New Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given has said his continued involvement with the Republic of Ireland kept him going last season having lost his place in the Manchester City first team.
Thirty-five-year-old made his Villa bow in a 3-1 win over Walsall on Thursday night last and was due to take his place between the sticks against Blackburn Rovers at the Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong yesterday. The Lifford native signed a five-year deal in Birmingham last weekend and is dermined to make up for last season, where he lost his place in the City side to England goalkeeper Joe Hart. In total, Given made just five appearances for the first team in the Uefa Europa League and Carling Cup, although he was a regular in the Irish set-up, competitively missing only the Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia with a shoulder injury.
“It got difficult in the final few months at City as whatever I did in the gym or on the training pitch, I knew I wasn’t going to be playing the next match,” Given said as he looked back at his last season under the management of Roberto Mancini.
“As my body has got older, I’ve started doing yoga and extra work on my fitness to keep myself in good shape, yet I got out of bed some mornings wondering why I was bothering last season when there is no chance of ever getting a game. The big Euro 2012 qualifiers on the horizon with Ireland kept me going as they gave me targets to aim at and kept my mind sharp, but I missed playing so badly and it gets to you in the end.
“I tried to get out on loan last January, but it didn’t happen and while I still took part in the celebrations when the City lads won the FA Cup and qualified for the Champions League last May, I didn’t really feel a part of it all. The FA Cup winner’s medal I have at home means little to me because I didn’t take part in the final and while I leave with no hard feelings towards the manager or City, I’m so relieved to get this fresh start at Villa.”
Given might be in the autumn of his career but the 133-times capped netminder believes he may still have his best years ahead of him. Goalkeepers tend to peak much older than outfield players and Given has plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.
“There is a small part of me that wants to show I’m still up to it at Premier League level, but that’s not my chief motivation this season as I’ve really doubted my own ability,” he said. “In fact, I still believe my best years could be ahead of me. Look at Edwin van der Sar last season. He was fantastic for United and the same if true of the man I am replacing at Villa, Brad Freidel. They are examples of two guys who are in their 40s and still producing the goods in the Premier League, so hopefully I can make the most of the five-year contract I have here and I will look to try and carry on after that if at all possible.
“Playing a pre-season friendly at Walsall the other night was a thrill for me as I just want to have the feeling of being a No.1 again. It feels like a long time since I went into training with the prospect of playing a game the following Saturday and I like the sensation.”