Give Gunnar a go!

The only thing of note at all during ninety horrible minutes in London on the weekend was the unfortunate injury to our first-choice 'keeper Shay Given. An innocuous save to his left from a tame Abou Diaby shot saw the Irishman stretchered off, and being without three possible replacements for one reason or another means lumps in throats ahead of the visits of rivals Aston Villa and Tottenham.

Losing Shay is as cruel a blow as we could have been dealt approaching the final fortnight of the season. There's not a player more vital to us, in my opinion, even top scorer Carlos Tevez or frequent heartbeat of the side, Craig Bellamy. Though there have been slight wobbles this year, compared to last at least, we can excuse those considering he's barely played behind a settled defence. Lescott, Kompany, Toure and Bridge have all spent spells on the sidelines, and any goalkeeper will perform better with a regular back-four in front of him. Shay remains one of the best in the business.

Criticism of our backup options for Given is pretty nonsensical, too. There's not a side in the division with a top-class reserve 'keeper. Even the current or former title contenders have Hilario, Ben Foster and Lukasz Fabianki, respectively. Good goalkeepers will always want to play, even if it involves dropping down a level, and finding a good number two goalie is a difficult task.

In Joe Hart's case, his move could not have gone better - leaving for regular football, behind a defence that has proved relatively solid, it's worked out fantastically well for all parties (until now in our case!), ending with him being voted the best in his position in the league. The injury to Given, sad as it is, solves one problem in that unless he makes a very speedy recovery indeed, Joe will go into next season as a Manchester City player.

His career at City was to some extent fast-tracked. On signing he probably wouldn't have expected to have amassed over sixty first-team starts within three seasons, but he took his chance well and was worthy of being the number one. As a transfer window opened last January, however, and with us suffering indifferent results in Mark Hughes' first season, experience was needed all round, and no-one could argue that the arrival of Given shored things up, mainly down to him having significantly greater experience of organising defences.

Had there not have been a World Cup looming and potential for a seat on the plane to South Africa as none of his rival national team goalies stood out domestically, he may have stuck around, but the simple facts of it are that Joe Hart's good enough to play week in, week out at any level, and such an embarrassment of riches really forced our hand. Keeping him here just wasn't an option solvable solely by bumping up his take-home.

The signing of Stuart Taylor wouldn't have got Blues too excited, but with some Premier League and European Cup experience he was probably about the right level of player - happy to be here, capable of the odd emergency performance, on relatively low wages, and someone to help bring the younger alternatives on. It's certainly not as simple as saying our bank balance should ensure cover in every single department. An outfield player has scope to switch positions whereas in terms of a goalkeeper it's simply not the case.

With Birmingham keen to earn favour in the hope of acquiring Joe's services once more next season it should come as no surprise that they've at least stated publicly that they would be open to an early return. Whether McLeish would go for that is another story entirely, and he'd have a point had they anything at stake beyond a couple more quid in handouts.

Should they agree to give us England's finest back a fortnight ahead of schedule then i can think of no logical reason why the Premier League should deny our request. It is after all an emergency, and it would be a shame if the climax to a very exciting race for the final Champions League place wasn't played out fairly. If Spurs had loaned out a fit Carlo Cudicini and Gomes picked up a serious injury, hand-on-heart i'd have no qualms with them looking at bringing him back early.

Our chances of having the former Shrewsbury man between the sticks for Saturday's game with Villa, however, would appear extremely slim. Spurs, Liverpool and Villa themselves will no doubt be cosying up to the suits behind the scenes, and it looks more likely that we'll bring in some sort of unspectacular bench-warmer, with Marton Fulop being heavily linked.

I've not seen enough of Fulop to say whether he'll do short-term, but going into the next two games especially with him in goal makes me no less nervous than were it Nielsen. He did nothing wrong on Saturday, though in truth had very little to do. At time of writing he's the most senior goalkeeper we've got available, and whilst it's not ideal i'd rather we put an arm around him, give him a go and just see how things pan out. He may well prove himself to be completely inadequate and deserving of the tag of Faroe Islands number two, but then, just like Joe Hart, Kasper Schmeichel (for a time), even Arni Arason, and certain others, he might just surprise us.


  1. Fulop has played a fair few games this season, keeping gordon out, he did well when called upon. I wouldn't hesitate to use him.

  2. Yes indeed, if Nielson isn't to be trusted then he clearly has, at the age of 23, no future with City and may as well leave now. Seriously though, with the defensive approach that Mancini favours does it matter who we have in goal??????

  3. From a Villa fans perspective, Given is the best keeper in the Premiership if not the world. His reactions could almost be described as superhuman, no exaggeration, its ridiculous. The only keeper out there near his level is Casillas.

    Your going to miss him badly come the match between us. I hope to god we take advantage of it! Shay Given getting injured is for us, a miracle... :D

  4. He has played twice against City for Sunderland. In fact he was the goalie when we beat Sunderland 4-3 this season.

  5. Spurs fan here. Though I personally hope you're forced to use Nielsen, I was quite impressed with what little we saw of Fulop when we had him at the Lane. He's no Given but he's a better-than-average Prem No.2 and you'd be now worse off with him than Taylor, that's for sure. May the best team win (or come fourth!) ;)

  6. The debate here is not that a PL side should be allowed an emergency goalkeeper, of course they should, but whether this is an emergency.

    You have a FIT international goalkeeper in reserve. Why not play him and have a youngster on the bench? Arsenal played Wigan with their back up keeper on the pitch and a youth player on the bench. Spurs go into every game with Gomes as first choice and Alnwick (Youth player) on the bench due to Cudcini's injury. Why should City be allowed to have two senior keepers? This, in my opinion, is not an emergency.