His success is a given

Though there have been periods when Shay Given has been out of the Newcastle side, he is indisputably the club's best goalkeeper, writes Andy Hampson.

An ever-dependable goalkeeper for club and country, Shay Given has been at Newcastle since 1997 after stints at Blackburn and Celtic, but has not won the prizes his talent deserves.

Born in County Donegal in Ireland, Given was introduced to football early along with his three elder brothers, all keen players.

By the age of 14, he was playing for local team Lifford Celtic and soon caught the eye. Glasgow giants Celtic then invited him to join them on their tour of Ireland the following year and he impressed enough to be offered professional terms at 16.

Around that time, he turned down an offer from Manchester United.

Given played for the Celtic youth sides and even made the bench for the first team but Blackburn Rovers, then spending freely as they headed towards an English Premier League title in 1995, signed him with an eye on the future in 1994.

Given, however, could not displace former England goalkeeper Tim Flowers at Ewood Park and he moved on loan to Swindon and Sunderland, where he kept 16 clean sheets in 17 games. His big breakthrough came in 1997 when his former Blackburn manager Kenny Dalglish took over the reins at Newcastle and decided to take Given with him. Blackburn received GBP1.5million for him.

Given made an immediate impression on Tyneside and became the number one choice in 1997-98, a season he ended by appearing in the FA Cup final. There were some uncertain moments in the following season and Steve Harper, his rival for the goalkeeper's position, was given a chance as Newcastle again reached the FA Cup final.

It was the start of an unsettled period when he and Harper, due to injuries at various times, both featured for Newcastle. It was not clear who actually was number one, and Given eventually handed in a transfer request in protest. The club turned down his request, and when Harper subsequently got injured, Given resolved to stay and make the most of his opportunity.

He has not looked back since and even though there have been periods when he has been out of the side, he is indisputably the club's best goalkeeper. Given was named in the Professional Footballers' Association team of the season in 2002 and 2006. In 2003 he set a record — subsequently beaten by Chelsea's Frank Lampard — for most consecutive English Premier League appearances.

Given's international career for the Republic of Ireland began at the age of 19 when he was selected to face Russia. He has since gone on to become one of Ireland's most celebrated goalkeepers and featured in the side that reached the second round of the 2002 World Cup.

Given has often had bad luck with injuries and he suffered one of his worst last September when he had his bowel torn in a heavy challenge with West Ham's Marlon Harewood. He needed emergency surgery and doctors said the injury was so serious they would have assumed it had been sustained in a car crash. He was sidelined for two months.

Given married his long-term girlfriend Jane Cunningham in Hexham, near Newcastle, in 2001. They have two children together. Given is regarded as a model professional off the field and regularly gets involved in charity work with his wife. He is currently patron of a Newcastle cancer charity.

Given is a fan of BMWs and currently owns two of them — an X5 and an M6. The X5, a cross between a sports car and a 4x4 with a top speed of 150mph, costs GBP50,000 and is popular with many footballers. The M6 is a high-performance sports car costing around GBP82,000.

Name: Shay Given Position: Goalkeeper Club: Newcastle DOB: 20/04/1976 Ireland Caps: 80 Ireland Goals: 0 Ireland debut: v Russia, March 1996

Given was outstanding as Ireland qualified for the World Cup in 2002 via a play-off against Iran. He made a double save from Ali Karimi and Karim Bagheri in Tehran's intimidating 120,000-capacity stadium that kept the Irish in the game. Ireland lost 1-0 in Iran but progressed 2-1 on aggregate.

Given was sent off for the only time in his Newcastle career in an FA Cup third-round tie against Crystal Palace in 1999 when he handled outside the area after just 14 minutes. The Magpies managed to win without him and went on to reach the final.

@ PA Sport, 2007, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited.

Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.