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Any Given Saturday

By Lee Ryder on Sep 16, 11 09:45 AM


At Villa Park tomorrow, two former Newcastle United players will attempt to break the Magpies' unbeaten start to the season.

One will be booed, one probably won't be - or at least not as much.

Charles N'Zogbia has already been on the end of one hot reception after choosing to walk away from Newcastle United, in the colours of Wigan he responded with two goals at St James' Park but didn't taste victory.

Shay Given has never faced the Toon since quitting during the same month as Zoggy, but is likely to be on the end of a warmer reception from the United faithful.

There is a difference - in my opinion - when it comes to Given and N'Zogbia.

N'Zogbia was plucked from nowhere at Newcastle but his attitude throughout his stay was always far from perfect.

Dubbed Chuckles by club officials, The Zog's time on Tyneside featured some great moments but also a few strops and sulks along the way.

There were also several dubious interviews from France which claimed he wanted to move to a bigger club before ending up at Wigan, then Villa.

Given on the other hand was a man who was pushed to breaking point at Newcastle.

And after 12 years of great service, I could understand why he'd had enough.

The image that will live with me forever is after the 5-1 pasting at the hands of Liverpool during the Joe Kinnear era in 2008.

The tactics had gone wrong, Given had been offered no protection and the club was all over the place.

He sprinted off the pitch in disgust and later said: "If somebody had told me I wouldn't see a football every again, I wouldn't have complained."

Given is one of the best goalkeepers on the planet in my book but cut a helpless figure during the Kinnear experience.

Given's response to Kinnear's appointment back in 2008 was rumoured to be: "Somebody is taking the **** out of us here."

Certainly the return to management of former Wimbledon boss following Kevin Keegan was a bitter pill to swallow for fans, and Given, who had became intertwined with the Geordie public knew it.

So many times down the years under Dalglish, Gullit, Robson, Souness, Roeder, Allardyce, Keegan and Kinnear, Given had been the saviour for the Magpies.

Yes, it is a team game, but as far as keepers are concerned the opposition have got to get past 10 players before the have to beat the man between the posts, their mistakes are highlighted more than any other player.

Goalkeeping is a strange science and of course keepers have their own union, think differently and will quickly pick up on journos who they feel cut them a raw deal in print.

But for Given, departing after the madness of Keegan's exit and the appointment of Kinnear, was understood by most fans.

Given's move to Man City was in the post for me long before the 5-1 defeat against Liverpool.

I say this because he was the first player to admit that Newcastle were in a relegation battle.

This confession came after Newcastle had blown a 2-0 lead against Stoke City and drew 2-2.

At the time, the club reacted badly to the Chronicle's headlines for simply mentioning the dreaded R word.

Given though was right.

Quite simply, Given had nothing more to give.

Down the years, Newcastle fans have felt like walking away too, but it's not as easy as that for supporters.

Given's departure was one of the first of many during the Mike Ashley era with names like Bassong, Beye, Duff, Nolan, Barton, Carroll and Enrique all leaving for similar reasons - but none of them gave as much to NUFC as Shay Given.

That's why I think the Irishman will get the reception he deserves at Villa Park from Toon fans.

3 Comments

DormAnt said:

Always a soldier for the cause and often a saviour. I hope he gets a very generous reception from all the fans.

John said:

Well siad Lee, Given was one of the best players to walk on St James Park and was a true servent to NUFC and there is only so much one man can take.

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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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