Thursday 12 December 2019

Given: 'I'm back because I don't want to have regrets'

Shay Given looks on during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C match between Spain and Ireland. Photo credit: Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Shay Given looks on during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C match between Spain and Ireland. Photo credit: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Liam Kelly

Shay Given was never one of those kids who had to stand wistfully on the edges of a kickabout hoping someone would take notice and invite him into the fray - and he's not about to start now.

There's no point in making a comeback to the Republic of Ireland squad at the age of 38 after retiring almost two years ago just to make up the numbers.

In an ideal world, Given would love to hear Martin O'Neill say: 'here you are, take the goalkeeper's jersey for the week and show me what you can do against Oman and Georgia.'

The problem is, he hasn't got huge leverage.

Paul Lambert prefers Brad Guzan as his number one for Aston Villa, and a tentative possibility of a recall in Giovanni Trapattoni's reign was eventually dismissed by the Italian.

That said, Given has arrived in Dublin ready, willing and able to take whatever comes this week.

Yesterday after training in Malahide with the Republic's three other 'keepers David Forde, Keiren Westwood, and Rob Elliott and goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh, Given was at pains to stress he will accept whatever decision the manager makes for the two matches.

His renewed commitment to the Irish cause was clear to see, and the call-up was just the tonic Given needed as season 2014-15 gathers momentum.

"It's a big boost. It's been difficult, obviously, not playing enough games. I enjoyed my time in Middlesbrough (on loan) last season and that went really well.

"Pre-season has gone well this year. I've played a few games and I felt I did all right. Then there was the Cup game last week. The result wasn't good, but I felt I had done all right," he said.

ENTHUSIASM

The enthusiasm among the squad for the long-awaited arrival of competitive fare meant that tired limbs from the week-end were ignored and training was sharp and lively.

Given refuted any suggestion that he had set terms in advance for his comeback.

"There's no guarantees I'm going to play, and there's no demands from me that I need to play if I'm coming back. I read that somewhere and it's not true.

"I'm just delighted to be here. It's up to Martin and Roy. They pick the team.

"Hopefully I'll get a nod, but if I don't, I'll be fully behind the goalkeeper who plays and the team as well.

"If my experience can help, not just the goalkeepers, but the outfield players as well, then, that's great," said Given.

Just over two years ago, following a disappointing Euro 2012 experience in which the Irish lost all three Group matches to Croatia, Spain, and Italy, Given announced his retirement.

He made his debut for the Republic against Russia in 1996, and 16 years later, with 125 caps to his name, Given felt the time came to opt out.

The decision was also partly influenced by issues in his private life at the time. Later, there was talk about a return under Giovanni Trapattoni's reign, but that didn't happen.

Ultimately, the appointment of Roy Keane to Aston Villa as assistant to Paul Lambert was pivotal in Given gaining a recall to the squad.

Speaking of the retirement decision, Given said: "At the time it felt like the right thing to do. Different things were going on off the pitch. I had a lot of things going on. I just felt it was the right time to call it a day.

"Not from that minute onwards, but maybe a year later, you're thinking could you still play for your country, could you still do a job, could you still be good enough to help the lads out, or help the team qualify?

"I didn't want to look back in ten years and think I could have done another campaign perhaps. You don't want regret in life, and maybe I would have regretted that, so it was nice to get the call.

"There was no guarantees I was going to get called up. Roy mentioned to me pre-season, and then I spoke to Martin a couple of times. I just felt I still had enough to offer to come back into the fold, and I'm here. That's basically it."

Inevitably, the question arose as to what the other 'keepers in the squad felt about Given's return.

FRIENDSHIP

"I've worked with them all before apart from Rob Elliot, it's my first morning with him.

"You've probably read or heard it being talked about before there's always a good sort of friendship and club and international level.

"We're all in the same position, we know the manager picks the team and we've just got to work hard, and then whoever he picks for the game or games, we've got to support," said Given.

What happens if he gets picked and plays badly? Will that tarnish his legacy as arguably our greatest ever goalkeeper?

"There's no legacy. I'll do my best for my country as I've always done. I still feel I've got lots to offer," said Given.

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