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Magical Magpie legends: Shay Given (part one)

Posted on June 20th, 2011 | 96 Comments |

Shay Given - Greatest ever Toon 'keeper?
Greatest ever Toon 'keeper?
Part two >>

Moving on from my previous article on Gary Speed, it is now time to profile another ex Newcastle United legend from the past decade. This time focusing on current Manchester City and Ireland international goalkeeper, Shay Given.

Born April 20th 1976 in Lifford, County Donegal, Ireland, Shay started his career at his boyhood club, Celtic, before moving onto Blackburn Rovers. Whilst at Blackburn he spent loan spells at Swindon Town and Sunderland. It was at Sunderland where Shay won his first trophy, picking up the Football League Championship in 1996, this was also the same year he won his first cap for Ireland, in a friendly match against Russia at Lansdowne Road.

He joined Newcastle United In the summer of 1997, signed by former Magpie’s manager Kenny Dalglish for £1.5 million from Blackburn Rovers. This was the second time Dalglish had signed Given, previously signing him for Blackburn from Celtic in the summer of 1994. Demonstrating his athletic nature and sharp reflexes, Shay spent a total of 12 excellent seasons on Tyneside. In my opinion, he was the best ‘keeper Newcastle have ever had, certainly in my lifetime so far anyway, and one of the best shot stoppers the Premier League has ever had.

His outstanding shot stopping ability was evident from the moment he first featured for us, in a pre-season competition ‘The Irish Tournament’ at the start of the 1997-1998 season. United subsquently won the tournament (anybody else remember Rob Lee shaking the trophy over his head like a mad man?) and as an impressionable 12 year old boy, I remember thinking, not only about how much are new green ‘keepers top looked like a Crocodile / Human hybrid skin shedding, but also that we potentially had got ourselves a great player. I also remember really wanting a pair of Adidas ‘Fingersave’ gloves like Given’s and how I would be able to convince my parents to get me a pair!

Given made the first of his 354 League appearances for Newcastle in the first game of the 1997-1998 Premier League season, a 2-1 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Shay quickly established himself as the number one ‘keeper, ahead of Pavel Srníček, Shaka Hislop and Steve Harper.

In November of that season during a 2-2 draw against Coventry City at Highfield Road, Given caught a cross, and without noticing Dion Dublin standing off the field behind him, proceeded to roll the ball in front of him to make a clearance only for Dublin to nick in front of him and pass the ball into the net. It has been voted as one of the Premier League’s most bizarre goals of all time. Given also featured in our Champions League adventure, including the famous 3-2 victory over Barcelona at St James’ Park. United finished the season in 13th place with Shay making a total of 24 Premiership appearances. The seasons end also saw Given between the sticks in our 2-0 F.A. Cup final defeat at the hands of Arsenal at the ‘old’ Wembley.

As United’s trophy dream ended in the capital that year, so did another one. After persistent begging for my parents to get me a pair of Adidas ‘Fingersave’ ‘keeper gloves throughout the season, I had to settle for ordinary Mitre ones. I didn’t get to don our Crocodile skin ‘keeper top either, but that didn’t bother me nearly as much!

After the 1998-1999 season, Newcastle had again finished in 13th position, with another F.A. Cup final defeat, this time inflicted by Manchester United. Given did not feature in the final this time as Ruud Gullit, who replaced Dalglish at the start of the season, opted for Steve Harper instead. Shay amassed 31 Premiership appearances that season.

The 1999-2000 season saw Given witness another managerial change as the great Sir Bobby Robson took charge after United had started the season in terrible fashion under Gullit. Newcastle ended the season in 11th position, with Given collecting 19 Premier League appearances. Newcastle and Given just missed out on a 3rd consecutive F.A. Cup final appearance after losing 2-1 to Chelsea at Wembley, with Gustavo Poyet scoring either side of a great header from Rob Lee. United performed much better than the previous two recent visits to the capital and didn’t deserve to lose.

