What does goalkeeper Shay Given bring to the Irish national team?

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The 38-year-old Aston Villa keeper retired from international duty, following a disappointing Euro 2012 but has since come back to the Irish set up under Martin O’Neill. Many of the Irish supporters were delighted at the prospect of the legendary goalkeeper returning, but does the veteran actually benefit the squad?

In the aspect of bringing quality to the team and pushing for a start, the simple answer is no. Given is too old, not playing enough games and just isn’t the player he was a couple of years ago. Since he lost his place in the Aston Villa team to Brad Guzan back in 2012 he has been on a downward spiral and many attempts to revive his career have so far failed.

Age is a huge aspect of what a player can bring to a team. At 38, how much soccer does he have left in him? By the time the Euros come round in 2016 he will be 40. If he was playing games every week and showing good form this wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary (Oliver Kahn and Edwin Van Der Sar are prime examples), but considering he has played just five games since the 27th of August it doesn’t seem possible for him to maintain the match sharpness necessary. The average age of the first choice goalkeepers in group D, including Ireland’s 35-year-old shot-stopper David Forde, is 27, making Shay 11 years older than the average player in his position. International keepers are getting their chance at a much younger age than they did when the Irish native started out and this is making for better careers for these players in the long run.

Given showed some brief signs of returning to his form of old while he was on loan at Championship side Middlesborough last season. He kept an astonishing 10 clean sheets in 16 games for his temporary club, but was unable to earn another deal at the Riverside. He has played just five games this season with all appearances coming in cup competitions. The odd cup match now against a side usually a division or two below just doesn’t suffice to earn you the Irish number one jersey.

The competition for this jersey has become fierce since Given’s retirement. Forde and Kieran Westwood have had an ongoing battle since Ireland played Kazakhstan in a World Cup qualifier back in September 2012. Westwood was the immediate replacement but after shipping six at home to Germany, and a poor performance against the Faroe Islands, he lost his Sunderland spot. Former Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni opted for Forde and has since held the jerseys in all competitive games. However, his rival for the starting spot, Westwood, has been in outstanding form for second tier side Sheffield Wednesday. This presents O’Neill with a selection headache ahead of next months Euro qualifier against Poland. These two goalkeepers have already proven that they bring more to the setup than Given, and O’Neill still has another two players in that role, Rob Elliot (Newcastle United) and Brian Murphy (QPR) who are also in the same situation as Given with regards to game time.

I think that bringing Given into the squad is only going to deprive the younger players in his position their chance to gain some vital experience. Yes, I agree that he can share some of his experiences with the likes of Forde and Westwood, and even some of the outfield players, but I believe that he is being selfish in his return. It looks to me as if it is a publicity stunt in order to have his name in the papers, which would benefit his hunt for a contract. In the summer we saw 20-year-old Manchester City reserve goalkeeper Ian Lawlor being called up to the squad; this was a real positive move by O’Neill and gave the fans a lift.

A move to Doncaster was confirmed by many websites but the deal fell through, something which reflected very poorly on the player. The new haircut, new girlfriend and returning to Ireland just doesn’t suit the man who has an astonishing 127 caps for his country. He has had his day and I think if he wants to keep his status as an Irish football legend and a cult hero he should hang up his boots sooner rather than later.

 

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One Response

  1. Jack Hawthorne February 23, 2015

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