Exclusive: Shay Given talks City success, Newcastle survival and where next for Mick?

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Shay Given looks at football now from a different perspective and the Lifford man is still considering his next move.

Given, who celebrates his 42nd birthday tomorrow and who will be named Donegal Person of the Year at a banquet in Dublin on Saturday, made over 450 Premier League appearances and was capped by the Republic of Ireland 134 times in his career so his opinion carries quite some standing.

Given was at Manchester City for the start of their recent success story, but left in the summer of 2011 having lost his place to Joe Hart, who played in the FA Cup final win over Stoke City.

Given is good friends with City captain Vincent Company, Fabian Delph and David Silva and is close to the club chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak. Former goalkeeper Given believes Pep Guardiola’s side will go down with the greats.

City won their fourth Premier League title last weekend, but there is no pangs of regret from Given – “There is a realisation that it’s behind me and it’s onto the next thing in my career,” as he puts it – as he sees the garlands flung towards the Etihad Stadium.

“They are so exciting and they’re so easy on the eye to watch,” Given says.

“City had a bad six days, with the Champions League and losing to United in between. People were questioning: ‘Are they a great team?’. For me, they are a great team and they will go down as one of the best Premier League teams because of the brand of football they’ve played.

“Europe is obviously the next step for City. It’s probably why Pep was brought in. As a club they’re still very inexperienced in the Champions League, but they have to pick it up.

“People talk about their brilliant attacking players, and that’s true of course, but you also look at the way those players work to get the ball back. They put in real hard shifts in that regard.

“And the goalkeeper, Ederson, has been brilliant. He plays perfectly in Pep’s system. He can set up attacks. Even if he’s being closed down by two or three players, he keeps calm and can always pick the right pass.

“He knows what they’ve worked on in training, they work so much on those angles and it’s showing. For me, at the moment he’s the best goalkeeper in world football with the ball at his feet.”

Given assesses football now from a box of a different kind – the commentary box as opposed to the penalty box – and has adapted well to his role as an analyst for the likes of Sky Sports, BT and eirSport.

“Everyone knows: ‘That was a good cross from the right and a he’s headed it in’ – anyone can see that,” Given says.

“You have to see the game from a different perspective. You have to look at key moments, key players, systems and maybe say stuff on tv that people at home mightn’t see.

“But if you can see that the centre-back is watching the guy crossing the ball and not looking at the centre-forward on his shoulder, little things like that, make it better for people watching from home.”

It’s 22 years now since Mick McCarthy gave Given his first cap for Ireland. Given – these days also completing his UEFA A Goalkeeping Licence under Packie Bonner – would go on to play under McCarthy at the 2002 World Cup.

Events of last week troubled him with McCarthy leaving his post as Ipswich Town manager after a 1-0 win over Barnsley. McCarthy had been set to leave at the end of the season, but hastened his departure, announcing ‘I’m out of here’ in an interview after the game.

Fans were up in arms when McCarthy substituted Barry Cotter, a debutant, in the second half.

Given believes Mick McCarthy should have been given the freedom of Ipswich rather than being raced out of town!

“They have the lowest budget in the Championship for the time he’s been there,” Given says.

“Mick should nearly hear had the freedom of Ipswich awarded to him. Sometimes fans get a bit fickle and get stuff in their heads. Social media snowballs all of that.

“He felt it was getting too much, but Mick is quite hard-skinned. Mick won’t be long out of the game. He’ll bounce back from that. There’ll be jobs in the summer and he’ll be top of a lot of lists this summer. He’s so good in the Championship market, even with clubs who don’t have big budgets.”

Given spent 12 years and almost 500 appearances in all competitions at Newcastle United. A 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday hoisted the Magpies – in their first season back in the Premier League – into the top half of the table.

Given has retained a clear affinity for Newcastle and says: “Newcastle are safe now. The job that Rafa has done on a tight budget has been great. He didn’t get much money to spend and he’s had to wheel and deal a lot. It’s amazing what he’s done and I hope Mike Ashley gives him the backing in the summer.”

Sports writer from St Johnston, now based in Letterkenny, with ten years' experience covering sport in Donegal. Was a nominee for NUJ Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. Honoured by the Donegal Boxing Board in 2016 for his coverage on the sport.

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