Shay's main injury has to be a broken heart

By Lee Ryder on Feb 26, 08 09:25 PM

So it looks like Shay Given is going to miss six weeks of Newcastle United's fight to maintain their place in the Premier League.

And the news today that he will miss a big stretch of the season must have left him in pieces.

Since signing for Newcastle in 1997 Given has pulled off all the stops but mentally he must be distraught that apart from the two great seasons under Sir Bobby Robson, the club have not matched his ambition nor that of the Toon Army.

Nevertheless Given has stayed loyal to the black and white cause and while there are few Toon fans who may not agree I have to say I am extremely grateful he has stuck with the club this long.

There must have been plenty of chances for him to walk away and then go on and win a hatful of medals at Man United, Arsenal or some of the lesser names.

But he stayed and battled on for the Toon cause.

Given played game after game for Newcastle and stayed pretty much injury free until that horror challenge with Marlon Harewood at Upton Park.

I was actually in the tunnel at West Ham that day and it was like a scene from Casualty after the player punctured his bowel.

And although Given has come back and put in some good performances since that 2-0 win in the East End, his life has never been the same since.

The player that was playing week in, week out has suffered groin problems regularly since which has handed the dependable Steve Harper his chance and helped him reach 100 senior appearances for Newcastle.

But what must Given make of the mess Newcastle now find themselves in?

This season some of the performances have been nothing short of a "disgrace" at home which was actually the word that Geremi used himself to describe the performances back in November.

Both Given and Harper have been so badly exposed in games, especially at St James's Park, that several matches have been done and dusted with over 25 minutes left to play.

I've only played in pointless 5-a-side matches and it's got to be the hardest game in the world even at pub player level.

But for Newcastle to defend so badly to leave players like Ronaldo and Rooney the freedom of the city to run riot must leave Given and Harper tearing their hair out.

Now for Given he has to sit in the stands like the rest of the Toon Army which many of the Geordie foot soldiers will tell him isn't an easy task.



Paul Patterson said:

Alright- so it’s finally come to this- criticising the one player that should be given more help than any other.

You are all idiots- No apologies to be made for that remark, but what must it belike to turn up at a ground knowing your in for a hammering EVERY week.

Granted he (Shay) isn’t the greatest at kicking after all the term ‘Back to Given’ was used by me regularly, not even just in Newcastle matches- it become an annoying tick with me and his kicking should be better.

Yes he doesn’t command his area and come for crosses like a tall ‘Keeper, but theres a reason for that- he ain’t a tall ‘keeper.

Where was all this criticism when Dabizas scored at Sunderland, when the only reason we won the game and didn’t come back with a 5-1 hiding was a Shay Given Masterclass?

There are a lot of fans around that are so fickle and forgetful.

Steven Taylor- who I rate- was dancing about like fairly against Man United, N’Zogbia- who I also rate isn’t a left back and let Rooney wander into the box to score- Smith passed the ball to him for his sublime second- and two defenders failed to make a tackle between them for Saha’s goal- is this to be blamed on the Keepers.

Answer- Get your heads screwed on and start getting on the peoples backs who matter- shoddy defenders- absurd managerial decisions- where’s Enrique?????? And stupid players like Smith, Butt, Barton, Owen, Carr etc, that seem to just turn up and toss it off for 90 minutes.

Shame on most of you.


Dave B said:

Don’t want to sound like a smart arse but I’ve said for many a year that without Shearer up front and Given at the back Newcastle are relegation zone perennials.

Please oh please prove me wrong lads.

Sy said:

A very good piece, Lee.

I've said many times over the years that Shay Given has kept us in this league more than once, and also that he deserves credit for his loyalty.

We should count ourselves lucky that we've had two of the most loyal footballers probably in the league for the last decade in Shay and understudy Steve Harper.

During last summer, Harper was linked with a move to West Ham, and I for one suggested he should take the opportunity to get the regular Premier League action his ability deserves - although of course was pleased when this didn't materialise.

If only other areas of our squad was as worry-free as the goalkeeping department has been during the last ten years - where would we be now? The emergence of youngsters Tim Krul (who I am keen to see more of) and Fraser Forster (who I hear is also an excellent prospect) means we can hope this goalkeeping foundation can continue.

But back to Shay, I agree with your point Lee about where else he could've gone and accomplished more, surely we should all be grateful that he didn't - otherwise this relegation possibility would've happened several times before now...and before any of those who criticised him on earlier threads start up - the reason he hasn't managed to keep us clear this season (and Harper during his absence) is because Allardyce took away our potential and desire to score goals which over the years always counter-balanced the poor defence in front of him.

