“I got a spicy voicemail and even a couple of weeks after he was complaining that he couldn’t get rid of the smell” – on revenge against Fabian Delph”
Shay Given, speaking exclusively to 888Sport (with questions posed by MOMS), discusses his memories of playing for Villa, Paul Lambert’s tribulations, the arrival of Roy Keane, the 2015 FA Cup final and getting revenge on Fabian Delph…
MOMS: You didn’t come to Villa at the best of times in the club’s history. From a supporter’s point of view, we didn’t have much faith in how the club was being run. What were your impressions from the inside as a player? Anything surprise or shock you?
Shay Given: It’s a shame and you’re right to say that I didn’t sign at the right time because they were cutting back on the wage-bill and looking to get rid of their best players. I’ve played at Villa as an opposition player and it was always a tough place but when I was there as a player there were relegation fights and the club was up for sale.
When Villa Park is a full house it’s rocking and creates a good atmosphere but when I was playing there wasn’t enough of them with probably the quarter-final against West Brom as the best atmosphere.
You spoken before about being mentally at a low point during this time, as you were back to being on the sidelines like you were at Man City. Did you feel trapped? Obviously, you were on a decent wage and had a long-term contract, but was you ever close to getting out before you eventually left for Stoke?
I was taking my coaching badges at the time, so I had some sympathy for him [Lambert]. He was told that he had to cut the wage-bill but of course the other side of the coin was that I was still a player and I wanted to play.
I didn’t understand the strategy because there were players like Darren Bent, Stephen Ireland, Stephen Warnock and Barry Bannon, and the last thing you want to do is put these players in the reserves, even if you wanted to sell them. They’re out of the shop window then – if you want to sell a car, you put it in Auto Trader. Get the best out of them and then clubs will want to take them off your hands.
This was the opposite and basically, they wanted these players out of the door and off the wage-bill. They were put with the kids and because of that, they’re not up to full speed so maybe clubs don’t want to buy them then.
You’ve witnessed a few Roy Keane flares ups from being on international duty with Ireland to his time as assistant manager at Villa. What were your initial thoughts of finding out Roy was coming to Villa? And did you think it would work out, him playing second fiddle to Paul Lambert? As supporters, we were kind of hoping he would kick a few players’ arses!
I’ve worked for Roy and played with him and he’s got so much experience. Deep down I think he still wants to be a manager himself and he’s got the qualities to do that. He wants to prove to people that he can be a top manager.
I had no problem with him coming to Villa. With his profile, I thought it would be good for the football club and you don’t mind at all that it tells it like it is. Some of the people did need a rollicking and he brought that to the table as well.
You played a key part in the 2015 FA Cup run. Can you put your finger on what the difference was with the players between Villa’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool and the final against Arsenal?
That’s a good question because we played ever so well against Liverpool and for whatever reason when it came to Arsenal we just didn’t. I don’t know if the occasion got to a few of the players and the nerves, because the whole world is watching such a prestigious final. Maybe that got the better of certain players.
Nobody gave us a chance against Liverpool, we did great and deserved to get through. It’s such a shame that we couldn’t replicate that in the final and at least give ourselves a chance.
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If you had to pick an XI of the players you’ve played with during your career, and had to pick one of your Villa teammates, who would it be and why?
It’s a toss-up between Richard Dunne and Stiliyan Petrov and I’d probably go for both. Dunney was very under-rated as a defender by a lot of people, but you know how good he was when you play behind him. I always felt happier and more confident when he was in the team.
I was at Stiliyan’s charity night last week in Birmingham and what a great guy. What a great player he was for Villa and what a fight he’s been through with the leukaemia. I’m still good friends with him now and he’s still held in high esteem at Villa Park and at Glasgow Celtic as well.
Any funny memories from your time at Villa?
A couple of months before the end of a season for some reason Fabian Delph emptied my toilet bag all over the floor. Fish oil tablets, hair gel and deodorant was just scattered everywhere. It was an attack from nowhere, and I eventually got to the bottom of it with some investigating and found out it was Fabian. I logged it in my black book.
So, a couple of months later, he must have thought that the dust had settled, and we were playing away at Norwich on the Sunday and it was really hot weather. After training on the Saturday, I got a fish off the chef and stuck it underneath the seat of his brand-new Range Rover.
He came back on the Monday and you can imagine what the fish had done after 48 hours in that hot weather. I got a spicy voicemail and even a couple of weeks after he was complaining that he couldn’t get rid of the smell.
He started it, and you always tell kids that if you play with fire, you’ll get burnt.
Read the full 888sport interview with Shay Given, including his thoughts on former teammates Stylian Petrov and Richard Dunne.