Given 'not coping' with lack of games
THE familiar jibe aimed at Shay Given during international friendly weeks, most vocally from his old foe Roy Keane, is that he is racking up caps when others could do with the experience.
But it's different this time. Ireland's stand-in captain is looking forward to his involvement against Norway because he feels that his period in the background at Manchester City is removing the necessary sharpness to compete at the top level.
With Kevin Kilbane absent, Given will become his country's most capped player tonight, standing alone on 109 appearances. Rather than thinking about landmarks, he's just focusing on the chance to figure in a match, something he can't take for granted any more.
"I haven't come just to get another cap," he said in Malahide yesterday. "For me it's about playing football -- and I haven't played too many games this season.
"As a kid growing up, you want to play football and when you don't it's frustrating. So, this game is more about me getting a game than the cap thing."
Joe Hart is Roberto Mancini's preferred 'keeper, and a move away from Eastlands in January seems increasingly likely for Given. Hart is struggling with a back problem ahead of England's friendly with France and maybe a run of games could change things. In truth, though, Given knows he can't continue like this for much longer. He's not finding it easy.
"I've already said how I'm coping -- not very well to be honest," he continued. "My own personal situation isn't ideal. We'll see what happens over the next couple of months. I want to be playing football, so, hopefully, something might happen in the New Year."
When asked about Manchester City, he acknowledges that, regardless of his own situation, it's a pretty strange place to be at the minute, with persistent rumours of player unrest. "There's so much written about Man City, and it's unfair at times," he said.
"The press tries to say there's arguments every day and try to make big stories out of small stories. But I suppose that's part and parcel of being at a hugely ambitious club with and fantastic owners behind us."
Is he happier to be with Ireland this week?
"I probably am enjoying training here more at the minute, because I have a good chance of playing, which is not the case at the club," he responded. "There's more buzz for me personally because of that."
Since Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifiers with Russia and Slovakia last month, the 34-year-old has only seen action in a Europa League loss at the hands of Lech Poznan. Deep down, he knows that he is rusty and no amount of training can compensate for it.
"It's very difficult," he said. "You try and work hard in training, but obviously it's difficult to try and re-enact a match situation. I wish I was playing more because I would feel sharper, but this is the situation I'm in and I can't really change that.
"I'm getting the odd game. But it's not ideal, you want to play every week. So, to sit here and say I feel as sharp as I did when I was playing all the time -- well, I would be lying. I don't feel as sharp as I possibly could be, but if I get back in the team or get a run of games or whatever, I'm sure I'll be back up to speed."
Given retains a desire to continue playing until he is 40. "I'm having a good rest at the minute," he quipped. "And there's definitely an argument that goalkeepers can go on longer."
Giovanni Trapattoni interrupts to joke that it's a lucky position, mimicking a simple catch to suggest it's not that strenuous a position. Given has no option, but to join in. "Yeah, I just stand there and do very little," he joked.
Better than watching from afar and doing nothing at all.