There is a lengthy interview in todays Guardian by Daniel Taylor with Joe Hart, who has made a solid start to his season with Birmingham. In it he talks about the decision to bring in Shay Given, his start at Birmingham and his future prospects:
"I was comfortable about how I had done. OK, I wasn't perfect, but which goalkeeper is? I still felt I had been playing well but he [Mark Hughes] felt he had to bring in another goalkeeper and I suppose it his job to make those decisions. What I would say is that everyone else I spoke to at that time was really supportive. All the supporters were really appreciative of what I had done and how I had been playing."I thought at the time that Birmingham was a good fit for Hart. During their 2008/09 promotion season, they were largely a tight, defensive side and it appears that this approach has continued over to this season, benefitting Hart as opposed to him being behind a side with a propensity for leaking goals.
"I just laughed," he says, but he is shaking his head when he says it. "I didn't know what to think, to be honest. I'd heard people talking about it happening. It was in the papers. So I approached people at the club and asked if it was true. They said, 'Nothing is final and ra ra ra.' Then, right at the end of January, Shay was training with us. I just had to accept it because what else could I do? I just thought, 'Whatever!' But there was no point being bitter or stroppy about it."
"There's no guarantee I will ever play for them again," Hart says. "I would love to but, if I'm not needed, then fair enough. I'm at Birmingham now and I've got nothing to do with Manchester City any more. I still find myself supporting them, their result is the first one I look for and I want the lads to do well, but Birmingham are my priority now."At the time that Given arrived, I did question the move, believing Given would not be an upgrade over Hart but Given has been nothing short of superb since he arrived. He brings an air of composure to the position that young goalkeepers don't generally have and has proved himself not merely a goalkeeper whose stock was high playing behind a porous defence at Newcastle.
What this has shown though is that Given is going to be the guy for the next four or five seasons, and being sat on the bench will not benefit Joe Hart - particularly if this season sees him solidify a place in the England squad (and don't forget, David James will certainly be done after the World Cup).
It therefore looks increasingly likely that we have seen the last of Joe Hart in a City shirt.