Aston Villa: Does Shay Given have a future at Villa Park?
This time last season Shay Given had just walked into Aston Villa on a red carpet as the fans heralded the arrival of their latest great goalkeeper.Having proved his worth at Newcastle for more than a decade, keeping together what could be considered an otherwise leaky defence, as well as helping kick start the Manchester City revolution before being replaced with arguably England’s best goalkeeper for more than a decade, he chose Villa to keep his career alive and kicking.
It must have been quite a bitter pill to swallow at first – swapping the glory of Man City, who would eventually go on to win the Premier League, for one of Villa’s tightest relegation battles for years – but last season Given showed the sort of character and will to prove himself that had endeared himself to so many fans.Every Villa supporter welcomed him with open arms and for a second it even looked like Alex McLeish might have known what he was doing!
As the season began to fall apart Given was one of the few players who never ducked from the media and came out with strong words criticising the team as a whole, including himself, saying the performances were simply not good enough.Despite the harsh words about himself he was one of the few players who impressed on a regular basis and the fans felt safe when he was between the posts, making his trademark saves and diving bravely at the feet of attackers.
When injured last season Brad Guzan was brought in, didn’t do much wrong, but was replaced nonetheless and no-one complained.But then something happened at the European Championships.
It’s hard to say it but Given had a shocker. Not just in one game, but in every game, costing his country any slim chance they had of progressing.Having easily broken the Republic of Ireland’s record for most caps with 125 and having served his country superbly, he decided to call it a day on the international scene to focus on Aston Villa.
That was music to most Villa supporters’ ears and it helped cushion the blow when Guzan announced he wanted to leave to find first team football.What was strange after that was how quickly Villa manager Paul Lambert moved to keep Guzan, reassured him the number one spot was far from certain in his mind and convinced him to say.
Lambert must have said something quite clear to the American because it seemed to take only a matter of minutes for him to change his mind and stay.The opening game of this season saw Given return to his usual role. He didn’t do much wrong, but he didn’t do much stand out work either.
Lambert, sticking to his guns with his squad rotation policy, soon did the unthinkable and dropped Given after his number two performed well in the League Cup against Tranmere Rovers.Since then Given has found himself twiddling his thumbs of the bench once again - something he would not put up with for long at Man City - so it will be surprising if he will be any different at Villa, who look like they could be in for another long season.
Hopefully Given will stay and fight for his place, perhaps knowing that now he’s 36 years old the opportunities for top flight, first team football, will be vastly reduced.He has been one of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history and still has the agility and shot-stopping prowess to compete with the best.
Whether he stays at Villa come the January transfer window is another matter, but perhaps that decision will rest more with how his former apprentice performs, rather than anything Given can do himself.
Winning back his place against his former club Man City last night in the shock Capital One Cup success might be a start.
Article by James Fisher
Calling all Villa fans: Does Shay Given still have a future at Villa Park? Who is number one in your eyes - Given or Guzan? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.