Monday 20 November 2017

Given enjoys silver lining

Manchester City players including Ireland's Shay Given (far right) celebrate winning the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester City players including Ireland's Shay Given (far right) celebrate winning the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Shay Given had always dreamed about walking out of Wembley with a cup winner's medal in his pocket. On Saturday he achieved that aim, just not in the way he had intended.

The Donegal man has spent his career at the top of his profession, and yet it's possible that the history books will show that his only major honour came as an unused substitute in the final of a competition where he didn't see a minute of action.

He appreciates the irony. After the celebrations had died down, he was able to move through the press scrum largely untroubled.

As journalists clambered over themselves to get a translated word from Carlos Tevez, or tried in vain to get the attention of the red-shoed Mario Balotelli, Given slipped by without fanfare.


But, when he was stopped, the veteran was keen to accentuate the positives. This was his third cup final experience, and the other two had ended in defeat with Newcastle. His frustration at his place in the pecking order behind Joe Hart has been well documented, but this was a day to play the team card.

"I've been in the losing changing-room twice in my life, so I know which one I'd rather be in," Given told the Irish Independent.

"We've worked hard all season as a squad, there's been a lot of training sessions, a lot of travel and it's nice to finish up with a trophy, albeit not playing from my own point of view, but you enjoy being a part of it when the celebrations are going on."

The 35-year-old acknowledged that it was a historic moment. City hadn't collected any silverware since the year he was born, and he enjoyed climbing the famous steps for his own personal trophy-lifting moment, positioned just ahead of Roberto Mancini in the exuberant queue.

After handing the cup to the manager, the question is whether their next contact will involve the lodging of a transfer request. He smiles when it is put to him that, for the sake of his own happiness, he can't endure another campaign like this one.

"It's not been ideal, obviously. It's been frustrating, and I've said that a few times. But I think today is about the celebration for the club.

"I don't know what'll happen next year. I could still be here, or I could be leaving. It has been frustrating, but the manager has made a decision and you can't argue about it because Joe's had such a great season and he's made another great save today at 0-0.

"So what can you do? It's the situation I'm in. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know, we'll just see what happens."

Given points out that, before he can mull over his club circumstances, there are some pressing international commitments to consider.

While making the bench for the cup final provided a target in the recuperation from the latest shoulder injury, the Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia in Skopje on June 4 was the priority deadline.

Given didn't think it was that big a problem when he felt discomfort in the warm-up ahead of a Europa League tie with Aris Salonika in February.

It proved to be more serious than he imagined, although not as serious as some of the early medical reports at the time suggested.

"I thought it was minor," he recalls. "I didn't even think I needed an operation until I got the scan. So I always thought I'd get back before the end of the season, I knew that it wasn't a big thing in comparison to the other shoulder (which he dislocated last year)."

More than anyone, perhaps, he is excited about the upcoming Carling Nations Cup, which will provide some badly needed game-time.

He expects to be benched for this week's closing pair of Premier League games, with Hart looking to add to his impressive number of clean sheets.

Therefore, the clash with Northern Ireland tomorrow week, and the encounter with Scotland on May 29, are essential dates in Given's calendar. A reserve outing last week is the extent of his match activity since February. "I definitely need the games," he admitted. "Hopefully I can play in both the Northern Ireland and Scotland games. It's important that I do get more match time ahead of the big game.

"They're really good timing for me, to be honest. I haven't played enough football so the chance to play two games and the training around it will be of great benefit to me. I don't feel match-sharp playing with Ireland if I've not had so many games, and I have to be as ready as possible for Macedonia."

He missed the Dublin encounter in March and was impressed by how his deputy, Keiren Westwood, performed, in addition to respecting the quality of the opposition. From experience, he knows that it will be a different story over there. Given would have returned to the team anyway, but Westwood's unavailability through injury has heightened the importance of his wellbeing, with the uncapped David Forde and Darren Randolph now in reserve.

With Damien Duff also on the treatment table and Richard Dunne ruled out through suspension, the need for the remaining senior players to be at concert pitch is even greater.

"Richard is a huge loss," admitted Given. "He's been one of our best players the last few years. He's a big leader at the back, and it's a big loss for us. They showed in Dublin that they're a good team, so it's a massive test for us.

"I suppose, for the experience side of things, it's probably important that I'm there."

After that, he can turn his attentions to everything else. For the past nine months, he's fielded the same question in many different guises, so a celebratory environment was hardly going to be the stage for a dramatic statement of intent.

"There are a lot of clubs that are worse to be at than where I am now, so there's a lot to weigh up," he stressed.

The likelihood is that he will be packing his bags. He moved to Eastlands to win a trophy and, in a bittersweet way, the mission has been accomplished. Yet for his sake, and for Ireland's, he must spend the next 12 months as a goalkeeper rather than a cheerleader.

Irish Independent

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