Shay Given has expressed his excitement at “feeling wanted” by Aston Villa after returning to top-flight action and pledged to produce more Premier class performances.
The former Manchester City keeper was the match-saver in Saturday’s opening-day 0-0 draw at Fulham to start Alex McLeish’s managerial tenure with a hard-earned point.
And, fresh from his first competitive clean sheet for his new club, Given admitted he was thrilled to be back on the big stage after a 16-month exile from the league.
It has emerged Villa also enquired about the availability on loan of old boy James Milner and England winger Adam Johnson during last month’s negotiations with City for Given.
But the claret and blues were given a firm indication from their Eastlands counterparts that neither of the players would be allowed to leave on a temporary or permanent basis.
However, Given, who expects to shake off a groin problem to make his Villa Park debut against Blackburn on Saturday, is grateful to Villa for his chance of regular football.
“It was nice just to be back playing, to be honest,” he said.
“In the run-up to the game there was the excitement of the Premier League starting again, and for me personally, knowing I was going to be playing was pretty special.
“So it’s great to be back and it’s nice to start with a clean sheet with my new team.
“But it’s not just about me – I think the whole team defended really well and got some great blocks in front of me.”
Given admits his £3.5 million move to Villa has given him a new lease of life by giving him a much greater incentive to work hard on the training pitches every day.
“My last game before Fulham was probably around March time in a European game for Man City,” he recalled.
“It’s a long time, but in the Premier League it’s probably the end of last April, so that’s an even longer time.
“Have I missed it? Of course, yeah. You train all week to play at the weekend and it’s very frustrating when you don’t play.
“Last year was frustrating – it’s probably well-documented and the word is overused at this stage, but it’s nice to be back and nice to feel wanted again and feel part of the team and be playing in front of big crowds again.”
Given insists that after 15 years in the Premier League he rarely suffers pre-match nerves, although he admits to having a few butterflies on his claret and blue bow. “I was genuinely excited,” he said. “It’s hard to explain, really. I left home at 16 and even before that I’d been playing football all my life.
“I was pretty regular at most clubs I’d been at, so it was a bit strange last year. It’s great to be at Villa and feel part of the group.
“When you get to my age you’ve sort of been there before.
“I think there were probably a little bit of nerves but that’s pretty standard and that can be a good thing.
“The Villa fans were fantastic again which, for me, for my first game, was fantastic as well.
“All I can do is work hard in training and work hard on the match days and people will say good things if you do well. If you make a bad mistake they’ll say you’re over the hill.”