Big Eck sets Hart on keeping Joe

Hart has been one of the cornerstones of the Blues’ remarkable run

of 11 consecutive Premier League matches without defeat, equalling

a 101-year-old top-flight club record. The 22-year-old’s latest

stand-out performance came in Monday’s 1-0 victory at Stoke where

Hart produced two exceptional saves to preserve the three points

following Cameron Jerome’s winner. Currently on a season-long loan

from Manchester City, Hart’s value is likely increasing all the

time, which is why McLeish could move in January rather than wait

until the end of the season. Asked if he was concerned whether any

fee might be too much come May, McLeish replied: “Possibly, but

then maybe a bigger club might have their sights on him. “We bring

players in and try and improve them, and sometimes a situation like

this arises. “We’ve just got to keep going with Joe, and at the end

of the season see what happens. He may feel he wants to come to

Birmingham.” That may yet force McLeish’s hand, strengthened by

transfer cash to be made available by new owner Carson Yeung, if

the speculation is to be believed. “We need to discuss that. We’ve

not discussed it at board level,” remarked McLeish at the

suggestion he could pursue Hart next month. It is hardly surprising

McLeish is not dismissing such a prospect after witnessing at first

hand the progress made by Hart since his arrival at St Andrews.

Acknowledging Hart as a character, and not just a player, McLeish

added: “He is conscientious, he cares, and he enjoys the support he

gets. “A lot of players can be sensitive, a little bit precious and

see that as a criticism, but it’s constructive. “With some of the

things we tweaked earlier in the season, he has improved, he has

ironed out the rough edges. He is a great pro. “Right now he just

needs to focus on the next game, to work hard under (goalkeeping

coach) Dave Watson and continue to improve.”