The 2000-2001 season had Shay feature more than the previous one, getting himself 34 Premiership appearances and helping United to another 11th place finish, as we rapidly began to improve under Sir Bobby Robson. December of that season though saw Given have a written transfer request, after losing his place in the team to Steve Harper, sternly rejected by the board. Sir Bobby Robson commented at the time:

“The board’s decision is that his transfer request has been turned down,” I would expect him to react to that in a professional way.

“He’s made a request which has been denied. I would hope he would accept that and get on with serving this football club on the contract he signed, take it on and go step-by-step.”

Given said of the request being denied:

“As I got on the team coach, I was handed a letter from the Chairman saying that the board had turned down my transfer request.

“To be perfectly honest, I am pleased to know where I stand. My intention was simply to express my frustration at being left out of the team after I had missed the Leeds United game through injury.

“As I pledged at the time, I am 100 per cent committed to Newcastle United and am as much a part of the team now as ever before. I have been training hard and am determined to win back both my place in the team and my excellent relationship with the fans.”

By the end of the 2001-2002 season, Shay had played every Premier League game that season, and most notably, our first victory at the Stadium of Light, a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Nikos Dabizas header. During that match I remember Shay producing 3 or 4 world class saves. Among them was my all time favourite one, when he somehow managed to tip over a 20 yard curler from Kevin Phillips, to keep United ahead. It was an absolutely stunning save, and is hands down one of the best saves I have ever seen.

Newcastle finished the season qualifying for the Champion’s League knock-out stage, after securing a 4th placed finish. Given’s excellent form throughout the season saw him rightly named in the PFA Team of The Year and rewarded with a new 5 year contract in May.

Given stated at the time:

“I know there was talk about me possibly moving, but I wanted to stay and I am delighted to have signed, especially as it is for five years. I have already been at the club for five years and, with another five, hopefully, I can end my career there.”‘

Given also played every match for the Republic of Ireland in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea / Japan but could not prevent them from being knocked out by Spain in a penalty shoot-out.

“Shay is an example of a player who’s managed to maintain his form all season and he’s been a real star for us. When I look back I realise he’s had very few ordinary games.” – Sir Bobby Robson on Shay Given.

“Shay is the best goalkeeper in The Premiership. His main attribute is simply that he stops the ball going into the net. He has always been a high-class keeper. I would say he is the most agile keeper too. He does things in training that get a round of applause for the saves he makes.” – Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy on Shay Given.

This concludes part one of my look back at Shay Given’s time at Newcastle United.

Stay tuned for part two featuring Shay’s international record, Premier League consecutive appearance record, league and European adventure and more past quotes from and about, one of my Magical Magpie legends.

Part two >>

NUFCBlog Author: Jimbob Backpacker extraordinaire and current resident of sunny Sheffield. Loves Marmite, hates peanut butter. Sleeps twice a day, wrestles Polar Bears because he can and regards himself as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce. Jimbob has written 40 articles on this blog.

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96 Responses

  1. A RAT – Jumped a sinking ship, they die first. look at him now.

    World class Goalie. in his hayday.

  2. Think Shay’s patience with the Ashley regime and the clubs future prospects as a retail outlet where what sealed his fate.
    Can’t blame him and it was refreshing to see Harper and Krul to get some action.

  3. “Greatest ever Toon ‘keeper?”

    You’d need to be very old indeed to answer that question!

    Ronnie Simpson would probably get my vote, even though he’d left the club before I was born and I’ve only ever seen him in black and white footage from the glory days of the ‘fifties. He won a European Cup with Jock Stein’s ‘Lisbon Lions’ too.

  4. WOW!

    12 Years service not enough for some? How many times he saved us throughout his time up north.

  5. Thankyou worky, part two coming later today probably.

    This man left a massive impression on me, its easy to pick Shearer as my fave, but this guy was immense!

    As I said in the article “In my opinion, he was the best ‘keeper Newcastle have ever had, certainly in my lifetime so far anyway, and one of the best shot stoppers the Premier League has ever had”.

    Im only 25 so I dont remember Ronnie Simpson!

  6. workyticket says:
    June 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    “ps. Great piece Jimbob! Very nicely written as usual and obviously took alot of effort”.