Karl said:

has paul patterson read this correctly or have i missed something? no mention of critiscism of Given?
i completly agree with you lee, we have an outstanding player in Given and another in Harper.
To be quite honest im suprised we have been able to keep two such quality players at an under performing team for so long!
Only a hand full of the current squad deserve to play in black and white again after recent performances but until the summer we have to back all of them to get us out of this mess.
Blackburn is a must win game and frankly im far more concerned about our midfield being played of the pitch again rather than Harper being in goal!

Paul Patterson said:

Karl- I didn't mean this specific piece- just in various publicatons and various posts recently Shay has been in for an alarmng amount of stick.

I agree with the two points about without Shearer and Given, we are in the preverbial.

And the second that if we had as little worry about the rest of the team- everything would be hunky-dory


Ronnie Lambert said:

Whoa lads, this is supposed to be about personal opinion, and out of 50,000+ you're not gonna get everyone agreeing on every topic. What everyone probably will agree on is the undeniable fact that Shay Given has been an outstanding keeper in his time here, and has saved many a game single-handedly. Also that he could've jumped ship for greener pastures and didn't, be that out of loyalty, his great wages or the deep foundations of his family and friends in the area. I personally always favoured Harper for no other reason than his ability, and also his loyalty based on probably the same criteria as Given's. So what? It's not exactly state treason is it? The boiling of Geordie blood at this moment is because of a lack of collective team effort, kicked off by fat Fred and his predecessors, and the sham that was Sam. We are rightfully indignant about the false position that this club is in at a time, when because of status achieved in recent years, should have been at least maintained or bettered considering the millions of pounds we've contributed. Opinions about individual players though is a right of every fan, and will always create arguments. Last season, Taylor was seen as the greatest local emergence since Shearer, now many fans are exceeding his not being the finished article into less favourable comments. There are of course more obvious targets of our discontent because of obvious reasons i.e. Butt, Duff and Barton to name only three, and on which most of us agree but we should not feel, or be made to feel ashamed for such a paltry reason in the scheme of this awesome universe. I still have the opinion however, that should Harper keep the jersey for an extended period of time due to merit, if and when Shay's fit again, that Shay would not take second fiddle for as long as Harps has. Anyway, there are bigger questions needing answers such as Enrique's situation, Zog playing left back when even Duff would, and has done better in that position. And how can Kev justify playing Smith ahead of any striker in the reserves, or Barton ahead of anyone playing for Blyth Spartans?

Keith Kettleborough said:

Lets get this sentimental c**about Given out of the way and state some home truths about Shay.
Shay Given is a great shotstopper... but nowt else.
He does not command his box, does not communicate enough with his fellow defenders, is beaten more often than not on 1 on 1 situations, does not come off his line (Pav the 2nd) add these things to the fact that he has probably been at the club too long and is now stale.

When a player has seen better days at so called "big clubs" he is dispatched as Shay Given should now be.
He is the common denominator of Newcastles dodgy defense of the last 10 years. That is no coincidence wether you like the fact or not.

He should not be kept on just because he is a good lad and has had a few good games along the way a few years ago, etc etc.
As good a servant as he has been , it is time to replace Shay with a more dominant goalkeeper. Maybe young Forster will fit the bill perfectly.

Ryder's reply: I think that's over the top Keith, most Toon fans would agree if it wasn't Shay over the last 10 years Newcastle wouldn't be where they are now.
Plus the fact that keepers usually peak at 34 or 35 compared to outfielders pours cold water on your idea to bring in a raw but promising young gun like Forster at such an early stage.

Charles said:

I think everyone here is sorry to see Given injured again but with the reliable Harper, Krul and Forster, the goalkeeping hardly seems to be in danger even if one or two gets a kick out of the season early.

I guess many of you aren't playing football, nor do you act as a manager before, eh?

This is different from the manager games, these are real players who benefit from words coming out of people's mouth and unfortunately - suffer in it too.

No doubt Given have given(not a pun) his loyalty to the club but why must he take the blame supposed to be for the other 10 players + supporters?

I play as a defender in my young days and let me tell ain't easy defending against strikers who can run a mile longer with their fancy tricks, etc...when you tackle them, they drop off and guess what? You get yellow. Huzzah!

The point is, defenders are the second line of defense and the midfielders, the first. It isnt easy defending against strikers so you can cool yourself when you see defenders miss tackle or unable to out run a striker. Instead blame the midfielders who brought on shame for the defenders...(Shame the defenders who lose a ball when they have it to opposition strikers, you know who I mean...)

