the young 'keeper suffers injury or a loss of form or does he walk away from the type of club he spent most of his career trying to get to?

Arsene Wenger ruled out a move for Given on Friday so he will probably have the choice between sitting on the bench or joining Fulham and whatever uncertainty that can bring.

Given has, at least, conceded that he will be on the bench if he stays. After Hart made his third superb save in the first half, Given smiled ruefully and was seen muttering that he would be sitting among the subs again next week.

Hart refused to claim the number one spot on a permanent basis but there was some youthful exuberance when he was asked about being the top goalkeeper.

"Em no, because you just said the main man's name. Shay Given is the other goalkeeper, I am sure he will get chances in various competitions, sure we will push each other. He is a great goalkeeper and a great person to have in the squad."

How long he stays in the squad will become clear over the next few weeks and Mancini, despite his desire for Given to stay, is aware that decision rests with the goalkeeper.

Mancini spent most of the first half pointing out Micah Richards's deficiencies on the far side of the pitch and the manager walked into the press room after the game with his voice gone.

He is a cautious manager and will have been pleased that his side managed to get away with a scoreless draw, particularly after Tottenham's first-half performance.

City could not get away with the same trick they pulled off on Sven-Goran Eriksson's first day in charge three years ago when a side that barely knew each other went to West Ham and won.

Mancini's side will need time to get acquainted and there are more players to come. Mario Balotelli will play very soon, while Mancini offered nothing on the James Milner deal except to say it was difficult when dealing with another club, another club's player -- and he could have added Stephen Ireland.

Tottenham have been more restrained. They play a crucial Champions League qualifier on Tuesday but Redknapp said the club were not limiting his spending until they had guaranteed qualification.

He talked about signing William Gallas and Craig Bellamy but didn't seem too optimistic, which would suggest they'll be at the club by Wednesday. He talked about a "top, top" player he had been trying to sign in an "amazing" deal but the selling club changed their mind. Robbie Keane could advise Given on his choices. Keane was a sub yesterday despite Redknapp saying he was the club's best player in pre-season. With Martin O'Neill's departure from Aston Villa, Keane doesn't have too many choices despite Redknapp's willingness to sell. Keane, too, may have to stay and see what happens next.

Given will feel he needs to play football, but he will also know he is leaving a club which, as Redknapp said, "will win the championship in the next few years".

He could stay and take a gamble on regaining his place. Stranger things have happened. For a few hours yesterday afternoon, until Chelsea beat West Brom 6-0, Blackpool were top of the league for the first time since 1957.

Sunday Independent

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