Was Shay Given the sourdough of the goalkeepers? Not the type of question you get asked everyday, but that’s probably why I enjoyed my hour with Barry Glendenning and Max Rushden last Sunday on Talksport.
The multiple texts of “Judas Preece” I received for cosying-up to rivals in the podcast world aside, this was one of the times where I wish I was on a show much longer than just the hour I was.
Sometimes though, just sometimes, you get put in a difficult position where you’re asked a question that is uncomfortable to answer. Or at least be drawn in to a discussion you rather wouldn’t.
Barry is of the opinion that Shay Given was, and still is, overrated as a top class goalkeeper.
Exhibit A in his case was the infamous “Hand of Henry” goal that denied Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup.
His theory being that if Shay had taken the cross that ultimately ended up at the arm of Thierry Henry then history may have been written in Gaelic and not with garlic.
My recollection of the goal was hazy and couldn’t remember placing any blame at Shay’s door, so off I went to consult YouTube to make my own mind up. And in this isolated instance, Barry probably had a point.
The delivery into the box from the free-kick wasn’t particularly dangerous, but it did end up bouncing inside the Ireland six-yard box.
Which all goalkeeping mythologists know is the domain of the keeper and everything in there should be theirs. (Insert hand to face “Is it really though?” emoji).
Sure it’s a situation that if Shay was more pro-active he could have come and punched, not just the ball but, everyone in front of him into next week. But he’s not the only culpable one either. There defenders around him who can share that blame too.
So was Barry right in retrospect? Yes, he was. But Shay Given overrated? It’s difficult to agree with that.
Was Shay as gifted with his feet as someone like Ederson? No he wasn’t. Was he as dominant in coming for crosses as someone like Courtois? No he wasn’t.
But was he a phenomenal shot stopper? Well I don’t have the numbers to hand, but in my mind he certainly was.
I’ve written here before on the impact he had at Sunderland and the one thing that made him stand out above everyone else was the belief he seemed to have in himself as a keeper and a steely mentality when it came to not wanting to be beaten by the ball.
Keepers have always come in different forms and today we see the different styles of goalkeepers fitting within the philosophy employed by the manager. I’d always likened Shay to the ex-Borussia Dortmund and Rangers keeper, Stefan Klos, in style.
Very much someone who, the closer they were to their line the more they excelled. Not only that, but they were there at the right moments. Particularly in the case of Klos, when there were games he was rarely called upon, often not until the dying minutes of the game.
But when his team-mates tired and concentration waned, his never. Throw a ball in the box or put him under pressure at back passes and he never looked world class. But boy could he make the unbelievable happen right before your eyes.
So back to the question we began with? Is Shay Given like sourdough? The answer to that is a definite no.
Why? Because sourdough bread isn’t overrated, it’s a fraud. It isn’t real bread, is it?
Too much air and not enough bread. And toasted it becomes a battle trying to chew through the crust.
Eating bread shouldn’t be such hard work, but when everything you order in London comes served on the damn thing then you can go through a set of teeth in a week.
This begs the question, if Shay Given isn’t the goalkeeping version of sourdough, which bread is he? Simple.
Irish soda bread. Wholesome and greatly appreciated by yours truly.