A chance for greatness

It has been some few weeks in the life of Charles Joseph John Hart.

Coming off the back of a disappointing summer where he failed to get a chance during England's lacklustre showing at the World Cup, he went straight into a head to head battle with Shay Given for the number 1 jersey with neither player knowing for certain who had got the nod until the eve of the season.

But having been given his head by Roberto Mancini, Hart has more than seized the opportunity with a strong showing so far in both the Premier League and Europa League campaigns. And having also impressed in England's opening two qualifiers this past week, he looks to have secured his spot not only at club level, but on the international stage as well.

And all of this at only twenty-three years of age.

The situation looked very different twelve months or so ago however, with Hart farmed out to Birmingham with previous manager Mark Hughes preferring the experience of Shay Given - who had posted a strong showing the previous six months after arriving from Newcastle - to the promising, but still somewhat raw talent of Hart.

But reprising how he previously beat out both Andreas Isaksson and Kaspar Schmeichel during the Sven-Goran Eriksson era, Hart now once again looks to have established himself as first choice between the sticks.

The season at Birmingham saw Hart return a stronger, more confident goalkeeper, looking far more dominant in his command of his defence - something that appeared would require another season to fully emerge.

Having grabbed his opportunity, Hart now has a future in front of him that could see him join - if not emulate - the pantheon of greats that have gone before him at City.

Throughout the ages, City have always been blessed with goalkeeping talent. A look at the Hall of Fame sees the names of Swift, Trautmann and Corrigan safely enshrined. A look at all-time City appearance list sees Corrigan, Trautmann and Swift at second, fourth and fifth respectively (with Mike Doyle third and Alan Oakes topping the list with 680 - some way ahead of Corrigan on 603:

Alan Oakes

680

Joe Corrigan

603

Mike Doyle

570

Bert Trautmann

545

Frank Swift

508


Given the way that the modern game is far more transient by nature it stands to reason that the all-time appearance records are unlikely to be beaten by an outfield player. Before his departure to Aston Villa, Richard Dunne was the only member of the squad to even look like coming close, but it is not impossible to believe that Hart has a realistic shot of joining the list.

Hart currently sits on 71 appearances - a long way to the summit of course, but even the most cautious observer would accept he has the opportunity of a solid decade of action in front of him as first choice. And who knows, with the age goalkeepers are playing until, there is no reason why he may not still be playing into well into his late thirties.

But even assuming he has ten solid seasons as the undisputed number 1 at the club, staying injury free you would estimate that he will play on average 45-50 games per season depending on progress in the domestic and European cup competitions.

Average this out over ten seasons and this would be good enough to put him third all-time. A further season would then see him leapfrog Corrigan, whilst it would then be another season and a half for Hart to surpass Oakes and become the all-time appearance leader. In doing so, his form would be such that he would almost certainly maintain his hold on the England jersey as well.

Fanciful it maybe, and perhaps looking a little too far ahead - but by no means beyond the realms of possibility for a player who would then only be in his mid-thirties, with the potential of a couple more seasons ahead of him

It would of course put him amongst exalted company, and if (a big if of course) it was achieved, then there would be a very real case for suggesting Hart had not only joined, but surpassed the levels of those who went before him - and making the £1.5 million Stuart Pearce paid out for him the shrewdest piece of business in an age where the club are spending heavily to achieve their aims of success.

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