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Tuesday 22 August 2017

'Darren is right to drop down a division' - Given

'You pray there's another Damien Duff around the corner as we're not producing players'

Shay Given wants to play on, but only in the Premier League or the Championship
Shay Given wants to play on, but only in the Premier League or the Championship

Supporters of non-league side Macclesfield Town should not get too excited about the prospect of Premier League and Ireland legend Shay Given signing for them.

Now 41 and without a club since leaving Stoke City at the end of last season, Given has been training with the side known as the Silkmen, but he won't be making the drop into the non-league scene, as Given confirms that he will retire if he is unable to secure a deal with a Premier League or Championship side.

But the former Ireland keeper, who made 451 Premier League appearances in a proud career, feels that one of his successors as Ireland No. 1, Darren Randolph, has made the right call in leaving the top flight and dropping into the Championship, with his move to Middlesbrough.

"It's definitely a good thing. The other option was to stay at West Ham and kick his heels, because Joe Hart was going in as No. 1 and will play, so Darren would have been fighting it out with Adrian for a place on the bench, even," says Given.

"From an Irish viewpoint I think the move is fantastic as he's gone to a club which has real ambitions of getting back into the Premier League, a club where he will play every week. Boro have invested very heavily in their team so they are ambitious but he will get games, which is a good thing.

"I was second choice to Joe Hart for a while but don't forget he played second fiddle to me as well, he was on the bench for six months at City and then went on loan to Birmingham. No one likes to be second fiddle to anyone so it's good for Darren.

"Hopefully we can get to the World Cup for next year and for that to happen we need Darren playing every week.

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"The World Cup won't be easy, especially going to Georgia in a few weeks, all the stuff you have to deal with there: the travel, dry pitch, the heat, it's a hard place to go but if we want to get to Russia we need to win in Georgia. I feel we have the players to do it, the confidence is high within the camp."

Given's international career is of course over, as he retired, for a second and final time, after Euro 2016 but now his club future is up in the air.

Training with National League side Macclesfield suits the Donegal man, Given in good company as former Ireland international (that dual star for the North and the Republic) Alex Bruce was also training there in pre-season, as was Wes Brown.

But Given never played below the second tier in England and he has no plans to change that, Given ready to quit playing rather that head for one last outing with a club in League Two.

"I have a few options and things I have looked at as I would like to play for another season," says the former Newcastle and Manchester City player.

"I have been training with Macclesfield, it's handy as they are on my doorstep and it's a good way to keep fit as you can only do so much in the gym.

"But I still feel I can play on for another year. I would like to be up in the Premier League or Championship, I don't think I will drop any lower than that, it's not that I am too good for the other divisions but having been around the top level for long enough, if there isn't interest from the top two leagues I would probably call it a day.

"You can't go on forever, people always tell you to play for as long as you can, I will be retired for a long time so if I can I would like to get one more season, definitely.

"I am 41 but it's not the end of the world if this is it for me, I have had a good go at it. But I feel there is another season in me, Brad Friedel was at Spurs at 44, Mark Schwarzer was 42 or 43 so if you stay fit you have a chance."

Given's tally of 451 games in the top flight is a record for an Irish player in the Premier League, with John O'Shea (445) the only current player who comes close. And with a real dearth of players from the Republic due to play in the top flight this season, that is a worry.

"It's a concern that the conveyor belt of Irish players seems to be slower, with fewer players in the Premier League," says the keeper, who played in the top division in England for Blackburn, Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke.

"I don't know if that's down to the scouting systems now, where clubs in England have scouts all over the world.

"I have been doing my coaching badges at Man City where you are coaching players from Brazil, Africa, all over Europe, before it would have just been Irish and British. Some of us did come through that era and did well, but the competition from GAA and rugby in Ireland now is making it a lot harder.

"I would be concerned, you just pray that there is another Damien Duff or Richard Dunne around the corner. We were spoiled in previous eras, under Jack Charlton we had players at the biggest clubs in England and I don't think we will ever see that again.

"We have so few emerging now, we can only hope to get a couple through."

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