Taylor had a blasted game to remember but in truth, he did everything he can to stop the likes of Rooney and least he isnt like Tiny-Bramble-Tim and his league of super idiots...

Smith, Barton and Butt have to go. They obviously died in the hands of Sam and god forbids them to make shame on KK for his faith.

...and a word to the manager...KK, don't put faith in those cowardly, do-it-for-nothing, idiots who could cost you your job and honor at Tyneside.

Anonymous said:

Keith, Keith, Keith, Keith- I can’t honestly believe what I’m hearing.

I for one am not sentimental about Shay Given- apart for the fact that it’s a damn shame, that a good lad like him has had to stick with our shambles of a club for so long.

As for the communication thing- I’ve been to matches and because of the depressing atmos in the ground, the one thing I can guarantee hearing is the high pitched, irish scream (Usually in vain) telling his defenders what to do AND when the inevitable happens and a goal is scored the first thing he does is berate his defence.

I’m with you on the commanding of the box and a little on coming off his line, but he is a wee fellow and probably would be able to do much anyway- having send that he does come to punch quite a few balls in front of his defenders.

The Pav reference is a strange one- Pav tended to stray TOO far of his line- remember the Charity Shield.

If you look at Goalkeepers, the only reason other clubs ever get rid, is when that Goalkeeper becomes a liability, Tiabi, Bartez, Howard and to a lesser extent Lehman now.

And as for the fact that he is the common denominator of Newcastles dodgy defence over the last 10 years, I don’t know where to begin dismantling that one- Bramble, Onyewu, O’Brien, Pearce, Pistone, Boumsong, Barton, Babayaro, Beresford and now Cacapa. That is the reason why we’ve had a dodgy defence.

Now your other point about someone being kept on for being a good lad- Beresford and Barton were great lads as were O’Brien and Pearce, but were they great defenders- Barton would backtrack so far he would end up in the Strawberry, Pearce was slower than my Gandmother and whilst O’Brien was decent, he was never going to take us where we wanted to go.

Beresford was decent but again, was very suspect when asked to defend.

I also agree with your last point- I’d love to see Foster and krul give the chance (Krul’s out long term) but when they are both fighting for the no1 spot I’m sure we needn’t worry.

In Short- If people are going to blame Shay Given and/or Steve Harper for Newcastle’s Past, Present or Future problems then we may as well pack up and go home.


Snapper said:

Sorry to see the blog is not for the critisism of Chronicle Jurno's. I blogged yesterday asking why Alan Oliver had not asked KK why he was'nt playing Enrique, the blog never appeared. The idea of blogs surely is for people to air their views, good or bad about whatever subject. Sorry Lee I was a regular on the blog site but now censorship is in place not again, apart from a glimpse to see if you acknowledge this BLOG.

Ryder's reply: I can't speak for other journalists snapper and I don't pick the team but as far as I'm aware Jose Enrique is not injured and simply isn't being selected.

Sue said:

I'm glad to read this blog. There has been some very unfair criticism of Given lately, particularly on the forum. One eejit suggested getting rid of him now, before he is due a testimonial. No wonder the London press have a go at fickleness of NUFC fans with that sort of comment. I agree he has suffered a drop in form since the injury and has suffered from playing behind some highly suspect defenders. I also think he has shown loyalty to our club and deserves some in return.

Ian Mack said:

With the greatest of respect to Shay, I think it's fair to say that he's not had a great season. He has played in matches where he should not have. I don't think he should have played in the Aston Villa game, I was proved right and he certainly should not have took the chance last week against Man U. It was there for all to see, he was not fit. I suppose he told the manager he was fit enough to play but one could tell from the kick off and his movements, he was not. 100% fit players only please in the future, please don't kid the manager. Steve Harper is a more than capable cover for Shay, in fact, sometimes I would say that Steve is better; and no, he's not a relative!
I am not blaming Shay at all for our disappointing season but he must think twice before he says he's fit when he clearly isn't.

Richard said:

Let me say this about Shay Given, when fit, he is probably one of the best shot stoppers in the world. But, that is all. That’s not to say he is rubbish, but he is average/deficient in many aspects of his game (in relation to what a 'world class' keeper whould be able to do).