    Judging by the amount of times I had to re-edit it? :-)

  7. Jimbob says:
    June 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    “Im only 25 so I dont remember Ronnie Simpson!”

    Neither do I, but I’ve watched him a bit. He actually was similar to Given in that he wasn’t a huge gadgie for a goalkeeper, but he had what has been described as a ‘cat like agilty’ which made him a great shot stopper.

    Chuck’ll remember him! :-)

  8. Loved Given me.
    Can’t blame him for wanting out when he did.
    You can’t knock his service for Newcastle and behaved like a model pro as well as helping Krul no doubt.

  9. See Partridge is giving Jose the kiss of death in the chronicle….almost like MA has told Partrige to get over it and get back to cleaning the players boots and polishing the players toilets.

  10. sirjasontoon says:
    June 20, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    “Yup Worky.”

    SJT, most of what I’ve seen has been on DVD and video. I’ll dig out some online nostalgia for you though. There’s some of our 1950s FA Cup triumphs on here somewhere, and I know thare’ll be some 1967 European Cup stuff somewhere too.

  11. Enrique please note.

    I think Given is the best example of the old adage that the grass does not always look greener on the other side (or words to that effect).

  12. monkeysan says:
    June 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    “you mean Mike Hooper wasnt our greatest ever? *gets coat*

    I was always a Pavel fan…”

    What about lionel perez?

    Pav thread coming soon.

  13. monkeysan says:
    June 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    “you mean Mike Hooper wasnt our greatest ever? *gets coat*”

    Now working as a bouncer in Chester le Street, allegedly.

  14. Hooper was a PE teacher in Northumberland somewhere, bouncer wouldnt suprise me!

    once saw the enigma that was Perez turn out for the reserves at Kingy Park Jimbob – he spent more time styling his barnet than anything else though

  15. Good article JB.

    I have no bad feeling towards Given, even though he cleared off to Moneybags City. He gave us more than a decade of good service and when you consider he had Bramble and Boumsong in front of him for some of that time, he did pretty well!

    I liked Pav too mind.

  16. Jimbob says:
    June 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    “Pav thread coming soon.”

    Jimbob, how about the man who proved that footballers can be rocket scientists after all, Shaka Hislop?

  17. “I also remember really wanting a pair of Adidas ‘Fingersave’ gloves like Given’s and how I would be able to convince my parents to get me a pair!”

    So you were a keeper JB?

    I was number 9 material. Unfortunately it was faulty material so I ended up being an extremely mediocre right winger or right back.

  18. Thanks Hugh, like I said there will be a Pav thread at some point. I know some people would consider him there best keeper but It was Given who had the biggest impression on my when I was a boy.

    He made me want to change my position from a midfielder to goalkeeper when I played sunday league!

    Worky, Shaka does not fall into my time frame as he left in 1998. Pav came back in 2006. Though I will probably do some threads on exceptional players from the late 1990’s so you never know!

  19. Hugh de Payen says:
    June 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    “So you were a keeper JB?”

    No started as a right back, then when I joined a new club, they took one look at me and said “There’s no way your a defender!” I got moved into an attacking midfield position because I just kept bombing forward!

    But Given made me want to be a keeper when I was younger, I dunno why! I wouldn’t have made it though because I never got them ‘Fingersave’ gloves!

  20. Great article jimbob!

    Isn’t it ironic that Shay handed in requests & angled to get out when Harper pushed him for the no. 1 jersey, only for him to leave for manc then get benched?

    On a par with Harper, particularly in his final few years here. He was always a bit suspect with free kicks around the box, getting lobbed & not the best at organizing the defense. Great stalwart for the Toon though.

  21. Thanks clint

    All angles covered, its in 3 parts!

    Yeah Harps put him under some pressure, Harper used to almost be a clone of Given I thought at the time!

    No different to Krul and Forster bitching like babies though at the moment about having to be number one?

    All the top keepers are annoyed when they dont start, and if you have read Sir Bobby’s book, you would know that Harper whinged because he sat on the bench. he gave interviews in papers saying ‘It’s now or never’ so the club gave him fantastic incentives in his contract.

