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Opinion

Shay Given lays it on the line about Mike Ashley

4 years ago
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I have always found it hard to believe that any Newcastle fan could turn on Shay Given after what he gave to the club.

Easily the best goalkeeper any of us have seen playing for NUFC in the flesh, Given could have moved at any time to one of the clubs challenging for/winning trophies, and yet he stayed at St James Park.

Selected by his fellow professionals in the PFA team of the season in both 2001/02 and 2005/06.

After more than a decade playing for Newcastle United, most of us couldn’t blame him when he couldn’t stand any more of the nonsense from Mike Ashley, yet a small minority of supporters wanted to portray him as disloyal when he left halfway through the relegation season.

Absolutely ludicrous, a top class player, Shay Given had proved over more than 10 years his loyalty, he owed us, and especially Ashley, nothing.

However, over and above that, in his new autobiography, Given has confirmed just how disgusting Mike Ashley and his minions (the likes of Dennis Wise and JFK) are, in terms of showing respect for anybody.

We all know the dirty tricks used by Ashley and his people to try and discredit great people like Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer, and Jonas Gutierrez, Shay Given is simply another for the list.

The Chronicle publishing this extract from the Shay Given autobiography ‘Any Given Saturday’ which goes on sale this Thursday (19 October 2017):

Hughton said, “Joe Kinnear is coming in as manager?”

We just could not believe it. I was shellshocked. Joe was the interim manager while Chris stayed as first-team coach but whether it be for one game or a thousand, I never believed Kinnear was the right fit. No disrespect to Joe but he’d been out of football a long, long time. The foreign lads didn’t have a clue who he was. Everyone felt down after the appointment. There was a general feeling of absolute despair. I feel for Joe when I say this because he’s not a bad bloke but, basically, this was Newcastle United and he was a guy who hadn’t worked at the top level for 10 years. It just sort of summed up Mike Ashley’s tenure, it felt like everything he was doing was on the cheap, to wind the fans and players up.

It felt like we were drifting, inch by inch, week by week, from being a club that wanted to win and succeed in the Premier League to becoming a club that just wanted to survive in the Premier League. There’s a world of difference between those two approaches, those two ideas, and I only had one career and one chance. I started to think that I would have to move on.

Eventually the chance to join (Manchester) City came up. They were everything Newcastle were not at the time – ambitious, clear about their plans, willing to spend and attract big players and they wanted success.

Eventually, me and Michael Kennedy had a meeting with Mike Ashley about what the future held. It was at the manager’s office at the training ground and Llambias was there as well. I was willing to listen to what they had to say but ultimately I left it all up to Michael. This is what usually happens with contract and transfer issues, the player leaves it in the hands of someone they trust. I went out of the room soon after the meeting had begun and returned to the car. Michael was back out, sat in the passenger seat, soon after. “We’re not staying,” he said. “That was not a serious offer in any way, shape or form.” Mike Ashley had told Michael the deal being proposed but it was considerably lower than what we were offering new players at the time, who were coming in on huge long-term contracts that would secure them for life.

My deal did not do that and just confirmed what I already suspected – they weren’t going to pull out the stops to keep me at the club. I was prepared to stay for the rest of my career but, ultimately, I was in my prime, a potential Premier League winning team wanted to sign me and Newcastle did not give any impression they wanted to chase silverware. The sad thing was I’d placed serious, long-term roots down in Newcastle, my children were in school there and I would easily and happily have stayed forever.

How much did they really want to keep me though? How much did they want to be challenging? Did the boardroom care about keeping their most loyal players? In a word, no.

In the end, with me unhappy at what was going on and the lack of ambition shown by the club, a gun was put to my head. They said they would not allow me to leave unless I signed a transfer request. By making me hand in a formal written request, it meant they could waive 10 per cent of the fee I otherwise would’ve picked up after moving. With the fee being around £6-8m, it effectively meant I was waiving £600,000 to go.

It says everything that they were more keen on saving themselves £600,000 than they were keeping hold of a player who had given his absolute all for the club for over a decade. I’d literally spilt blood for Newcastle, pushed myself hard every day, even when times were so tough and quality players were leaving by the second.

The least the club could’ve done, in my opinion, is prove I was wanted. Instead, they were more interested in the transfer fee than they were me – a proven Premier League player, a dedicated team-man and a good professional. If they were letting me go, and they were more than happy to let the likes of Milner go as well, what does that tell you? It tells me that the economics of the club were a bigger priority than success on the pitch. That saddened me a lot then and it saddens me a lot now.

It all then happened very quickly. I didn’t have chance to say goodbye to the lads, say goodbye to the staff at the training ground or even clear out my stuff. Fair enough, that’s life. I just wanted to get out and get playing again and move to a club that was going places. It was a fresh start and a chance to go again. I could’ve signed the deal offered and lived on Easy Street but I knew we wouldn’t have been challenging for anything anytime soon. In the end, it came down to the January 2009 deadline day. They had to get it done quickly to hit the Europa League cut-off. What really pi….. me off – and one of the reasons I’m doing this book – is the way the club treated me after I ‘demanded a move.’ The club was leaking stuff against me, left right and centre, telling the media: ‘We couldn’t keep him, unfortunately, because he forced us into the deal with his transfer request’ when, actually, it was the club that made me sign it in the first place.

They made it sound like I was holding them to ransom and that poor little Newcastle were being stitched up by just another greedy footballer when, in actual fact, I wanted to stay – but only if Newcastle gave me a competitive contract and, by doing so, proved the club had big plans for the future.

The way the club portrayed me was a disgrace and the money it cost me wasn’t – and isn’t – the issue; the issue was I’d given nearly 12 years of my life to that football club, given everything.

They’d quadrupled what they paid for me and when it came down to it, they couldn’t care less about me, the future of the club or the direction it was going in. To then read in the papers that I was effectively the one ‘desperate to go’ made me so mad.

In one press conference, Joe Kinnear said, “We bent over backwards to try and keep him at Newcastle United and offered him a longer contract to stay at the club. He has been with Newcastle United for a long time and has been a great servant but he felt the time was right to move on and so, realistically, we had no choice but to reluctantly agree to allow him to make this move.”

Hang on a minute…

Not only did the club play bulls… politics behind my back, claiming it was all me, after I’d gone, they were no better. All it would’ve taken was for them to say, ‘We place on record our thanks to Shay Given for his service to this football club.’

One sentence would’ve done me but no, I got nothing. I was hurting at the time and, to be honest, I’m still mad because it could’ve been dealt with a million times better. Not 10 times better, a million. As a player and as an individual I deserved so much more than that. I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to the fans and the club hung me out to dry in the media. The odd time I’ve been out in Newcastle since I left, I’ve had a few negative comments about me leaving and it kind of angers you, you know? Maybe this chapter will set the record straight and help dispel a few of those myths about why I left; at least they will get my angle to the story.

The club gave me everything but I gave the club everything back in return and, thankfully, it will be around a lot longer than Mike Ashley will.

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