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Beach life can wait as Given relishes second bite at number one


Shay Given: ‘We need to win the game against Scotland, there’s no dressing it up any way’. Photo: Charles McVeigh

Shay Given: ‘We need to win the game against Scotland, there’s no dressing it up any way’. Photo: Charles McVeigh

Getty Images

Shay Given is out of the Bosnia match

Shay Given is out of the Bosnia match

Getty Images


Shay Given: ‘We need to win the game against Scotland, there’s no dressing it up any way’. Photo: Charles McVeigh

If Shay Given had stuck to his plan, he'd be on holiday now. Three years ago, after Euro 2012, Given announced his retirement from international football. Shortly afterwards he met Pat Jennings who pointed out that he had played in a World Cup at 40 and advised Given that if he got the opportunity to reconsider, he should take it.

Within weeks, Given was feeling differently as his club career also came to a halt. There were other factors, too, which he wasn't going to elaborate on while sitting in a windowless room at the Aviva on Wednesday.

"Obviously I had personal issues and stuff, but I wasn't playing at club level either, so I had kind of retired from club football and internationals at the same time, but there were issues with different things but I don't want to go into it in depth as to why it was and what happened. But mentally I am in a happy place now and everything is going good."

Given's club retirement had taken him by surprise. He didn't play a Premier League game from August 2012 until last month when he was back for Aston Villa in their defeat of Everton.

Today Given will play against England for the first time in his career. The friendly at Wembley came too late for him. "I'd been there for like 15 years or something and we'd never arranged that ever. So I was at home thinking, 'Ah, I'd love to be involved'. But that's just the way it goes. The luck of the draw I suppose."

The game next Saturday is too important for anyone to be distracted by a friendly. Given started against Poland in March and he knows that there is no way of talking around next Saturday's game.

"We need to win the game, there's no dressing it up any way, we're at home - and they're two points ahead, so to have any chance of qualifying, it's nearly a must-win game for us."

The second half of the game against Poland offers some hope for Ireland. It may turn out that it provided a glimpse of the Martin O'Neill style as Ireland progress in the group or they might play as they did in the first half. Given knows that wouldn't be good.

"In the first half we were a bit tentative, nerves or whatever I don't know, but we didn't seem to play well against Poland. We said after the game that if we could take the second-half performance into the game against Scotland, we'll give them a really good game and hopefully win the game."

The Scotland game was decided by a set-piece but Given doesn't agree with Aiden McGeady's claim that Ireland had the better players and Scotland had the better team.

"You could argue that it's near enough equal. I think they've got some very good players as well. You could probably say it's on an even keel in that sense. It's how we can come together on the day."

Given's recent experience of big games wasn't something he wanted to spend too much time on. Villa's 4-0 defeat in the FA Cup final had left everyone at the club low. There were no positives, he said, as he recalled Arsenal's second goal, the blistering shot from Alexis Sanchez that flew past him in a "blur".

"He's struck it and it's going to my right, so I've took a step to my right and about 10 yards in front of me, it's swerved back across to my left. In one of the papers I saw that it took 0.9 of a second from when it left his foot until it hit the net. To be honest, I was nowhere near it. Even when I tried to go back, it was always leaving me."

Tim Sherwood questioned the mentality of the Villa players after the game and Given says he has a point, even if he may feel Sherwood could have kept it private.

"Sometimes you say something after the game in a bit of anger because you're let down or so disappointed with the result and how we played. You can see the point he's making because the last three or four years we have been in a relegation fight and you get into the form of losing. That's a bad habit to get into so I'm sure Tim will want to bring in players to strengthen the squad and get us away from where we have been in the last few seasons."

Given has a year left on his contract at the club but he knows there will be changes in the summer and the manager will have his own ideas.

The future is now for Given. England today and, more importantly, Scotland next Saturday. He missed international football from the moment he retired. He never felt thankful that he wasn't travelling or relieved that he didn't have to wait until the middle of June for his season to end.

"I suppose you could say you could be on your holidays now, but you can't buy these sort of experiences. I am much happier to be here than sitting on a beach somewhere."

Sunday Indo Sport