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2009/10 squad review - goalkeepers

A position that for the vast majority of the season looked very secure now has an element of intrigue about it as we head into the summer.

After Shay Given went down injured against Arsenal, Gunnar Nielsen and then Marton Fulop were thrust into action over the final four games of the season and heading into the summer the situation for 2010/11 looks to be very cloudy. 

Given for the most part was very good throughout the season, and despite the form of Joe Hart at Birmingham did enough to warrant the decision to send the young keeper out on loan. Not the most physically dominant or spectacular of goalkeepers, Given is solid, gets the job done with the minimum of fuss and on more than one occasion made some very important saves at crucial stages during games that often went unheralded.

However, although the current timescale for his recovery following shoulder surgery is set to be for the start of the season this would then leave him with little time for any preparation for the new campaign.

This obviously leaves the club with a dilemna. Sending Joe Hart to Birmingham for 2009/10 was the smart move with a season on the bench not benefitting a young goalkeeper who needed to playing regular Premier League football to aid his development. The decision more than paid off as Hart showed more consistency than we have seen before and looks to have the tools to develop into a very composed and dominant figure in goal.

I wrote earlier in the season that an ideal scenario would be to send Hart back out on loan for 2010/11 before bringing him back to take over the gloves this time next year when - with another year behind him, and as the likely England number 1 - his time would likely have arrived.

The difficulty will be with Given's recovery. Will he be fit for the start of next season? If the club are not going to know until late July/early August this may well be too late to then loan Hart out as Birmingham (or any other side) will want a decision earlier than that with regard to his availability. Looking at Given's history, it is also not often that he makes it through a season with an injury lay off at some point.

Whilst the club appear to be well stocked in goal, Marton Fulop only arrived on a short term deal whilst it is clear that the management have no faith whatsoever in Gunnar Nielsen. With the uncertainty over Stuart Taylor's future (being out of contract this summer), the smart money at the moment is on Joe Hart remaining at the club given the panic that swept around when Given went down due to the lack of a real quality back up.

The question then - assuming Given is good to go - is who will start the season as the number 1?