FOR years he was affectionately known as “Lazarus”, but Shay Given jokes that he could be renamed “Sicknote” if his appearance record does not improve soon.
Nevertheless, the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper is confident he can recover from his latest groin injury in time to play a significant part in Newcastle United’s fight against relegation.
Given is refusing to put a date on his return until seeing a specialist in Belgium today but does not share the fear that the injury which has blighted him for the past 18 months could end his season.
The 31-year-old was noted for his apparent immunity to injury and rapid recovery rates until a collision with then-West Ham United striker Marlon Harewood ruptured his bowel at Upton Park in September 2006. He has missed 28 of the 81 subsequent matches.
Speaking at the “Fashion Kicks” show he organised at St James’s Park in aid of Macmillan Cancer Research, Given talked of his frustration and his hope it will soon end.
“The Lazarus nickname has gone out the window – they’ll be calling me ‘Sicknote’ next,” he joked. “For 10 years I was hardly ever injured, definitely not with my groin. I’ve had knocks and bruises but the challenge at West Ham broke through my bowel. I’ve had several groin tears and niggles since.
“We don’t know if this one’s definitely linked but it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work out there probably has been some harm done there which needs more strength work on both my groin and my abdominal (muscles) to hopefully restrict these frustrating strains.
“I’m seeing a specialist this week on the advice of the specialist (I saw) last week. We’ll make a decision after that but I’ve been doing strength work in the gym and it’s been pretty good. I just have to keep building up to get back as quick as possible, but I can’t really tell you when that will be.
“Could this be the end of my season? No, no, I’m quietly confident it’ll be a good bit before then, unless I need an operation. Maybe then it might be me out until the end of the season, but I don’t think that will be the case. I’m hoping to be back sooner rather than later.”
It would take a Lazarus-like recovery for Given to face Liverpool on Saturday, but the fact their following game is to be screened on television will aid his chances of a quick return. The trip to Birmingham City has been moved to Monday for TV coverage. After that comes home games against relegation rivals Fulham, Reading and Sunderland, hence the desire of everyone at the club to see Given back as soon as possible.
Given’s latest injury forced his half-time substitution in the 5-1 defeat at home to Manchester United. He felt the problem a fortnight earlier against Aston Villa, but rushed back to face the champions. While it cost him then, Given admits he finds patience hard to come by in these situations.
“It’s very frustrating,” he admitted. “As a footballer you want to be playing every
game so missing any game is very frustrating. This groin thing has been niggling and annoying me as much as anything. But the most important thing is the team starts picking up results and moving up the table and away from trouble. It’s a difficult time at the minute but we believe we can get out of trouble.”
The long-serving goalkeeper is a patron of Macmillan Cancer Research in the North East and Tuesday’s fashion show was the third he had organised. Team-mates and manager Kevin Keegan were on hand to model, with club owner Mike Ashley, chairman Chris Mort and all-time record goalscorer Alan Shearer in the crowd.
The aim was to top last year’s figure of £200,000 raised for a cause close to Given’s heart. “My mum (Agnes) died of lung cancer when I was five so it’s something I like to give my time up to,” he explained.
Newcastle hope to complete the signing of Lamine Diatta today, providing the Senegal captain’s medical does not throw up any surprises. The versatile 32-year-old, who bought out his Besiktas contract to make himself available outside the transfer window, would be the club’s third Senegalese defender, along with Abdoulaye Faye and Habib Beye.
United have also been linked with an interest in 16-year-old Walsall midfielder Sean Geddes and 22-year-old Greek international Vasilis Torosidis in their quest to bring top young talent to Tyneside.