Friday 9 December 2016

Given eyeing run in Stoke side to boost Euros hopes as he turns 40

Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland's Shay Given. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Shay Given. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Shay Given turns 40 today after the early birthday present of a return to the Stoke side that gives him a fine chance of making Ireland's Euro 2016 squad.

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After indicating last week that he might stick with the youthful Jakob Haugaard as the injured Jack Butland's replacement, Potters manager Mark Hughes decided to put Given between the sticks for Monday's clash with title chasing Spurs.

It was an unhappy night for Stoke as the Londoners ran riot, and Given had to pick the ball out of the net on four occasions, although the post mortem focused on the problems which led to the creation of the chances. He was rounded easily by Dele Alli during the second half but the rising star duly missed an open goal.

Given will hope that Hughes keeps him in the side for the remaining four games of the campaign, starting with another tricky weekend trip to his former club Manchester City - another encounter where he should get plenty of practice.

If he is involved in that fixture, he will be the first man in his 40s to play a league game for Stoke since the legendary Stanley Matthews turned out in 1964. Matthews was 49 and would go on to make a solitary appearance as a 50-year-old.

Ambitious

That could be an ambitious target for Given, who recently acknowledged that this summer's European Championships could mark the end of his second Ireland career.

The knee injury he sustained in October's win over Germany looked as though it was going to rule him out of France, particularly in light of his inactivity at club level and the emergence of Rob Elliot at Newcastle as a leading candidate to provide cover for first choice Darren Randolph.

Unfortunate injuries for Butland and Elliot in the space of four days gave the Donegal man an opportunity to finish his campaign on a high.

Martin O'Neill indicated last month that Randolph was in a strong position to figure in the Euros although he is unlikely to play again for West Ham this term after they were knocked out of the FA Cup quarter-finals.

David Forde has been unable to mount a challenge after falling out of favour at Millwall but he could still travel as a third-choice option behind Given.

The other alternative is Keiren Westwood, a regular at Sheffield Wednesday, but only a sporadic presence around Ireland squads under O'Neill. His attendance record has not helped his case.

Charlton's Stephen Henderson is next in line.

Irish Independent

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