Pictures from Shay at St. James’s Park. Game ended Newcastle 2-1 Aston Villa (Ba 30, Cissé 71; Keane 45+5), which wasn’t nice for Shay and Villa but the most important thing: speedy recovery for Ryan Taylor!

pictures: Daylife | Flickr

I haven’t played there since I left Newcastle - so it will be strange and emotional for me. At one point I did think I’d be at Newcastle for life but then things change and you change yourself. Sometimes you can go a bit stale at one club but when I left it felt right. It gave me a new challenge and a new lease of life. You can get stuck in your ways. I enjoyed my 11-and-a-half years there but in the last few months I thought I needed to try something new. People might say to me, ‘Oh but Newcastle are above you in the league, I bet you wish you were still there’, but I am genuinely really happy at Villa. I do not regret leaving Newcastle at all - and I don’t regret any of my time there either.

Shay Given on leaving St. James’s Park three years ago.

Shay Given: Newcastle return special but I have a job to do for Villa

Shay Given will put fond memories of his 12 years at Newcastle United to one side this afternoon, insisting: “I’ve got a job to do for Aston Villa”.

Villa’s No.1 is set for an emotional return to his former club - the first time he has been back to Tyneside since departing for Manchester City in February 2009. Many of Given’s standout career moments will come flooding back to him when he runs out at the Sports Direct Arena. But the goalkeeper says gaining three points for Villa is at the forefront of his mind.

"I have never played there since leaving - this is the first time," said Given. "It will feel a bit strange I suppose. But it will be great to go back there and play. I was there a number of years and I made a lot of appearances there so I should know my way round St James’s Park! It was a special time of my career and I enjoyed every moment. I have great memories - beating Barcelona in the Champions League, things like that. But you move on in your life and your career and it’s about Aston Villa now and we are going up there to try and get three points and that’s the name of the game. You have to be professional. It’s nice to go there and play but the big thing for me is doing a job for Aston Villa."

The Newcastle side Given will come up against today is much-changed from the one he left behind three years ago. Of the current Magpies squad, the Republic of Ireland international can count only fellow keepers Tim Krul and Steve Harper, defensive duo Steven Taylor and Fabricio Colocinni and the Ameobi brothers - Shola and Sammy - as former team-mates. Nevertheless, Given has been impressed by the club’s resurgence under boss Alan Pardrew.

"The manager should take the credit," he said. "He’s done a great job. He has also been intelligent and brought in John Carver and Steve Stone - two Geordies. He’s brought in good players as well. Demba Ba has been a huge success and Tim Krul as well has been one of the goalkeepers of the season. They have done really well. You have to go back to what the manager has done. He deserves great credit because he has brought in a lot of players. Cabaye in midfield has been fantastic as a player. Their scouting system and manager are getting the best out of the players as well."

Another player gearing up to face his former club is winger Charles N’Zogbia, fresh from scoring his first Villa goal against QPR in midweek. And Given reckons the Frenchman’s first strike in claret and blue will provide him with a timely boost ahead of the clash against his old employers.

"Hopefully that will be the kickstart he needed," the 35-year-old added. "It is his first goal and will be a weight lifted off his shoulders. It was a big price tag coming here and I think he played well in the game apart from the goal. I hope that will give him a confidence boost. He looked a foot taller on the ball after he scored. I think last year the reason we bought him to the club was his great season for Wigan. He played a big role in keeping them up and everyone saw that. We just need to see it in a Villa shirt - we know it is there, we just need to bring it out of him."

source: Dan Harrison / AVFC.co.uk

Shay Given - No Henry grudge

Aston Villa keeper Shay Given insists he holds no grudges against Thierry Henry as he prepares to face the striker once more.

The France forward sparked controversy when his infamous handball denied Republic of Ireland a place in the 2010 World Cup. Ireland keeper Given is set to face the Arsenal veteran for the first time since the incident on Sunday when Villa travel to the Emirates to face the Gunners in the FA Cup fourth round. But Given does not regard Henry as a cheat and says the handball is now water under the bridge.

He told The Sun: “I think some really harsh stuff has been written about him but I don’t follow that line of thought (that he is a cheat). He handballed it and players do that sometimes. His was quite a blatant one and he probably thought himself that the referees would pick it up. But I don’t blame him. In a sense it wasn’t even Thierry Henry’s fault, it was the officials who never saw it. I know he handballed it but it was so blatant we felt the officials should have picked it up, yet they didn’t.

"Of course it was disappointing, especially all through the summer when the World Cup was on. It was disappointing to think we could, should have been there probably. But it’s water under the bridge now. It was hard at the time for the players and the Ireland fans. But you move on in football and you move on in life. I certainly do not hold grudges. I just want to keep Thierry Henry quiet on Sunday for Aston Villa’s sake - not for what he did two years ago."

Pinnacle

Given was back-up for Joe Hart when then club Manchester City won the FA Cup last season and he would love to win the silverware with new side Villa, who go into the tie on a high after beating Wolves 3-2 last time.

He added: “I suppose I have done it back to front - celebrating with the cup before I’d actually played in a cup-winning team at Wembley. Now I’d love to win it with Aston Villa - that would undoubtedly be the pinnacle of my club career. Even growing up as a kid I was diving around the garden pretending it was Wembley. It would be a shame if it went the same way as the League Cup, where some teams play lesser squads and save themselves for the Premier League.

