As you are reading this piece, I’s will be dotted and the T’s crossed on dozens of last-minute transfers up and down the land. Managers will desperately look to find the elusive final piece in the jigsaw to complete their squads. Without pausing for breath, managers will present new recruits to the Media, the smiles on their faces betraying the doubts which lie at the back of their mind. Make no mistake; most of the transfers will be made in a rush, the players struggling to justify the vastly inflated fees paid for their services.
With one day of the Transfer Window remaining, Manchester City can satisfy themselves with concluding one of the best deals of the summer. Surprisingly, the deal is one where no cash will change hands or a player his registration. Shay Given has been convinced into staying at Manchester City, rebuffing firm interest from Fulham where he was expected to team up with former manager at Eastlands Mark Hughes.
Given’s actions contradict the promises he seemed to make upon learning of Roberto Mancini’s decision to hand Joe Hart a place in City’s starting line-up at his expense. Long regarded as one of the Premier League’s best shot-stoppers, the decision to drop Given – even for England’s most promising goalkeeper to emerge in decades – came as a shock. Given, after all, has spent the past thirteen seasons as first choice goalkeeper, whether at St. James’ Park or at the City of Manchester Stadium. Hopes of a recall to the team were all but eradicated following Hart’s impressive start to the season. Keeping clean-sheets in victories over Timosoara and Liverpool were one thing, his match-saving turn in producing a number of outstanding reflex saves against Tottenham to earn a point another entirely. At 23 years of age, his position in the City team seems assured for years to come.
All of which renders Given’s decision surprising, albeit pleasantly so for Manchester City. Going into what promises to be one of their busiest seasons for years – serious challenges are expected in the Premier League, both domestic cups and the Europa League, meaning City could be involved in up to 70 games – City’s backline will be bolstered by the friendly competition between two of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. Mistakes, one feels, will be swiftly punished. Hart will be pushed to the limit in each training session and every match he plays. One lapse of concentration could be sufficient to lose him his place. Would Hart feel under such scrutiny to consistently perform should his replacement be the perpetually injured Stuart Taylor? One suspects not.
Furthermore in a season which could stretch to 70 games, Given has been persuaded that chances to play will be more than sporadic. At the very least, chances for action will come in the form of Carling Cup and Europa League games, both competitions which City have serious aspirations of succeeding in. Yet such matches lack the intensity and exposure of the Premier League. The Irish international is a man who has consistently proved himself to be amongst the best in the Premier League. Who’s to say that with only a few Carling Cup games to show for his endeavours come January Given won’t come to regret his decision to remain? Rejecting Fulham’s advances certainly seems a big risk at this stage of his career.
Given has been put in the position of having to prioritise. He joined City on the back of a career at Newcastle which had been rich in praise, but sorely lacking in honours. Given was at Manchester City to win the trophies that a player of his calibre deserved. Fundamentally it is that hunger to end his career with mementos as well as memories which has persuaded him to remain at City. As Arsenal’s interest in him waned and switched to Mark Schwarzer, it became obvious that the choice was between staying at Manchester City and transferring to Fulham.
Whilst reuniting with Mark Hughes would guarantee him first team football, Fulham are not realistically going to be challenging for trophies. Giovanni Trappatoni is also reported to have assured Given that being number two to Joe Hart will not jeopardise his role in the Republic of Ireland squad. These factors combined have led to the change of mind which is sure to please Manchester City fans. Until January at least, City look to have two of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers under contract.