Will Given Get Another Slap In the Face?

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The truth is that Given is desperate for his luck to change if he plays in the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley.

Given was in the Newcastle United team that lost 2-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup final in 1998, dropped from the starting XI at Wembley the following year when Ruud Gullit’s side were beaten by Manchester United – a decision that still rankles with him – and an unused Manchester City substitute during their triumph over Stoke City in 2011.

It hardly makes for great reading and Given, who turned 39 yesterday, is not the sort of player to put a trophy alongside his name when his part in that final with City was confined to warming up with Joe Hart beforehand.

“Not really,” the Republic of Ireland international says, when asked whether he considers himself an FA Cup winner. “I’ve got a winner’s medal at home – I don’t even know where it is, if I’m being honest. It was nice to be part of winning it with Man City but when you don’t play it doesn’t have the same value to it … you don’t really get that feeling that you’ve done anything.”

Given was Villa’s No1 in his first season at the club, under Alex McLeish, but lost his place early the following campaign, when Paul Lambert plumped for Brad Guzan instead, and has been forced to take a back seat ever since.

He was demoted to third choice at one stage, loaned to Middlesbrough for three months last season and, in a bizarre twist, asked to stand in as Lambert’s temporary assistant this time last year.

“Weird,” Given says, laughing and shaking his head in relation to that last experience. “Well, he asked me. I said yes, of course, at the time. Life in general is too short to have grudges and stuff. Whatever way you’ve been treated, you’ve got to move on.”

This season, the FA Cup has provided Given with a rare window of opportunity to impress at Villa Park and he has taken his chance.

His performances have helped Villa to reach the final and he is still good enough to start for his country, as was the case when Given won his 128th cap against Poland last month.

“Yeah, you want to play,” he says. “I left Man City to come to Aston Villa to play so, of course, it’s frustrating. But this run has helped me, it’s shown some of the fans as well that I’m still capable and hopefully it gives a seed of doubt into the manager’s head as well that if he wants to mix it up in the Premier League, I’ve shown in the games that I’m good enough still to play.”

Tim Sherwood has the option of picking Given in the FA Cup final, but will he do it?

“It would be [difficult to take],” Given says. “It happened before at Newcastle, I played every round up to the final and didn’t play in the final, the second one.

"But the manager will make the right decision for the club.”

Given offers a candid response when asked how long it took to get over what happened at Wembley in 1999, when Steve Harper was picked ahead of him.

“Do you ever get over it, I suppose? It’s not an easy one and I think it was Ruud Gullit at the time who didn’t even tell me, he got the goalkeeping coach, Terry Gennoe, to tell me I wasn’t playing.

"That was a bit of a slap in the face. But you can’t look back in football. You’ve just got to look forward and at the end of your career maybe look back and think you were harshly done by or whatever.”