Squad Overview: The 'Keepers

For me, the signing of last season wasn't Robinho, or Kompany, or Zabaleta, but us bringing in Shay Given from Newcastle. He's a player i've admired for some time, and is one of a select few who seem to have the respect of football fans up and down the country, no matter who they might follow. There's no doubting the fact that the Premier League is awash with very good goalies, but three stand out for me and have done for some time; Jussi Jääskeläinen, Brad Friedel, and Shay Given. They're 'keepers who seem to make very few mistakes, and are as consistent as they come. I'd personally have them well ahead of the likes of van der Sar, Reina, Almunia, even Cech, whose form has been a little more erratic since he's been wearing that silly hat.

I was ecstatic then when we got our man, especially for the £6m or so we were said to have paid. We've largely been blessed with good goalkeepers at City, we've certainly needed them, christ. There've obviously been a few shit ones; Immel, Burridge, Margetson, Wright, the list goes on, but certainly since the formation of the Premier League we've had several very decent ones, too - Coton, Weaver, Schmeichel, James, Hart. Good sides need good 'keepers, that's blatantly obvious, and luckily we've got two. Given, though, is one that i wouldn't swap for any other in the country. Since he arrived he's shown just how good he is; a real presence, a good organiser, a great shot-stopper, the man's bulletproof. I'm not sure i've ever seen him make a mistake, and i'm extremely glad he's here.

It comes at a price, however, in that Joe Hart (for me the best young English sticksman there is at the minute) can't get a game. Joe did extremely well for us, i like him a lot, but he was certainly lucky to get his chance, i'm not sure that was the plan, for him to be first-choice so early on. Now he's got the bug, though, he'll certainly be keen to keep starting games at the highest level, and with a World Cup next summer he'll definitely have to move on, hopefully temporarily, in order to have a realistic chance of making Capello's final squad. There'll be no shortage of takers, of course.

The main things Given has that Hart doesn't are, well, firstly experience, obviously, but there's only one way to get that. Shay's also simply a better shot-stopper, too, and a safer pair of hands overall than Joe. As much time as i've got for Hart, his style always kept you on the edge of your seat, you always felt like the opposition had a chance when he was in net, there's a certain erratic nature to his play, a touch of the Grobbelaar's, if you will. Given doesn't have that. Shots seem to bounce off him and even in under half a season he's saved us on numerous occasions. Hart had a presence but he didn't ever fill me with absolute confidence. When players were through, i expected them to score more often than not, with Given between the posts i always think we've got a chance.

Anyway, Shay will be our number one for the foreseeable future, and Joe will have to spend a season out on loan at another club in the division, probably Birmingham. I'd like to think that he's got a future at the club in the long-term, but i can see Given going on for at least another three or four seasons, meaning that a permanent transfer is somewhat inevitable, maybe not this summer, but beyond. Clubs need two good players for each position nowadays, of course, but at the same time the lad needs to forge a career for himself, and he's good enough to be a regular at a good club for many years.

Beyond the two, we still have young Kasper Schmeichel on the books, a player who, in all honesty, has never convinced me. I simply don't think he has the presence, the physicality needed. He seems easily knocked off the ball, ropey on corners, a bit of a flapper. He's quite a good shot-stopper, but realistically i think he might have to move to a Championship club to get games. He'll go with our kind regards, of course, never nice to see Academy kids being moved on, but needs must, and it's best for all parties for him to be playing week-in, week-out. I've never seen Richard Martin play, but if i remember rightly he was brought in as backup by Sven when Joe or Kasper picked up a knock at the very start of 07/08. He's been on loan at Burton but not playing. I expect he'll move on, too.

By the looks of it then we'll have to bring in a second goalkeeper, if as expected three of the four senior ones at the club leave in the summer. Given misses few games, but we need someone there just incase. I suppose it might be more difficult than expected, to bring an experienced player to the club knowing that he's not going to play. A top goalie's probably not going to accept being number two, so we'd probably be looking at a pair of safe hands rather than a currently first-choice Premier League player. As underwhelming as it might be then, i'd possibly go for someone like Steve Harper, Maik Taylor or Dean Kiely. I realise they're not names that will inspire, but steady, proven goalkeepers who could possibly do a job if needed for the odd game. As it goes, i think Hughes will have someone from abroad in mind, but i guess it's not all that important. It's highly likely that whoever comes in will never get a game, just a safety measure more than anything.

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