Today’s Premier League hero is Shay Given; one of the greatest goalkeeping talents of his generation.
Shay Given is known for being one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League era. Given is known for his strong presence, his outstanding reflexes and has an unbelievable ability to read the game. The Irish shot stopper has made 440 appearances in the Premier League during his time at Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Aston Villa.
The 38-year-old is still playing today at Villa. Given is also a hero on an international level as he has played 126 times for the Republic of Ireland including appearances in a World Cup and European Championship.
Shay Given was born in Lifford, county Donegal on the 20th April 1976. As a youngster, Given began his goalkeeping career at his local team Lifford Celtic and at the early age of 14 he was asked to train with the Celtic youth side during a pre-season tour of Ireland in 1991.
Given signed for Celtic when he was 15 but never broke into the senior side and was eventually seen as being surplus to requirements. This led to Given being allowed to leave Celtic when he was 19 and he was signed by, then Premier League side Blackburn Rovers.
Blackburn lifted the Premier League trophy the season after Given signed but he was still an understudy to their number one Tim Flowers. Blackburn sent Given on loan to Swindon Town for the majority of his spell as a Blackburn player but he began to show top form during his loan spell at Sunderland as he racked up twelve clean sheets in 17 appearances for the North East club.
Given began to realise he had no future at Blackburn and it led to former Blackburn boss Kenny Dalglish signing him for his new club Newcastle United for £1.5 million in 1997.
Kenny Dalglish put total faith in Shay Given and made him the number one keeper at St James’ Park ahead of Shaka Hislop and Steve Harper. Given made his debut in the Premier League for Newcastle in their 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on the 9th of August 1997.
It took a while for Given to adapt to playing regularly in the Premier League and it began to show as he made a couple of avoidable errors such as his error against Coventry City when he gifted Dion Dublin a bizarre goal. Given learned from his mistakes and ended up with eight clean sheets, in the league, in his first season as Newcastle finished 13th. He also helped his team to the 1998 FA Cup final only to lose 2-0 to Arsenal.
Newcastle had an almost identical season in 1998/99 as they finished 13th and lost in the FA Cup final 2-0 except this time it was against Manchester United. Given cemented his place in the first team at this stage and helped Newcastle United to progress to an 11th place finish in the 1999/00 season.
Given suffered a thigh injury in late 2000 and lost his place to Steve Harper, which led to Given submitting a written transfer request as he wanted to play regular football. Given later withdrew the request and stated that his intention was to show his frustration at being left out of the team and that he, “never had any intention of leaving the club”.
The Irishman regained his spot in the team after Harper suffered an injury and gained seven clean sheets as Newcastle United finished 11th again. The 2001/02 season saw a huge change in Given’s form as Newcastle managed to go from 11th in the league to finishing 4th.
Given played every league game that season and managed to rack up an improved nine clean sheets. Given was named in the PFA Team of the Season and subsequently had a World Cup campaign with Ireland to look forward to in the Summer of 2002.
The 2002/03 season brought European football to St James’ Park and Newcastle won 5-0 in the European qualifiers to progress to the group stages of the Champions League. Newcastle finished 3rd in their group which meant they didn’t progress to the knockout round but they had another fantastic domestic season to look forward to instead.
Given played all 38 league games for Newcastle as they continued their fine league form by finishing 3rd. The Irish keeper managed to gain a fantastic 14 clean sheets for his side as they became a real force in the league. Their third place finish meant that they would keep European football at the club but they lost on penalties to Partizan Belgrade in the Champions League qualifiers, which meant they would be playing in the UEFA Cup instead.
Newcastle and Given enjoyed a fantastic season in the UEFA Cup as they reached the semi-finals only to lose to Marseille 2-0 on aggregate. Newcastle continued to be consistent in the Premier League as they finished 5th while Given played every Premier League game for the third successive season and also managed to keep 11 clean sheets.
Newcastle’s consistency began to slip in the 2004/05 season and Sir Bobby Robson was replaced by Graeme Souness but Newcastle still finished a disappointing 14th. Given only managed six clean sheets that season as he played in 36 league games for Newcastle but he did manage to reach a landmark in his career as he overtook Alan Shearer as the player with the most European caps for Newcastle.
Newcastle also enjoyed a bit of form in cup competitions as they reached the UEFA Cup quarter-final and the FA Cup semi-final. Newcastle United and Given improved their form in the 2005/06 season as they went back up to the top half of the league and finished 7th, which was helped massively by Given’s form as he played every league game and kept 13 clean sheets.
Given was named in the PFA Team of the Season again and signed a new contract with the North East club. On the 17th of September 2006, Given suffered a one-centimeter tear in his bowel after a tackle by West Ham United striker Marlon Harewood, which kept him out until November.
The Irishman missed a lot of games that season and made a total of 22 appearances in the league while only managing to keep four clean sheets as Newcastle finished 13th. The only positive that Given took from that particular season is that he managed to reach 400 games for Newcastle.
Given’s last two seasons at Newcastle (2007-09) were difficult for the keeper as he suffered numerous injuries as well as being frustrated by the club’s problems behind the scenes. During this time, Given made 41 league appearances for the club before leaving in 2009 just before Newcastle were relegated in the 2008-09 season.
Shay Given signed for Manchester City on February 1st 2009 for £6 million and criticised Newcastle’s ambition during his Manchester City press conference as he said,
“By coming here I thought I could be at a club that is challenging for honours. I didn’t want to finish my career regretting not taking up this offer”.
Given showed his worth to Manchester City on his debut as he kept a clean sheet and won man of the match in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Given was assigned the number 1 shirt at City in the 2009/10 season and helped City to a 5th place finish as he kept 11 clean sheets along with 98 saves and 41 clearances.
On the 5th of December, Given made an outstanding penalty save to prevent Frank Lampard equalising as City beat Chelsea 2-1. Given was recognised for his great performances during his time at City as he was named the best keeper of the noughties by the Daily Telegraph and City boss Mancini claimed Given was,
“One of the five best keepers in the world.”
Although, the season didn’t end well as Given dislocated his shoulder in April, which ended his season and he then began the 2010/11 season as second choice behind Joe Hart. Given only played a small part in 2010/11 campaign but was rewarded with an FA Cup winners medal due to City’s impressive cup run.
On the 18th of July 2011 Given joined Aston Villa for a fee of £3.5 million. Aston Villa didn’t have an outstanding season as they finished 16th and narrowly avoided relegation. Given managed to keep eight clean sheets and made 100 saves for the villains during his 32 appearances in the league.
The 2012/13 season was disappointing for Given as he lost his starting place to Brad Guzan and only made appearances for the club in cup competitions. This eventually led to Given being sent out on loan to Middlesbrough in November 2013 and he became a fan favourite at Middlesbrough as he kept 10 clean sheets in 16 games in the 2013-14 season.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.
Featured image By Alfonso Jimenez (originally posted to Flickr as Shay Given) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons