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Opinion: He's an Irish football icon but Shay Given should not go to Euro 2016

The veteran goalkeeper will be hoping to get the chance to impress at Stoke City before the tournament begins.

Shay Given will be 40 by the time Euro 2016 starts.
Shay Given will be 40 by the time Euro 2016 starts.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

INJURIES TO INTERNATIONAL and club team-mates have reinvigorated Shay Given’s chances of going to Euro 2016.

While he is unlikely to be first-choice, if Given was picked to go to France he could play, should injury or suspension force Martin O’Neill’s hand.

Let’s not forget that Given started this season as Ireland’s No. 1 and if it wasn’t for the injury picked up against Germany, he could be going to the Euros as Ireland’s starting goalkeeper.

1. His slow reactions

In the home qualifier against Scotland back in June, Given was rooted to the ground as Shaun Maloney’s deflected shot ended in the back of the net.

The deflection in fact should have helped the goalkeeper, but he was unable to react. He didn’t necessarily need to save the shot to prove this point wrong, but his inability to react to the danger is a real cause of concern.
https://gfycat.com/PettyDimwittedCrossbill

This is not an isolated situation for Given. Just watch his failure to react and adjust his body as Mesut Özil side-foots a Thomas Müller cross in the match against Germany in October (1 minute 17 seconds).

Source: World of Football Goals & Highlights/YouTube

2. His poor distribution

Given has always struggled dealing with back-passes and over the past couple of seasons injuries including a recurring groin complaint have continued to hinder this aspect of his game.

For Ireland to succeed in playing a composed, possession-based style of play at the Euros it is vital that the team has a goalkeeper that is comfortable with the ball.

His kicking will not only inhibit Ireland’s attack but is also a danger to the defence. Watch the clip below as an example from earlier this season when Stoke City played Fulham in the League Cup.

given

One of the most impressive aspects of Darren Randolph’s performances have been how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet and the power in his kicking as illustrated when he set up Shane Long for the winner against Germany.

Source: ShivDes357/YouTube

 3. Lack of match sharpness

Given retired from international football after a disastrous Euro 2012, both for him personally and the team, overall.

Retirement, Given was hoping would prolong his club career. However, since the tournament in 2012 he has only played five Premier League matches.

A lack of playing time with Aston Villa, coincided with Given’s decision to return to the Irish team. He moved to Stoke City in the summer, having turned down the opportunity to move to Middlesbrough, where he played 16 matches while on-loan in the 2013-14 season.

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Given cited the lure of the Premier League rather than the guarantee of starting the season as Middlesbrough’s first-choice, as the reason for the move to the Potters.

A poor decision by Given, with Aitor Karanka’s side fighting for automatic promotion to the Premier League from the Championship.

So far this season, he has made only two League Cup appearances for Stoke and was overlooked last weekend as Jakob Haugaard replaced the injured Jack Butland in the Potters’ goal.

4. Loss of mobility/agility

Injuries and age have led to a loss of agility from Given. Standing at just 6ft, he is considered a relatively small goalkeeper. In the past, he made up for a lack of inches with a capacity to be quick, sharp and swift in the box, now there is a sluggishness and at times a clumsiness to his game.

Watch the clip below which illustrates his failure to move his body to save a straightforward Per Mertesacker header in last year’s FA Cup final.

Source: FATV/YouTube

We were beginning to see signs of this weakness back in Euro 2012 in the opening match against Croatia.

Source: EuroSportsTv/YouTube

5. Injury record

Since 2012, Given has suffered injuries to his groin, knee, pelvis and hamstring which puts a question mark on his overall fitness. Clearly, he is not the player he once was and this is has been evident in recent performances.

Given will be 40-years old by the time the tournament starts and although he has a wealth of experience,this shouldn’t be a decisive factor when deciding if he goes to France.

In the squad picked to play Bosnia, ten players had over 30 caps, and five with over 50 caps, so a lack of experience is not an issue.

If you believe Given is worth a place for his experience alone, then there is no reason why he cannot work alongside Seamus McDonagh at the tournament but not at the expense of another goalkeeper.

Barring injury Darren Randolph is certain to be included the final 23-man squad. Keiren Westwood’s form for Sheffield Wednesday means he should be brought along as the back-up goalkeeper with David Forde taking the last place. Although Forde has struggled to get first-team football with Millwall this season, the Galway man has been an impressive performer when called upon by Ireland, including a man-of-the-match display away to Germany during the qualifying campaign.

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About the author:

Shane Costello

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