On the eve of our clash with Birmingham City, Roberto Mancini has announced that he plans to sit down with Hart to discuss his future with the club as reports grow that Hart will remain with the club for the 2010/11 season once his season long loan at Birmingham expires:
"We have a very good goalkeeper at the club in Shay Given. Shay and Joe Hart are two of the best in the Premier League, and it is important to have two good goalkeepers," said Mancini. "The Premier League season is long, and if you are playing in the Champions League, as well as the FA Cup and the League Cup, then you need the players – you need two top goalkeepers.
"It is important that I speak with Joe in the weeks after the Premier League finishes, then we will see about next season. He has worked very well at Birmingham and he has developed."
It is perhaps with the increased number of games - regardless of whether we qualify for the Champions League or Europa League - that Mancini has in mind if he is toying with the idea of keeping Hart at the club, as we could be playing upwards of sixty games assuming a successful 2010/11 campaign.
However, whilst rotation will undoubtedly be needed, goalkeeper is not an area that sees a backup play 20 or so games, like, say a midfielder may do.
Hart's loan spell this season has been an unqualified success for all parties involved, and it is likely he will go to the World Cup in some capacity - likely as backup but it is not beyond possibility that he is annointed as first choice given the uncertainity in that department.
Whilst cutting ties with Hart permamently, which Alex McLeish would love us to do, that would be a foolish decision given his development over this season, yet the danger of having him in the squad for 2010/11 is that he will not feature apart from token games in the Carling Cup, meaning his learning curve will stall and set him backwards.
Far better would be send him back to Birmingham next season for him to continue his development with another fu
ll season in the Premier League. By the time he then returns to the club in the summer of 2011, he will be undoubtedly a better goalkeeper than he was when he left last summer.
So much so that despite the impressive performances of Shay Given, I would expect the number 1 jersey would once again be Joe Hart's.