Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has launched a bid to prise England’s potential number one Joe Hart away from 5/1 title-challengers Manchester City.
The Black Cats face a keeper crisis ahead of the new campaign, with first-choice stopper Craig Gordon out for six weeks with a broken wrist and back-up Marton Fulop set for a swap to Roy Keane’s Ipswich (11/2 to earn promotion).
And Boss Bruce reckons he can get 23-year-old Hart, who made a superb penalty save in City’s 3-1 friendly loss to Borussia Dortmund last night, on a season-long loan.
Despite being named as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League by his fellow professionals last season, Hart looks likely to miss out on the Eastlands gloves to 34-year-old Shay Given.
And with a place in Fabio Capello’s new look England side up for grabs, Hart has made clear his preference for going on loan rather than sitting on the City bench.
“We’ve asked the question of City and we now just have to wait and see what they say,” said Bruce, whose Sunderland side are 7/4 to finish in the top ten. “But the timetable is not up to us on when we get an answer, it’s up to them.
“With these new 25-man squad rules, clubs don’t have to name their confirmed squads until the end of August, so if they wanted to, City could delay any decisions on their squad until then.”
Should Roberto Mancini decide to grant Hart his wish for guaranteed first-team football and allow the switch to Wearside, Sunderland’s 10/1 chances of an unlikely top-six finish would be seriously boosted.
Of the 36 league games Hart played last term (he missed the two against his parent club), Hart kept 10 clean sheets and conceded more than two goals in a game only three times.
If Hart made the move in time, his first match could come against the team he represented last season, with Birmingham City visiting the Stadium of Light on August 14th.
Given his award-winning heroics last year, a Black Cats shut-out would seem likely and 0-0, 1-0 and 2-0 results are temptingly priced at 8/1, 7/1, 7/1 respectively.
A Hart transfer to Sunderland would put £9million Gordon, who commanded Britain’s highest fee for a goalkeeper in 2007, at serious risk of losing his place. Either way the Wearsiders would possess the league’s finest back-up, making their 7/1 odds to be relegated seem laughable.