Birmingham may sign Hart in January

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The Independent Football

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish may yet launch a permanent swoop for Joe Hart next month to avert fears of losing him in the summer.

Hart has been one of the cornerstones of the Blues' remarkable run of 11 consecutive Barclays 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 yesterday'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.

The Scot claims Hart is firmly in England manager Fabio Capello's thoughts for next summer's World Cup.

At a time when there is no stand-out candidate for the number one slot, McLeish feels Hart is in with a shout of claiming the coveted position.

"His form has been brilliant, and let's face it, he is looking a big, powerful bloke between those sticks right now," added McLeish.

"He has improved since he came to us. He probably had it there anyway, but we have probably brought out the potential.

"Joe has as good a chance as anybody else to certainly be in the England squad.

"I know Fabio Capello and his staff like him, so he already has an edge, and his recent performances have certainly shown he can be a candidate."

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."

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