    He was happy just sitting there.

  22. Clint, I am amazed that another club like Arsenal or somebody wont buy him, but mancini wants two class players for every position.

    Trouble is, that works to a degree with outfield players, but you cant chop and change goalkeepers all the time, or bring a keeper off in the 60th 70th minute of a match!

  23. Harper’s ‘whining’ to SBR & Shay’s in the press are somewhat different though, aren’t they?
    Mostly, Harper has waited patiently for his chance, always did a great job when he got the call standing in for Shay & i’m sure Shay played with injuries just to keep Harper out, cos he knew he was in a battle. Harper always kept Shay on his toes too.
    Will Shay move on from manc?
    Who knows?
    Maybe there’s a team out there looking for a decent ‘keeper right now, although it seems that manusa, arse et al are opting for other ‘keepers, so his worth has slipped recently.

  24. Well you can take ‘keepers off, but not many do.
    They usually, at least feign injury before they are replaced whilst having a ‘mare, aren’t they?


  25. You’d think spuds or someone would take a punt like.

    He’s outta the public gaze now though, so it’s only a matter of time ’til the fat wages at manc are worth taking instead of playing, his time at the top is finite.

  26. Clint, I think Harper was good enough to move to another club and play regulary, but he didn’t. If he had, he would have an England cap now, but he doesn’t.

    One of my next parts has an interesting quote from Harper about Givens injurys…

    Man city would never sell Given to Man Utd, they loaned Hart to Birmingham a few seasons back and when Given was injured they were stuck without a quality replacement.

  27. CLiNT FLiCK says:
    June 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    “You’d think spuds or someone would take a punt like.”

    They just signed Friedel.

    He is 40 I think, still a top keeper.

  28. Worky as I was reading the article I was thinking what about Bobby Simpson.

    I’ve been racking my brains to remember other GKs of the 60s and 70s (or post BS even) but none spring to mind.

    Shay was a good player but I’ve never thought of him as great. That injury knocked him back for a while and imo he was only just coming back to best when he decided to leave the sinking ship.

    Harps for me just aint strong enough and gets knocked about too easily. I would put Krul at no.1 at present but would like to see Forster (if he stays with us) given a run in the team.

  29. Belfast toon here, I wrote an article on how I started supporting the toon. It was an article put up on toonsy’s blog. A lot of people wrote back saying they only knew a few toon fans. If any of the lads from Belfast on here want to get together and go an see a match you can get me on twitter @davidelder888. If we get enough we could have our own unofficial nufc supporters club.

  30. jimbob,
    aye friedel, obviously didn’t wanna spend much on a ‘keeper, hey?
    Great player mind Friedel.

    i don’t get why Harper hasn’t had an england call up like.
    green? HA!
    Even hart looked sus in the last game.

  31. Grumpy Old-Toon says:
    June 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    “Harps for me just aint strong enough and gets knocked about too easily. I would put Krul at no.1 at present but would like to see Forster (if he stays with us) given a run in the team.”

    Grumpy, I would still pick Harper. I think that Krul still makes the odd mistake too many, though he’s still quite young in goalkeeping terms.

  32. Used to like Mick Mahoney as a kid first toon keeper I seen playing live….liked Steve Hardwick as well remember he wore a navy blue keeper shirt with the magpie badge in the middle….snappy dresser.

  33. worky,
    i’m with you on the Harper v Krul front.
    Tim still has stuff to learn, getting there though.
    Harper gets more clean sheets, therefore the defense trust him more.

  34. Glad to see there’s other bad right backs on this blog. I kept getting put in defence because I was fairly tall and decent in the air but it took a while for any manager to realise I couldn’t tackle a man with no legs sitting on a veritable goldmine of footballs. Given that I was always played at LB because it was an open spot made matters so much worse. Then I played for the supporters club and was again put at LB and had a great 10 minutes.

    One day there will be a club that look at me and realise I’m better at attacking play.

  35. workyticket says:
    June 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    “Friedel has definitely been one of the best around in recent times.”

