Sky Sports are reporting that we have agreed a deal to loan Joe Hart to Birmingham for a further season, extending the current agreement through to the end of the 2010/11 season. They are quoting Birmingham vice-chairman Peter Pannu with the following:
"What has happened is that we have actually approached Manchester City with a view to buying him. But the difficulty is that we have recognised him as a fabulous goalie and Manchester City recognises that as well.
"So they very politely rejected our approach to them to purchase him. They have said they will let him stay here for another season on loan, but he is not for sale."
As I posted over the weekend, this really is a win-win for us.
There was a considerable weight of opinion that felt Hart's temporary move for the 2009/10 would likely mean the end of his career with us, particularly with the form that Shay Given showed over the second half of last season.
I thought to completely cut ties with Hart though would have been a dangerous move. Whilst Hart was not without fault and had a lot of developing to do, there was clearly a huge upside to his game. Given his age, to effectively give up on him would have been a mistake.
His form this season behind an impressive Birmingham defence has also seen him back in the frame for an England World Cup squad place - one of the main reasons a loan move was ideal for this season.
The difficulty is, that whilst Shay Given's form has dipped of late there is no suggestion that he is not the concensus number 1 'keeper at the club - despite Hart's impressive season. That makes loaning Hart for the 2010/11 season a sensible decision. Birmingham are all but assured of their Premier League status, meaning that a the end of next season Hart would have almost 100 more appearances under his belt than he would have if he remained with us. Whilst outfield players can still benefit by being a squad member, 'keepers need to be playing regularly and do not have squad rotation to guarantee them 15-20 games per season.
Although a third loan at the end of 2011 would probably be a stretch too far, Joe Hart will be 24 and Shay Given 36, and at that point a definitive decision over the future of the number 1 position will have to be made. Whilst 'keepers can play on until their late-30's Hart's progression as a 'keeper will be steeper than Given's over that time - perhaps even enough to make him England's first choice.
Will it be enough to see him take back the gloves? As it stands today, it is a likelier scenario than when Hart left for Birmingham last summer.