Monday 25 September 2017

'It's difficult to plan for what comes next' - Shay Given on preparing for life after football

A summer without the certainty of a new season to come has forced Shay Given to think about life after football

Shay Given hasn’t given up hope of getting a contract to extend his career. Photo: Getty
Shay Given hasn’t given up hope of getting a contract to extend his career. Photo: Getty
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

These are strange times for Shay Given.

He doesn't shirk the fact. For all of his adult life, this has been the most exciting part of the year. The dawn of a new season and all of the possibilities that come with it.

Over the past week, he's turned on the television and flicked through the papers and recognised the sense of anticipation that accompanies this period of August.

But he is detached from it too because, at 41, he is now on the outside looking in. He has not retired and remains open to offers, yet he is also at the point where he doesn't need to just accept any deal that comes his way. There have been options this summer that just didn't suit his circumstances.

Given has two young kids under the age of 19 months with his fiancée Becky - and two older kids from his first marriage - so he has other factors to consider with any offer. He did speak to his friend Robbie Keane recently as he prepares to head off on a new adventure in India, albeit for a shortened season.

Dragging

"He's gone off for a few months and I might go myself to get some sleep," he smiles. "It's a bit hectic at home. Look, I'd like to stay in the game and maybe I'm dragging the arse out of it a bit at my age although 'keepers are different. Brad Friedel was still going at 44 and I've only turned 41 in April.

"I still feel like I'm fit enough to play and at least be involved in a team but if there's nothing I really fancy, I'll probably have to call it a day."

That in itself is a shuddering realisation, whether it's this year or next year. He was on the promotional circuit in Dublin yesterday with Niall Quinn and Jason McAteer and they spoke about it between stops. Both Quinn and McAteer have spoken openly about how they struggled with coming down to earth when the music stopped.

Given has been training with Macclesfield over the past month to keep fit - assistant boss Steve Watson is an ex-team-mate from Newcastle - and he still loves getting ready for training every morning and heading out the door. He's trying to learn the name of every member of the squad and tune into their humour so he's a part of it all because it's that familiarity that he will miss.

"I don't know if you can ever plan for when you don't play," he says, matter-of-factly. "I've enjoyed going to Macclesfield because I love the craic, that's my domain. It's good to get out of the house for a few hours in the morning and do that. It's not the Premier League (they are in the old Conference) but it's still a changing room and that's the routine I've known all my life. It's difficult to plan for what comes next and I've been speaking to Jason and Niall about it.

"The key is to not rush into anything and do something you enjoy and feels right because you don't want to be getting up in the morning and suddenly thinking it's a real chore."

Robbie Fowler was in Dublin yesterday to join Cadbury Premier League ambassadors and Irish football heroes Niall Quinn, Shay Given and Jason McAteer to officially launch Cadbury’s brand new partnership with the Premier League, to become their ‘Official Snack Partner’. Photo: Sportsfile
Robbie Fowler was in Dublin yesterday to join Cadbury Premier League ambassadors and Irish football heroes Niall Quinn, Shay Given and Jason McAteer to officially launch Cadbury’s brand new partnership with the Premier League, to become their ‘Official Snack Partner’. Photo: Sportsfile

He doesn't have the answers yet, though. This weekend, he'll be in the 'Goals on Sunday' studio on Sky and quips about going over 'to the dark side' and embracing the media game full-time. His pal Kevin Kilbane has blazed a trail in that regard. On the flip side, he's done his coaching badges and the attraction of staying in the business is obvious because that is his trade.

"I'm not being funny but I've not been educated in university or anything," he says. "I'm maybe limited in that sense. I'm not going to go off and become a businessman whereas talking about football is quite simple for me.

"If something came up in coaching, I'd look at that, but there's more and more foreign managers in the Premier League and they're bringing in their own backroom staff so there's less opportunities there for English or Irish lads."

It would be unnatural if the adjustment process was easy, particularly for an individual who spent the lion's share of his career at the elite end.

His Irish departure slipped under the radar somewhat with Robbie Keane departing at a similar juncture, but he got to say goodbye in his own way at the end of Euros. By his own admission, the third goalkeeper was in France 'half as a player, half as a fan'.

When Robbie Brady scored in Lille, he found himself sprinting onto the pitch. But his trips back to the Aviva have been rare, although he will rectify it this autumn for the business end of the World Cup race.

"I will find it a bit weird," he admits. "I'll feel like I want to go into the changing room and I can't. People go that stadium for totally different reasons to what I've been used to over the past 20 years. Hopefully I'll enjoy the experience of being a fan."

That is just another stop in coping with the race that no footballer can win. The finishing line finds them.

"I don't think it's going to be easy," he adds. "I'm not going to be any different to anyone else that has gone through it.

"I'm going to miss being involved every day, the buzz of playing football in front of thousands of people and millions on TV.

"You'll never be able to replace that, but you try not to jump off the end of a cliff. Because I hope I've still got the best part of my life ahead of me."

Irish Independent

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