Moving on from part two, it’s now time for the final chapter in the trilogy of articles I have written profiling Shay Given’s time at Newcastle United. Hopefully, it will end on a high and not be resurrected with a 4th instalment some 20 years into the future (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull anyone?)
Newcastle began the 2005-2006 season by failing to qualify for the UEFA Cup via the Intertoto after failing to progress past Spanish side Deportivo La Coruña. Newcastle’s league campaign didn’t go to well either resulting in Souness getting the sack in February, and Glenn Roeder taking charge in a caretaker capacity to the end of the season. Roeder’s instalment helped propel United up the league and eventually finish in 7th position, meaning that we got another chance in the Intertoto the following season. Shay played every Premier League match and his excellent form saw him named in the PFA Team of the Year for the 2nd time in his United career.
“Shay is so like Gordon Banks, he’s not the tallest keeper but makes up for his lack of height with incredibly fast feet. They make his reaction times, for example from close range headers, quite remarkable. Possibly the best I’ve seen. And in terms of his all-round game, what I’ve seen of him in the last 18 months or so has been phenomenal. His development has staggered me. He’s now displaying a palpable all-round knowledge of his art. His positioning is impeccable and his consistency is remarkable” - Former Arsenal legend and goalkeeping coach Bob Wilson on Shay Given.
The 2006-2007 season saw Given only manage 22 Premier League appearances due to a horrendous collision with Marlon Harewood, sustained in the match with West Ham at Upton Park on the 17th of September 2006. Given received a 1cm tear in his bowel which doctors said at the time was more likely to happen in a car crash. Given eventually returned and reached 400 games for Newcastle in our 2-2 draw at home to Manchester United on January 1st 2007.
The season also saw another adventure in the UEFA Cup come to a halt when AZ Alkmaar defeated us 2-0 in Holland during our last 16 tie. United had won the first leg 4-2 at St James’ Park, but the defeat in Alkmaar meant the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate, with United losing on the away goals rule. United’s participation in the Intertoto Cup, coupled with us reaching the last 16 of the UEFA Cup, meant we won the Intertoto as we were the last team to be knocked out. Given had finally won a trophy (of sorts) at Newcastle!
United finished in 13th position in the league with Given being rewarded with a new 5 year contract in May.
“Shay Given, for me, is the best goalkeeper in the Premiership. We know who the top keepers are and I respect Cech, Lehmann and Robinson but I wouldn’t swap him. He’s a quiet, family man. He’s lovely to work with and is respected in the dressing room. When Parker is not captain, he does it with pride.” - Glenn Roeder.
By the time the 2007-2008 season arrived, Sam Allardyce had taken over the reins, making him the 6th permanent manager to take charge during Given’s spell with the club. This season also saw Mike Ashley take control and saw the return of Kevin Keegan after Allardyce was sacked early in the season. Given again suffered with injury, and in February was ruled out for the rest of the season with a groin problem. Given made 19 Premier League appearances as United ended the season in 12th position.
Given’s last season at the club, the infamous 2007-2008 season, saw Keegan resign, Joe Kinnear appointed (then taken ill) and eventually Alan Shearer appointed along with Iain Dowie as assistant. However it was the 5-1 defeat at home to Liverpool in December which spelled the end of Given’s time at the club. His lawyer cited at the time that his client felt it was “the lowest point of his football career.”
The 5-1 defeat to Liverpool could easily have been 10-1 had it not been for Shay Given, much like 10 years before when a certain Michael Owen scored a hat-trick for Liverpool in a 4-1 at St James’ Park, Given was the only player to perform. He received the man-of-the-match award, despite conceding 5 goals.
“He’s always right on top of you. The finest goalkeeper I have ever faced.” - Steven Gerrard.
On February 1st 2010, Shay Given completed his transfer to Manchester City. The fee was for a reported £5.9 million. Given stated at the time:
“There are a couple of things they could have done to keep me, but I think in the end they just wanted to take the money. I just felt that after the service I gave the club, then the regime at Newcastle could have handled the whole thing a bit better.
“In the last six months it has been fizzling out. It has not been enjoyable going into training. Maybe it’s myself just being selfish, but I think I deserved a little bit better than that.
“The Liverpool match was a low point in my career. It was one of those points where if I had left the pitch and never seen a football again I would have been happy, I was that low.
“I didn’t know if I was going to leave but a lot of people said I was happy and settled, which I was in a way, but I wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t comfortable with the way the club was going. I wanted to be challenging for honours.”
He also added:
“The way they dealt with the whole thing was a bit disgusting. The way they dealt with my family and me, they could have made it a little easier to be honest. The club finally spoke to me on January 26. That was the first contact I had with the owner Mike Ashley. The people in charge of the club were very unhelpful.
“I’d like to separate Newcastle fans from the people running the club. The fans were absolutely amazing to me and I’ll always be grateful for the support they gave me. But after being there nearly 12 years and considering the service I gave the club, the regime there could have looked after the whole thing better. They made me do things that I didn’t want to do in the end, and I was disappointed with the way it was handled. It’s a difficult time for Newcastle and the fans deserve better. I wish them well but this is a new chapter in my life now at Manchester City and I’m every excited and looking forward to the challenge of hopefully winning some trophies.”
In the 12 seasons Given played for Newcastle he saw 8 permanent managers installed. He played a total of 462 times, with 61 of them being in European competition. He is record holder for most European appearances for Newcastle, and number 3 in our all time appearances category, 34 games away from becoming number one and surpassing Jimmy Lawrence. He is Newcastle United’s all time most internationally capped player and currently has 113 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
Given was easily one of my favourite players for Newcastle. He was instrumental not only under Sir Bobby Robson, but from the moment he arrived at St James’ Park to the moment he left. He had weaknesses in his game such as coming out to claim crosses, and organization of the defence, but to be fair, it couldn’t have been easy for him to organize some of the awful defenders he has had in front of him. He saved Newcastle’s skin on numerous occasions and I will never subscribe to calling him a ‘Rat’.
I know many would consider Pavel Srníček there favourite ‘keeper, but I rated Given so highly when I was a boy that I wanted to change my position to ‘keeper in Sunday league. Even without Shay’s ‘Fingersave’ gloves I tried my hand in goal on a few occasions. Eventually I broke my wrist after falling awkwardly and decided then to forget about being a goalkeeper. As an Electrician by trade I have many times used the phrase ‘a good tradesman never blames his tools’ to an apprentice…Well I blame those Mitre gloves I had, I just tend to keep that to myself!
Here is a video to help you ponder if Newcastle may have survived if he had stayed at St James’ Park, at least until the end of the season. It shows Given’s last season at Newcastle including the game against Liverpool.
Finally, video compilation of Shay Given’s time at Newcastle United.
Shay Given was a top player for Newcastle and one of the best goalkeepers I have ever seen. He has broken records and is etched into Newcastle’s history.
It all started in 1997 and lasted for almost 12 years.
Not bad for £1.5 million.