On Second Thoughts: Is Shay Given That Good?By: Rob | January 29th, 2010
Watching the League Cup Manchester Derby midweek (above, if you can’t remember that far back), for me encapsulated everything about I feel about Shay Given. He has for a long time, been considered somewhat underrated, and is regularly thought of as one of the best keepers in England at any given time.
He is undoubtedly an exceptional shot-stopper, and it is notable that once he jumped ship at Newcastle, they were promptly relegated (although, arguably, they were going down anyway). But I think its time to question his ability as a truly great goalkeeper.
I’m not going to argue with Given’s ability to save shots. He is an excellent keeper in terms of reflexes, and getting down to the ball, making great stops (indeed, he made one in the game against United above).
But I have to question why it is that he always has to make those stops. His organisational skills are questionable. There must be a reason why every defence that has ever stood in front of him has been an absolute shambles.
We used to joke that Newcastle was the place that defenders went to die, but they had some good names down the years. Boumsong is currently doing a decent job in the Lyon defence, Coloccini proved his worth at various other clubs before looking rubbish at Newcastle, and so on and so on.
Mark Hughes was criticised (rightly) for the fact that City were a defensive shambles at the start of the season, but it is partly Given’s job to make the defence work, to command his area. Defenders as good as Kolo Touré and Joeleon Lescott should not have looked at poor as they did at the start of the season.
Not to say that Touré and Lescott don’t have their flaws, they aren’t the best two defenders in the world. But they are good defenders, and at City they haven’t looked it so far.
This is also the season where Joe Hart is proving a revelation at Birmingham City, where he on loan from Manchester City. The young keeper looks much steadier at the back than the man currently between the City sticks.
I’m not saying he’s a bad keeper. His decision making is often spot on, and as i mentioned, his shot stopping is flawless. But there must be a reason why no really big club ever really swooped for him while he was at Newcastle.
Second Thoughts is a new column here at the Prem Offside, where I take a slightly controversial – sometimes Devil’s Advocate position – in order to provoke a bit of debate. Please read it in the manner I’ve written it. Thanks.