To say we would be relegated or 'not be where we are today' without him is utter rubbish. Sure, if we didn’t have Given and played a local pub keeper then maybe that would be true, but there are plenty of keepers around whose all round game is better. And Steve Harper isnt too bad a stopping shots aswell remember. How many shots would Given have saved that a fit, playing week in week out Steve Harper would not have saved over the past ten years? A few, but not many I suspect.

Don’t get me wrong, Harper is not better than Given (if both were fully fit) but Harper is as good as. And lets face it, there have many been occassions over the past 10 years where we have concded goals and blamed a Bramble, a Boumsong, a Elliott, a Carr etc etc. Sure they have been at fault for a fair share of goals but occassionally, the fans and the media are very happy to jump on the back of these players when in fact Given has been to blame too. We, as a whole, are very blinkered and as human beings are biased. Of course, this is understandable given Shays long standing commitment to Newcastle and some of his early performances for us. He was much better than Pav or Hooper or Hislop which preceeded him. But lets not kid ourselves, in recent years his deficiencies are becoming more apparent, injured or not. But of course, its not just Given. Since Souness was installed (and even before) the performances of most of our players, most of the time have been sub-standard.

But look at the Given related facts:

He is a great shot stopper. One of the best in the world over the past ten years. Although, I think Harper is not too far off.

His kicking/distribution is disgraceful and he concedes possesion more than Steven Carr! He may be a goalkeeper but he's been a professional footballer, playing football day in day out for almost 20 years and he still cant kick a moving ball with the ability to pick out a team mate. That is not good enough and does not instill confidence in your defence to play the ball back to him. Does he not practice this skill??! If Carr (or whoever) is critisiced for not being able to pass a ball ten yards, so should Given.

He is poor at corners and crosses. He doesn’t know whether to come or go. How tall he is has nothing to do with it. He can jump, he can use his hands, he's a keeper so he should be agile and while he's small for a keeper, he's still about 6 foot and he obviously has a good leap to be able to save some of the shots he has done over the years. There is no doubt that Charlie was poor at the back post against Man U but if the ball drops in the six yard box from a cross (particularly in open play) it the goalkeepers job to come and claim the ball, attacker close by or not. He, afterall, was only a few yards away. If it wasn’t Givens fault then it wasn’t Charlie's either as they both had similar distances- to cover.

His ability at one on ones is fairly poor (again, for an apparent 'world class goalkeeper').

He (and he is not alone) is poor at penalties. He dives to one side before the penalty is taken despite the fact that most penalties are poorly struck and either go straight down the middle or are hit quite softly and not in the corners such that they could be saved if he just stood and waited for the player to take it, particularly seeing as shot stopping is his fortay!. He wouldn’t save them all but he would save more than the amount he currently does (has he actually ever saved one?).

As Keith said, we have had international class defenders, promising young defenders, experienced thinkers and local lads at the back and no matter what combination, in general we have been awful. The one common denominator in our poor defence is Shay Given. Why? He does not talk to his defenders at all. He does not organise his defence and he does not guide them in what to do. That is not his sole responsibility but it is part of his responsibility, particularly in certain positions in the game. I remember one goal coming from Bramble dallying over the ball on the edge of the box following a boot upfield. Bramble was closed down and the ball taken from him and the player then rounded Given and scored. But Given just stood there on his line, not wanting the ball played back, not telling Bramble their was a man coming, not telling him to put it out of play. Bramble got critisised for that and to be fair he should of course known about the player coming but Given took no responsibility of the situation to help out his young defender and organise him and guide him. After the goal, Given walked away back to his line for the kick off not saying a word. A good team needs a keeper who talks to his defenders and take responisbility in tight situations.

He is poor at coming off his line, whether that be for one on one's or for back passes. I get the impression that he knows he is rubbish at kicking and therefore shys away from back passes or coming to clear the ball, unless it is a last resort.

He regularly stays in his box when we have a corner. He should be mid way into his own half. He should be there to deter any balls over the top of the defence and make the opposition think about what they have to do. He should not be stuck on his line waiting for the opposition to attack again with acres of open grass for the other team to run into.

In todays game, where tactics are paramount we need a goal keeper who can do everything well. We need a centre half and a goalkeeper who talk to each other and both lead and organise Ok, we might concede a couple more goals from fourty yard pop shots or shots going into the top corner (per season) without Given but there is also a strong argument that there wouldn’t be as many chances for our keeper to save if he was good in all aspects of the game and was seen as a part of the defence and not as a separate player who does his own thing.

I think his loyalty is good but lets face it, to go to a better club with a chance of winning something would mean going to one of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool. Non of them want him or wanted him or were willing to pay for him. That is because he is not a great all round goalkeeper. There are wingers in non league football who can cross a ball but that doesn’t mean they are great wingers or that they will play professionally.