    Agreed, and also that Harper probably still warrants the number one top. Part two later today Worky.

    Thump, Yeah he finally went to Liverpool, though I dont remember him being brilliant there. When he went to Blackburn he came into his prime, saving Souness’s skin in every match.

  36. When he went to Blackburn he came into his prime, saving Souness’s skin in every match.

    To the surprise of nobody ;)

  37. given is and was a world class shot stopper!no doubt about it!

    and a fantastic servant to nufc but i dont miss him or his lack of conviction when coming for cross’s or corners or his lack of organisation and communication with his defenders!

    for some reason i cant forget the home drubbing to liverpool when he was man of the match even though he conceded 5!

    what got me was he didnt once grab the toon defenders by the balls and sort them out!he always came across as im alright jack iv made 5 saves so im not to blame! hes very 1 dimensional in he can stop fantastic shots but does little else! think thats one of the reasons non of the top 4 bought him!

    but good luck to shay i wish him well and think he deserves a good reception even though he jumped ship should he ever play at sjp again

    im very happy with harper, krul and forster so wouldn’t have him back

  38. would loan out krul this season and let the fight between forster and harper play out

    krul needs to go away and make his mistakes for another club playing week in week out and come back with more experiance he is going to be one of the best keepers in the world in the next 5 years

    this has to be harpers last year as hes has ran his course at sjp for me

  39. Thump, I got some quotes in the coming articles from Souness praising Given.

    Souness can count himself lucky to have had some quality ‘keepers!

    “Glad to see there’s other bad right backs on this blog. I kept getting put in defence because I was fairly tall and decent in the air”

    Yeah me too, Im just short of 6ft 3 now, and back then I was a big lad aswell. Always getting myself Goals with headers :-)

  40. geordiedug says:
    June 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    “for some reason i cant forget the home drubbing to liverpool when he was man of the match even though he conceded 5!”

    Yeah, I got an in depth look at that game and performance coming up, along with a video!

    Probably the only ‘keeper on the planet to get man of the match after conceeding 5! :-)

  41. geordiedug,

    can’t agree that it’s Harper’s last season though mate.
    He’s still got a few years left.

    Look at Friedel 40 & still gannen strong.

    It’s different for ‘keepers, they get better with age/experience.

  42. CLiNT FLiCK says:
    June 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    “It’s different for ‘keepers, they get better with age/experience.”

    I think so too Clint, definitely at the more mental side of the game anyway, with catches / organization etc, though there physical attributes worsen, they are not as agile.

  43. geordiedug says:
    June 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    “what got me was he didnt once grab the toon defenders by the balls and sort them out!”

    Dug, wouldn’t that be illegal in front of 50,000 people?

  44. I’m sick to the back teeth of the ‘Jose away’ thing now like.
    Either sign up or sling ya’ hook mate.


  45. jimbob,

    ture mate, but that’s where the organising of defenses comes in, ain’t it?

  46. At least no one can whine about us being slow off the transfer mark this window, hey?
    One less thing to moan about there then, that’s in the bank, they can’t take that away from you, what else did you see on the conveyor belt tonight?


  47. jimbob,

    i mean, as a ‘keeper gets older/wiser, he loses agility, but gains experience & organizational & positional sense.
    With regards himself & his defense.

  48. Therefore, gets himself & the defense in the right place to quosh most situations & make the save.

  49. jimbob,
    it’s more to do with my ‘stream of consciousness’ blogging mate, tbf.
    I usually can’t be arsed to type everything out again, so some of it gets ‘lost in translation’ mate.


  50. Good Clint, I thought I was starting to lose it, prob be best I dont do anything too complicated for the rest of the day!


  51. @ CLiNT FLiCK

    can’t agree that it’s Harper’s last season though mate.
    He’s still got a few years left

    yes probably has got a few seasons left but i really do think krul has the talent to be the new ‘van der sar’ and with forster coming back to the club i cant see where harper fits in?

  52. you’s lads divvent knaa yer a**e,there’s only one legendary keeper for the toon……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….MIKE HOOPER lol.

