Saturday 23 September 2017

Sherwood ready to reward Given with start against City

Given made 69 appearances for the Sky Blues but lost his place to the England international before the start of the 2010-11 campaign, making only four appearances that season
Given made 69 appearances for the Sky Blues but lost his place to the England international before the start of the 2010-11 campaign, making only four appearances that season

John Percy

Shay Given could make an emotional return to former club Manchester City today with his first Premier League start for nearly three years.

Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood is considering dropping Brad Guzan and keeping faith with Given for the visit to the Etihad Stadium.

The Irish international has played in all of Villa's cup games this season, including last Sunday's FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool, but has been on the bench throughout the league, with Guzan an ever-present for the 33 matches in the campaign so far.

Given (39) has not played a Premier League game since Villa's 3-1 defeat by Everton in August 2012 and was sent out on loan to Middlesbrough last season.

But Sherwood has been impressed with the Republic of Ireland international's performances and attitude and is weighing up whether to make Given his first-choice goalkeeper for Villa's run-in.

He said: "It's a good selection dilemma and a great problem to have - I haven't had too many of them.

"Shay trains fantastically well and he's pushing Brad all the way for that No 1 spot. We are blessed with two good goalkeepers at the club.

"I have known Shay since he was at Blackburn. His dedication and professionalism is always top drawer and an example to all of the younger players."

If Given were to play today, he would be up against Joe Hart, whose emergence led to his departure from City in July 2011.

Given (left) made 69 appearances for the Sky Blues but lost his place to the England international before the start of the 2010-11 campaign, making only four appearances that season.

The Lifford man, who also played for Newcastle United, has already been told he will definitely start in the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on May 30.

Sherwood has already shown he is not afraid to make bold decisions since his appointment, after giving in-demand teenager Jack Grealish his first league start for Villa earlier this month.

Grealish will be in the squad to face City, having apologised for being pictured inhaling nitrous oxide, with Sherwood desperate for points.

Sherwood has guided Villa to the FA Cup final but has warned his squad to avoid the grisly scenario of matching Wigan's achievements two years ago.

Wigan reached the final, and beat Manchester City to win the cup, but were relegated to the Championship weeks later. Villa are only four points above the bottom three.

"We've got to try and avoid it and Wigan is good to use as an example. It's not what anyone enjoys (relegation). I certainly won't be enjoying the trip to Wembley if we're not a Premier League club. We realise that we've got a lot of hard work to do," said Sherwood.

"We obviously want to win the FA Cup and nothing is going to get in the way of that, but at the same time we definitely need to be in the league.

"We use everything we can to warn them against complacency, but their motivation should be the fact that if they want to play in an FA Cup final they have got to prove their worth to me in the Premier League games remaining.

"If they don't they won't be selected. There'll be no one saving themselves for the FA Cup final, put it that way." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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