Shay Given exclusive: Newcastle's Aussie trip; Howe's future; the Champions League strain

Tribal Football
Shay Given exclusive: Newcastle's Aussie trip; Howe's future; the Champions League strain
Shay Given exclusive: Newcastle's Aussie trip; Howe's future; the Champions League strain
Shay Given exclusive: Newcastle's Aussie trip; Howe's future; the Champions League strainAction Plus
Shay Given insists the injury happened in training, when he went on a post-season trip with Newcastle to Trinidad & Tobago back in 2000.

“I tore my bicep and since I was the only goalkeeper on that trip, I had to play strapped-up. I literally ripped my left bicep and to this day it literally pops up like a Popeye thing," he says while demonstrating for Tribalfootball how his arm has been affected since that camp, while laughing off our suggestion the injury perhaps occurred elsewhere, like, say, the bar?


“That would have been the other bicep, then," the legendary former Newcastle keeper persists. Fair enough. But what about going on a trip like that in the first place after a long gruelling season? Newcastle barely finished their last league game before being off to Australia. Eddie Howe insisted the trip was good for the club, and Shay Given agrees.

“The good thing I thought from the Australian trip was, the stadium was absolutely packed to the rafters. Yes, it was a chore for the players and the management, but at the same time, it just shows you the reach that the Premier League has. 

“There'll probably be young Newcastle fans or young Premier League fans going there, thinking, oh, I like the black and white shirt or whatever. It's just all about feeding that interest around the world. The Premier League is a global thing. It's not ideal for the players, but at the end of the day, the club pay your wages, and the players have to get their head down and get on with it.”


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No European action a good thing

Getting on with it seemed to be what a few Newcastle players absolutely didn’t, as they lost 8-0 in the second and final match Down Under, but Given doesn’t think it will cause too negative an effect.

“It's not ideal, don't get me wrong, and the kids will be hurt by that, but I don't think Eddie Howe would have been ranting and raving after the game. It's just about giving the kids some experience and the defeat wouldn't worry me at all," the Newcastle record-holder says as we look back on what turned out to be a frustrating season for “The Magpies”.

Just as everyone thought they’d at least qualified for the Europa Conference League, Manchester United pulled off a major coup at Wembley, winning the FA Cup, thus pushing Newcastle out of European action for the coming season. 

“It's frustrating, but in the cold light of day, it's probably not a bad thing. The financial people at Newcastle will be upset, of course, because of the financial fair play and the sustainability and the budget will have to be trimmed a bit. But if you're talking purely about football, the football calendar and fixtures, the strain on the squad this year in the Champions League was there for all to see.

“I think it'll be good for Eddie and his team. That's probably why they qualified for the Champions League in the first place, because they had the break midweek to prepare for Premier League games and get ready for each game as they came," says Given, who witnessed Newcastle lose 11 away games this season.

“That’s not good enough. Eddie Howe said it himself numerous times this year. It's the same size pitch, it's the same size goals, it's all the same, it shouldn't be that big a drop off. I'm sure it's something the staff will look at in the summer," Given believes while also pointing to the number of injuries.

“Nobody really likes to make excuses because every club had injuries, but I just think that with the Champions League campaign, it nearly came too soon for them, the squad wasn't built up, they weren't ready for it. For two months they played the same ten outfield players consecutively for I don't even know how many times because they had no other options. 

“If anything, they've learned that they have to really strengthen. But it's down to finances which is a bit ironic when you talk about Newcastle, because they're one of the richest clubs in the world, but they can't spend it.”


Howe in for the long haul

Even taking injuries into consideration, conceding 62 goals was an astonishing drop off from 33 last season, but Given points to the actual players missing out.

“Last season, Fabian Schär and Sven Botman hardly missed a game. Nick Pope and Joelinton as well, and they were huge players for us last season and all had long spells out this season. Clearly, they conceded too many goals, but there are reasons why. I don't think it's alarm bells yet, but they have to improve, there's no getting away from that," states Given, who thinks   Howe still has full backing of the board.

“I don't really think it's a question that should keep coming up. There were times this year when they were struggling a bit and people would say Eddie Howe's under pressure. But I actually don't think he was under pressure. I think there's a realization that they have got the right person at the very top. 

“Speaking to different people in higher positions at the club my understanding was that they're really happy with Eddie and the way things are going. I think Eddie could be there for a long time. He's not the kind of boy to rest on his laurels, there's no The Premier League manager who thinks that. But at the same time, I think he's in a strong position. I don't know for sure, but that's the feeling I get."


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