As for not giving the young players a chance yet as it is too early for them, if Given is so great and was good enough to play when he was 18-20 then surely so are Forster and Krul???? Its time to re-build and these two young keepers should be drafted in over the coming 12/18 months.

That is all.

Ryder's reply: Are you sure Richard? I don't think you were thorough enough with your answer there! Still I disagree, Given is one of the top 10 keepers in Europe in my humble opinion.

John Best said:

We all agree that Shay Given's best days are behind him; 10 years of agony behind the worst defence in the Premiereship.We still dont have, a quality defensive coach and we will get worse before we get better.The current situation is deplorable and we have seen this coming for 5 years; the directors are primarilarly to blame for the continued habit of buying the wrong player at the wrong time, out of shear panic.It is well documented that top players will not consider NUFC as an option to the top 6 clubs.Location is a main factor; NE people have great pride in their corner of England but its only when you move away that you realise, what a dump it is.The support over the return to the top flight has been, of then highest order but we settle for mediocrity; out of ignorance. If the supporters had answered with their feet 10 years ago; a lot of the current problems would never be upon us.If you continue to pay out good money to watch this collection of incompitents'then you deserve what is being served up. Directors have continued to line their pockets with the profits and mismanage the club at the same time; a few seasons in the Championship, will do the club the world of good, we have no devine rite to the TOP FLIGHT, after our performances. The present board are way out of their depth and will take the club down; recent appointments confirm this belief. The Hall's & Shepherd's, left with their pockets full and sold to a complete stranger, without any consideration for the supporters, individuals with little quality are capable of these actions and now we are left with enormous problems. Could we become the NEW LEEDS UNITED, we,re half way there , with the Leeds rejects; already on our books.Not one player has stood out throughout this fiasco and shown any real class, We are the SICK,LAME & LAZY of the Prem.and relegation is just reward for our efforts.No points from the BLACKBURN game and the trap door opens.

Ryder's reply: I don't think we all agree that Given's best days are behind him John, as I say goalkeepers don't usually come into their ultimate peak until they are 33 plus.
Look at all the trophies David Seaman won with Arsenal later in his career.

Sy said:

>In Short- If people are going to blame Shay Given and/or Steve Harper for Newcastle’s Past, Present or Future problems then we may as well pack up and go home.


Maybe this might put things into perspective for some people:

1997 - 2008 Goalkeeper transfers (first team appearance players only):

Mark Bosnich - Free
Massimo Taibi - £4.5m
Fabien Barthez - £7.8m
Roy Carroll - £2.5m
Ricardo Lopez - £1.5m
Tim Howard - £2.3m
Edwin Van Der Sar - £2m
Tomasz Kuszczak - Undisc/Swap.
Total: £20.6m

Alex Manninger - £500k
Richard Wright - £6m
Jens Lehmann - £1m
Manuel Almunia - Undisc.
Lukas Fabianski - £2m
Total: £9.5m (+ Almunia)

Brad Friedel - £1m
Sander Westerveld - £4m
Pegguy Arphexad - Free
Chris Kirkland - £6m
Jerzy Dudek - £4.8m
Scott Carson - £1m
Jose Reina - £6m
Total: £22.8m

Ed de Goey - £2.25m
Mark Bosnich - Free
Carlo Cudicini - £160k
Jurgen Macho - Free
Petr Cech - £7m
Hilario - Free
Total: £9.4m

Shay Given - £1.5m
John Karelse - £750k
Tim Krul - Undisc.
Pavel Srnicek - Free.
Total: £2.25m (+ Krul)

There seemed to be some doubt as to whether we got Given on a free, maybe someone could clear this up.

This was just slapped together from a stat site and, so there are bound to be some missing somewhere and some inaccuracies, but it proves a point when you look at the money the others have spent on so many different keepers, not to mention the fact that no Newcastle manager from Dalglish all the way back to Keegan have looked to replace Given or Harper. All we've done is signed backup and youth players. Can they all be wrong?

paul burns said:

I have to say that Shay has been a fantastic keeper for Newcastle over the years, but he is definitely going thru a bad spell at the moment. Aye, we've got a c*** defence, but he's definitely been at fault enough times to cause concern. I hope it's just a dodgy phase, but if things don't improve then we may have to look for someone else. Let's hope he can show the form of old!

Chris H said:

So Shay is a good shot stopper? Would you want a goalkeeper who wasn't?


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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