The Tigers used four goalkeepers throughout the league season while 18 year old Joe Cracknell, who has just signed his first pro contract, had to sit on the bench for the three FA cup ties. On-loan Manchester United ‘keeper Ben Amos started the season as Steve Bruce’s preferred number one. Having another loanee between the sticks was far from ideal but the England U21 international came with a good reputation. He settled well but mistakes crept into his game, small ones at first but they lead to howlers against Bristol City (away) and Blackpool (home) that shattered his confidence and Bruce lost faith in him. Amos returned to Manchester United before Christmas and was replaced by another loanee, Fulham’s David Stockdale. The big former-Darlo stopper made solid impression on most City fans and his confidence helped the defence recover their composure and he played a part in wins at Forest and Watford. Stockdale was recalled from his loan in December forcing Bruce to turn to free signing Eldin Jakupovic. The Bosnian also started well enough, despite looking shaky under crosses, but met a similar fate to Amos as his season imploded in spectacular fashion against Sheffield Wednesday at the KC Stadium. Robert Koren had just equalised for The Tigers when Jakupovic threw a harmless looking corner into his own goal. He was then injured in trying to recover the ball and left the field on a stretcher. That led to a City debut for Mark Oxley. He was signed from Rotherham in the glorious summer of 2008, one of the few promising players picked up while City enjoyed a rare position of strength, but had only managed unused sub appearances prior to this cameo. Bruce had to act following Jakupovic’s career suicide and was able to bring Stockdale back from Fulham for the rest of the season. That proved crucial in the run-in. Stockdale wasn’t flawless, he’s capable of dropping a cross or punching poorly, but he’s decisive and he’s brave enough to come for the next cross after dropping one. He was a steady influence on the defence when it mattered.
Loanee Stockdale has returned to Fulham and despite Steve Bruce’s interest in signing him permanently, it appears that Fulham’s asking price (speculated to be £3-4m) will prove prohibitive. Jakupovic will never be anything more than a back-up, probably relegated to third choice over the summer. Oxley is one of a number of players out of contract. At 22, he’s perhaps worth holding onto for another year. However, if Steve Bruce and GK coach Gary Walsh don’t think he’s likely to trouble the first team, he’ll be on his way. A first choice, permanent goalkeeper is number one on the priority list this summer.
Five to consider
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester) – The son of Manchester United and Denmark great, Peter, Schmeichel is well known to and admired by City fans having impressed in the nets for Leeds and Leicester in opposition in the past few years. He’s confident and agile, lightening quick off his line and has excellent reactions. Not being the biggest, he can be troubled by crosses and his distribution isn’t the best. Leicester paid around £2m to take him from Leeds and will at least want their money back. At 26, he’s a good age and is desperate to play in the Premier League.
Simon Moore (Brentford) – The 22-year old has earned rave reviews starring for play-off finalists Brentford. He’s been a regular in the League One side for the past couple of seasons having been plucked from non-league Farnborough. He’s tall and agile and exudes confidence for one so young. He’s nowhere near the finished article and unlikely to be a Tigers number one but he is someone the club have had watched.
Shay Given (Aston Villa) – Experienced, international ‘keeper who at 37 has spent a season on the bench at Villa, watching ex-Tiger loanee Brad Guzan establish himself as number one. Manchester City paid £6m for Given four years ago but a similar fate befell him there as Joe Hart took over. He’d be an ideal signing for a lower half Premier league team. He has bags and bags of experience having clocked up 400 appearances for Newcastle and 125 international caps. He’s a terrific shot stopper and while his height means he won’t wade into a crowded box and take crosses, it’s not held him back. Will surely be allowed to leave Villa Park for free despite having 3 years left on his contract.
Vito Mannone (Arsenal) – Another well known figure amongst City fans having spent two spells on loan at the KC. Had Nick Barmby stayed on as manager last summer, Vito would have been his number one summer target. He may not be on Steve Bruce’s radar however. He should be though, he’s a solid keeper, he’s vocal and he has terrific distribution. He’s coming to an age now where he needs to play first team football. His career is passing him by at Arsenal. Should be valued at around £1.5m.
Boaz Myhill (West Brom) – Why? He’s Boaz Myhill.