'Gutted with the Henry handball'

Newcastle legend justifies his move to City in 2009

'Gutted with the Henry handball'
 A staggering 636 appearances at club level and 134 international games for Ireland sum up the mild-natured Shay Given.

In a career spanning 24 years, the Lifford-born goalkeeper began his career at Celtic as an apprentice and most notably, is third on the all-time appearance list at Newcastle United (462), where he is, till date, revered as one of the best to have turned out for the Toon.

Under Glenn Roeder in 2006, Given was part of the squad that ended Newcastle's 37-year trophy drought, lifting the now defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup and, after his move to Manchester City in 2009, won an FA Cup medal in 2010-11.

Ireland's most capped player had a fruitful career on the world stage featuring in the 2002 World Cup. A moment the custodian will not forget, though, came during his country's unfortunate exit from the 2010 World Cup play-offs.

Nicholas Anelka had given France a 1-0 advantage in Dublin but Robbie Keane led from the front at the Stade de France, in the return leg, with a 33rd minute strike.

With the match going into extra time, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, usually a fair player, tapped the ball into play with his hand and set-up for William Gallas, who slotted the ball past Given and France punched their ticket to South Africa in controversial fashion.

“It's still really hard to believe since the play-offs are happening next month again, so it all comes back. These are things you don't get over as a player but life goes on, I suppose. We were absolutely gutted at that point,” he said on the sidelines of a two-day Premier League Live event in the city.

Given and Henry did play a lot of their football in the Premier League and are reasonably acquainted, so when quizzed on whether he had spoken with the Frenchman about the goal, the 41-year-old revealed: “I have met Thierry on a couple of occasions but we haven't spoken about it. I'll probably bring it up some time in the future (smiling).”

Thirty-five games shy of overshadowing Jimmy Lawrence's club appearance record, Given sealed a switch to the blue half of Manchester for 6 million pounds with a large number of spectators disappointed and saddened by the move.

Given divulged that it was the project at City that attracted him. “It was a time when Newcastle were selling their best players and the club weren't really investing so the switch made sense. I would say it was a step forward for me and my career. City were displaying great ambitions after being taken over my Sheikh Mansour.”

During his time at the Citizens, Given had a front-row seat to one of the biggest rivalries in world sport – the Manchester derby. Emotions run high in the electric clash between the two and while there maybe fond memories as well, one he'd like to forget was in 2009 when Michael Owen had the Old Trafford faithful in raptures with a 96th minute winner.

“Yes, that is one I'd like to forget. We actually played really well in that game having scored in the 90th through Craig Bellamy. I thought we had the draw sealed but, of course, 'Fergie time' kicked in and they won it,” he described, concluding that the atmosphere at the games was something he looked forward to.

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