SHAY GIVEN begins life at Stoke City in the Premier League on Sunday with a home fixture against Liverpool and has said he will push fellow goalkeeper Jack Butland for a first-team place.
The Republic of Ireland netminder (pictured above) made the switch to the Brittania Stadium over the summer from Aston Villa and has linked up with his former Manchester City manager, Mark Hughes.
Given’s experience is a huge boost to Stoke, although Hughes has indicated that Butland, England’s U-21 goalkeeper, will be his first choice as the campaign begins.
“The manager told me what the situation was before I signed so I wasn’t surprised when he confirmed Jack as his number one,” Given told The Stoke Sentinal this week.
“But he also said that he didn’t want me to come in and just be happy – and he knows I wouldn’t be happy just to come in and sit on the bench and not be pushing hard for selection.
“It’s about pushing Jack as much as I can and if he gets injured, suspended or has a dip in form, being ready to step right in. I felt really sharp towards the back end of last season with Aston Villa, playing in the FA Cup final then going away with Ireland for big internationals against England and Scotland.
“I’ve still got plenty to offer and if the manager gives me the nod I’m ready to go. It’s a good group and we’re working well together. We’ve had a good pre-season and we’re looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“I’m desperate to play. I will never lose that no matter what age I am or what I’ve done in the game. Even when I’ve retired I’ll be in the park playing with my mates. Obviously Jack will get my full support as well. He’s a young goalkeeper starting his first full campaign in the Premier League and I will help him as much as I can, of course.”
Seamus Coleman and his Everton team get their Premier League campaign underway tomorrow with a home fixture against newly-promoted Watford.
The 26-year-old had a busy summer, marrying fellow Killybegs native Rachel Cunningham in June; a couple of weeks after playing for the Republic of Ireland in the curtain-dropping fixture of the campaign – a 1-1 home draw with Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier.
There was talk in the close-season of Coleman upping sticks and moving on from Goodison Park – with Manchester United again mooted – but no move materialised. Coleman’s Everton teammates James McCarthy (Doirenamainsear, Annagry) and Aiden McGeady (Gweedore) qualify for Ireland because of their Donegal ancestry.
Ciaran Clark’s late grandmother Vera was from Manorcunningham and his father Mick was brought up in Milford. The Aston Villa defender signed a new five-year contract with the midlands club this week. Villa are away to Premier League new boys Bournemouth tomorrow.
Central defender Shane Duffy is gearing up for Blackburn Rovers’ new season, which starts at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Sky Bet Championship tomorrow. The Derry-born central defender’s father Brian is from Letterkenny.
Another move that didn’t happen yet is Stephen McLaughlin’s from Nottingham Forest to Southend United. The former Finn Harps and Derry City winger, who is from the Isle of Doagh, Ballyliffin, helped Southend to promotion last year to the Sky Bet League via the play-offs whilst on loan from the City Ground.
Southend are said to be interested in securing the signature of the McLaughlin in recent weeks, although nothing has been confirmed. However, Southend manager Phil Brown has not given hope.
“Things have progressed where Stephen McLaughlin is concerned and we’re now in talks about trying to sign him,” Brown told the Nottingham Post today.
“The chairman Ron Martin obviously knows their manager Dougie Freedman very well from his time playing here during his own career and hopefully that can help us get it sorted out because I would love to have Stephen with us again.
“He has a fantastic left foot and I think he would be able to do well in League One.”
Southend’s promotion last season was at the expense of Wycombe Wanderers, who happened to beat Carl McHugh’s Plymouth Argyle in the semi-final of the play-offs.
McHugh, who is from Lettermacaward, has been featuring as a defensive midfielder for the side from the south coast, who open their season in Sky Bet League Two at AFC Wimbledon tomorrow, Saturday.
Plymouth are managed by Derek Adams, who replaced former Ireland international John Sheridan, who parted company with the club in May.
Letterkenny native Dale Gorman also has a new boss, with former England international Teddy Sheringham having taken control at Stevenege.
Gorman has yet to make his first team debut with the League Two outfit, but has impressed Sheringham in pre-season. Stevenege are home to Notts County tomorrow.
Michael Duffy is on loan at Alloa Athletic from Celtic and the former Kildrum Tigers and Derry City frontman open their league season in the Scottish Championship against Queen of the South tomorrow before playing host to Rangers on Sunday week, August 16.