  53. Ha Ha Nice one Worky @72. Sometimes these guys are classed as cult heroes and appear on those student type t-shirts. You know the ones I mean. Not sure this can be applied to old Kevin.

    Who was that keeper we had that was also Wimbledon’s keeper? He was useless? There was even a joke about him something along the lines of someone jumping out of a window of a house on fire and when they see it’s him doing the catching they say they’ll wait for the next person to come along. Implying that he would have dropped them as he dropped everything.

  54. workyticket says: “I think that most of us who were supporting the team back in the early eighties had the Samaritans on speed dial permanently.”

    Yes indeed. I remember having to wear a paper bag on my head in the sixth form after a bet with an Exeter City supporter regarding a certain 4-0 defeat we suffered.

  55. john “budgie” burridge,for taking a right kick to the heed off paul hardyman,whilst saving that pen.
    i was in the clock stand that day,dont know how we got out alive,cracking atmosphere though,i was only 15,them was the days when i were a lad.

  56. we’ve got mirandinha,he’s not from argentina,
    he’s from brasil,he’s f**kin’ brill.

  57. i remember the joke at the time;
    what’s the difference between dave beasant and cinderella?
    cinderella got to the ball.

  58. Hugh de Payen says:
    June 20, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    “Yes indeed. I remember having to wear a paper bag on my head in the sixth form after a bet with an Exeter City supporter regarding a certain 4-0 defeat we suffered.”

    Aye Hugh, the ‘Dolce vita’ days between Harvey and Keegan. All the greats managed us back then, Lee, Dinnis, McGarry, McFaul, Jackie Charlton, Jim Smith, Ossie Ardiles.

  59. Yes, Dave Beasant. I remembered it while I was taking a dump earlier. Appropriate when you think about it.

  60. Micky Toon
    Thats an interesting site. I noticed Arthur Bottoms name, don’t suppose many will remember him.

    Signed for us in 1958, where have the years gone?

    Had a shot like a mule and saved us from relegation. 10 goals in 11 games and then sold for a profit, sound familiar! Only a few hundred pounds but it probably paid for McKeag or Seymours cigars.

  61. Grumpy Old-Toon says:
    June 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    “I noticed Arthur Bottoms name, don’t suppose many will remember him.”

    Grumpy, how can you forget someone with a name like Arthur Bottom? ;-)

  62. Laying down the gauntlet now.
    How many of those players on the wiki site would Jimbob be able to blog about before he want mental?

    It’s geeky and a bit sad, but reading that site jogs some memories. Spotted Paul Goddard, one of my favourites from the 80’s. Not the best, but for some reason I favoured him.

    David McCreery too. Legend in my mind.

  63. Micky Toon says:
    June 20, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    “Laying down the gauntlet now.
    How many of those players on the wiki site would Jimbob be able to blog about before he want mental?”

    Close to mental now…

    Stay away from wiki it’s a load of bollocks, anyone can edit that, I saw that ‘ross kemp destroys gangs with his awesomeness’ on there once.


  64. How many of those players on the wiki site would Jimbob be able to blog about before he want mental?

    There’s a reason I only thought about doing this ;)

    I was actually going to do it for cleansheetsallround and then thought better of it. Not completely daft!

  65. Best keeper?? – has to be Budgie – just for the fact that he used to drive around in a car with his name plastered all over it, lest we should pass him by and not recognise him :). Or Tommy Wright. Lol.

  66. Jimbob, yeah we know that wiki is easily manipulated but you would have to be a spoiler of some magnitude to edit many of the names on that site, just wouldn’t be worth the effort for the nuisance return value.

    Speaking of nostalgia anyone remember the old Wizard and Hotspur comics, the ones with actual stories rather than comic strips. There was one character, Bernard Briggs who played for some football team and one of his team mates had a gammy leg and took the free kicks. He was able to calculate speed and trajectory to score every time, or was that Billy the Fish! Whatever, Just thought it was a mildy amusing anecdote and no real relevance to the thread but hey, at my age I can wibble on a bit.