Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given has conceded that he’ll likely have to leave the club soon if he wants to reclaim his old starting spot with the Republic of Ireland national team.
Given, 38, has made 440 Premier League appearances since his debut for Blackburn Rovers in 1996, going on to establish himself as one of the top-flight’s premiere shot-stoppers between spells at Newcastle United and Manchester City, respectively, before a £3.5 million move to Villa in 2011.
However, the 127-times capped international has been confined to the bench since losing the number one role to Brad Guzan at the start of the 2012-13 campaign, spending three months of last season on loan at Middlesbrough, where he impressed in 16 Championship starts.
While his club career has petered out, though, Given has made a shock return to the national side this week, having been asked by Villa assistant manager Roy Keane, who also doubles as Martin O’Neill’s number two with Ireland, to reverse his post-Euro 2012 retirement decision.
Handed the start for Wednesday’s 2-0 friendly win over Oman in Dublin, the 38-year-old now has the chance to claim back the job he gave up over 24 months ago, but he admits that might not be possible as long as he remains with the midlands club.
‘It's been difficult, obviously, not playing enough games,’ he told the Telegraph.
‘I enjoyed my time in Middlesbrough last season and that went really well. Ideally, I'd like to be playing of course. Everyone wants to play. We'll see what happens, there's still a window for the Championship after the window closes.
‘I didn't want to look back in ten years and think I could have done another campaign. Maybe I would have regretted that. I just felt there was a bit of unfinished business and I felt I could still offer something to the country so it was great to get the call from Martin.’
With Villa’s current third-choice Jed Steer out on loan at Doncaster Rovers until the start of 2015, it seems doubtful that manager Paul Lambert would allow Given to leave at present with no obvious replacement.
Nevertheless, if the veteran still believes he can produce at the top-level then he might need to force a move, or, with a contract running until the summer of 2016, he risks seeing out the rest of his career on the Villa Park bench.
Can Given still produce at the top level?