Joe Hart, who has been called England's number one goal keeper, paid enthusiastic tribute this week to his Irish rival at Manchester City, Shay Given, as Hart prepares to make his competitive debut for England, claiming he is pleased that the Ireland number one has decided to stay on and fight for his place at Eastlands.
Hart, 23, and Given, 34, are both battling it out for the goalkeeper’s jersey at City after Given opted not to leave the club on loan at the end of his last transfer window. It was a momentous decision for the Donegal man who has 104 caps for Ireland but who now faces a season on the bench if he cannot persuade City manager Roberto Mancini to make him the first choice.
Considering what's at stake between the two goalkeepers some have been surprised that Hart, who is preparing to face Bulgaria in a UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier today, has turned to his Irish team-mate for help.
'It’s great news that Shay is staying, he told the press. 'I don’t want to say too much about it because it was Shay’s situation to deal with. I have no doubt he would have had endless people wanting him but it is not quite as simple as saying ‘I want to go there’ and turning up.'
Hart added: 'He has been fantastic for me, I can’t speak highly enough of the guy. I respect him and look up to him in so many ways, not only as a keeper but as a person and a professional. I admire everything about the way he is. I love working with him.'
Hart and Given have clearly been able to maintain an ongoing relationship despite the career complications surrounding them. Behind the scenes it must a stressful time for Given but even so Hart believes the two have been able to remain close.
Hart added: 'We were quite open about the situation and we both respected each other in the fact it was not our decision. It was not like we were being malicious towards each other. We both wanted to play and left it down to the manager. That’s how it was basically. I was chosen for the opening games but it doesn’t really need to be discussed. It would solve nothing if we did so.'
The situation has worked out well for Hart but how long it will continue to suit Given, who will play for Ireland in Armenia today, remains to be seen. The next transfer window is only four months away.
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?