When I retired I didn't even get a phone call from the FAI: Shay Given
Republic of Ireland correspondent Brendan Crossan talks exclusively to former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given about the highs and lows of a memorable career...
BC: Your Euro 2012 finals campaign in Poland was hampered by injury. How difficult a time was that?
SG: It was difficult because I wasn’t 100 per cent as I had knee problems. I think it was the second day of our training camp in Dublin it happened. It was difficult because I wasn’t as fit as I could be; I was just chasing it all the time trying to get fit.
I speak in-depth in the book exactly what happened around that time. We tried to keep it out of the media at the time why I wasn’t training and stuff.
BC: Were you fit enough to play in those finals?
SG: I still felt I was fit enough to play – I would never play if I wasn’t able to. I played loads of times in my career when I wasn’t fully fit, and that was one of the times I didn’t feel 100 per cent fit. I used to train so hard every day and I’d go into games feeling invincible, but I had to cut it right back because of the injury happening just before the Euros.
BC: Your injury and the performances of the team in Poland must have been a career low…
SG: The whole lot of us didn’t really perform but I thought we were outclassed as well. People needed to have some realisation about the group we were in – Spain and Italy, whom we played, ended up in the final and I felt Croatia were a better side than Italy.
The opposition we were playing were just too good for us.
BC: What was Giovanni Trapattoni like to play under between 2008 and 2013?
SG: He got a lot of stick in the media because his English wasn’t great but, for us, as players, he was always very clear with his instructions – the way he wanted us to play and drawing diagrams and stuff.
When we were out on the pitch we knew exactly what he wanted us to do and you could probably tell with his movements on the bench that he was very passionate.
He was one of the best managers in the world and we felt honoured he was managing Ireland at that time.
BC: Who was your favourite international manager?
SG: Probably Mick [McCarthy]. He gave me my opportunity as a 19-year-old and he played me in big games. We probably had the most success under Mick as well.
BC: After playing 134 times for your country you didn’t so much as receive a phone call from the FAI thanking you for your services to the Republic of Ireland. I know the same was true when Kevin Kilbane – another centurion – ended his international career…
SG: You couldn’t make it up, some of the stuff. Kevin Kilbane and I ended up doing our coaching badges in Northern Ireland, in Belfast.
Kevin phoned up the FAI about doing his coaching badges and the guy didn’t even phone him back. Kevin then got in touch with the guys in Belfast and they couldn’t do enough for us – and at that time we were the two highest capped players in Ireland.
BC: Can the FAI learn from how they acknowledge their former players?
SG: I don’t know. I saw Kevin Doyle got some kind of trophy upon his retirement. It’s not that I want a trophy. If they did something now I’d feel it was because I said something in my book.
It would be after the horse has bolted. I was involved for over 20 years with the Irish set-up.
I didn’t want a parade down the middle of Dublin – a phone call would have been grand. What can the FAI learn? I suppose you need to speak to them.
BC: Do you think Ireland would have beaten Spain in the 2002 World Cup finals had Roy Keane not left the camp?
SG: [laughing] I think we would have beaten them had ‘Hartey’ [Ian Harte, who missed a penalty] scored during the game!
I don’t think we ever thought along those lines if Roy had stayed.
I grew up in Donegal watching Jack Charlton’s teams playing in big tournaments, which was unbelievable. And to end up playing in one in 2002, nothing was going to take away from that.
BC: Do you feel Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane will stay on with the Republic of Ireland for another term? O’Neill has agreed in principle to remain but that was before the team lost heavily to Denmark in last month’s World Cup play-offs.
SG: I’d imagine he will sign on for another term. I don’t know what his thoughts are but everyone was upset after conceding five goals at home to Denmark.
We thought we’d won the World Cup when Shane Duffy scored the opening goal and then in the second half we got absolutely battered and everyone was deflated, as well as Martin and Roy themselves.
But the FAI has said nothing, Martin and Roy have said nothing. It’s gone very quiet on that front. I suppose a lot of the fans and media want to know what the future holds.
BC: Are you apprehensive about life after playing football?
SG: I just brought my book out and I’ve been doing loads of book signings and I’m busy as I’ve ever been. That will take me up to Christmas and I’m also doing lots of media work.
But there are days I’d be at home and I’m thinking: ‘What am I going to do today?’ Because, for 25 years I’ve been told: ‘You have to be here, you have to do this and you have to do that…’
So there can be a bit of a void and I understand where players are coming from when they say that.
BC: Would a career in coaching interest you?
SG: I don’t know if it’s for me. It depends what opportunities there were in the future. A lot of foreign managers come in and have foreign staff – so opportunities for British and Irish coaches are getting fewer and fewer.
BC: Did you enjoy writing your autobiography?
SG: Yes, I did. I kept getting asked to do one. It was good to reflect back on my career, rolling back through the years playing for Ireland and growing up in Ireland. It’ll be nice to look back through in years to come – even the picture sections. It’s good for my family and my dad – it’s a nice keepsake.
BC: One of the most moving passages in your book is the death of your mother [Agnes Given, aged 41] when you were four-years-old. How difficult was that to write about?
SG: Yeah, it was tough. It’s tough even for me to read it. It was tough for my brothers and sisters. My dad was good though – Chris Brereton (ghost-writer), was brilliant. My dad really opened up to him about my mum and how she died. It was the little small details, when she went into hospital and all that happened. It was quite emotional.
Shay Given was in Newcastle for the opening of the new DW Sports store in the Metrocentre. DW Sports is part of the DW Fitness First Group and is one of the biggest operators of retail stores and gyms across the UK. DW Sports is available in Northern Ireland in stores and online.
The former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper has also released his autobiography entitled Any Given Saturday, with forewords from Alan Shearer and Robbie Keane.