"I understand we’re 5-1 at the Emirates and I think we’re worth a fiver! Arsenal’s home advantage makes them favourites but they’ve been struggling in recent weeks. Although we may not have the biggest squad in the league, when everyone’s fit we have a real top team. We had a great win at Wolves last week and our tails are up. We’re going there with no fear and a lot of belief. If we can get through against Arsenal anything is possible."

source: Sky Sports

variation of Villa’s all-Ireland XI found on The Sun page.

variation of Villa’s all-Ireland XI found on The Sun page.

Aston Villa’s all-Ireland XI — Luck of the Irish shining through in claret and blue ranks

Caption (l-r) - Graham Burke, Samir Carruthers, Michael Drennan, Ciaran Clark, Robbie Keane, Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland, Enda Stevens, Derrick Williams, Daniel Devine.

Irish eyes are smiling on Aston Villa at present. The club has a proud tradition of players from the Emerald Isle, most notably the likes of Paul McGrath, Steve Staunton and Ray Houghton, who earned hero’s status for club and country in the 1990s.

But the signings of Shay Given, Enda Stevens and Robbie Keane this season means the Irish connection in the Villa ranks has never been stronger. In fact, with five full Republic of Ireland internationals in the squad and six who have been capped at youth level, the club have the personnel to field a starting XI made up entirely of Irish players this afternoon at Wolves.

Given has been Ireland’s No.1 goalkeeper for many years and also holds the record number of caps.

The back four would be made up of experienced centre-back Dunne, former Shamrock Rovers left-back Stevens and two of the stars of Villa’s reserve and youth sides Derrick Williams and Daniel Devine.

Samir Carruthers, an U19 international, would join Ireland and Clark in midfield along with Graham Burke, who was named on the Villa first team bench for the Barclays Premier League game against Liverpool in December.

And who better to partner Kilkenny-born hotshot Michael Drennan up front than Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer Keane?

This starting XI would be music to the ears of the Irish Lions - one of Villa’s biggest supporters clubs. There are currently 11 Lions Club branches in Ireland, with the Dublin Lions boasting more than 500 members.

source: Dan Harrison / AVFC.co.uk

Given to start against Everton with Keane set for bench

Shay Given returns to the side this afternoon for the game with Everton.

Manager Alex McLeish told press at his media briefing that Given will resume his place between the sticks after just over a month out with a hamstring injury. In revealing the news, McLeish was keen to stress his delight at the form of understudy Brad Guzan during the past six games. The boss said that he had spoken to Guzan in advance - and out of respect for the USA ace - to explain his decision. McLeish insisted that Guzan deserved to be treated with respect before the announcement was made pre-match.

McLeish said: “Shay is available again and he will go back between the sticks. We explained it to Brad that Shay is our No.1 goalkeeper. Football is cruel at times, but Brad’s been magnificent. It’s the first time I’ve had a chance to see him in high profile games and I’ve been really delighted. He understood, he didn’t like it and he didn’t necessarily agree, but he’s a proper gentleman.

"I communicated with him. I wasn’t going to drop it on him five minutes before kick-off, so there’s a mutual respect there and I think he’s earned that respect. It’s the hardest part of being a manager, but I like to communicate with the players. I don’t just pin it up on the board although sometimes that would be easier - and just let them get on with it. But I try to give my players respect and talk to them beforehand. Maybe I’ll give them a reason why.

"It’s one of the most difficult parts, leaving someone out when they’ve been in the team. But it’s got to be done. Big Brad has been absolutely excellent. I’m sure he would have loved six shutouts or something, but he’s obviously got to rely on other people as well to have that kind of record.

"I can’t speak for previous management, but Brad has certainly shown me that he’s capable of going between the sticks for a number of games if Shay should go down. But Shay is our No.1 goalkeeper. I did the same with Joe Hart and Maik Taylor at Birmingham. Maik came in for one game and it was the Manchester City match that Joe couldn’t play in. Joe had been a bit rocky in his early days - the press at the time were talking about him maybe being left out. Maik came in and played in that game - he had a shut-out. He fully expected to be in between the sticks for the next game. But I reinstated Joe, because he was our No.1 goalkeeper."

full article: Paul Brown / AVFC.co.uk

Shay is not far away. He’s champing on the door to be involved this weekend against Everton. Whether he is going to make it, we will have to wait and see. I can’t give you that news at the moment. He has made great progress. He is training with the group and it’s a case of how sharp he’s feeling and how confident he’s feeling before we make a decision about him coming back into the team. There are no guarantees of that obviously because of the way Brad has played.

Alex McLeish on Shay Given.

Throughout his career Speedo never stopped giving to football. He would never resist the opportunity to discuss the game or to pass on advice to anyone who asked. This event will enable him to continue to give something back to football.

Shay Given on Gary Speed and the inaugural ‘Gary Speed Football Congress’ (first named as ‘UK Football Academy (UKFA)’ symposium at Emirates Stadium on February 8th.

further information: http://www.ukfootballacademy.net/

Shay Given back in traing for Aston Villa.

source: Neville Williams / AVFC.com / Getty Images

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