Given won’t settle for bench role

At a Republic of Ireland press conference looking ahead to

Wednesday’s friendly with Argentina, Given made it clear he is not

prepared to play second fiddle this season. Hart was outstanding

during a season-long loan at Birmingham last season, to such an

extent that Roberto Mancini has refused to allow the 23 -year-old

to join another club on a similar basis. That has opened the debate

as to whether Hart or Given will receive the nod for Saturday’s

Premier League curtain-raiser at White Hart Lane. At the age of 34,

Given knows his career for both club and country are on the line

and that he has to be playing first-team football with one to

further his longevity with the other. “We will have to wait until

lunchtime on Saturday when the manager picks the team to see who

starts in goal,” said Given, who has been linked with Arsenal and

Fulham of late due to the uncertainty. “Obviously I hope to start,

but it’s inevitable there is going to be speculation because I know

Joe is also a top ‘keeper. “The manager will decide, and whoever he

starts with you would feel that is who he would mostly want to play

in the big games. “If I don’t start then I’ll sit down with the

club next week and see where my future lies, and maybe vice-versa

with Joe, because we will both feel we should be playing. “Ideally

I’d like to stay at the club because it’s a big club to be at, a

very ambitious club with fantastic owners. “I want to be part of

it, which is why I joined in the first place. “If I don’t start I

guess it’s an advantage the transfer window will still be open.

“Maybe I’ll go out on loan, come back and see where that takes me.

“But I know I’m at a stage where I need to be playing. I’m 34, and

I’ve not got millions of years left.” Given fully believes Hart

will start for England in their friendly against Hungary at Wembley

on Wednesday. That in turn would lead to its own pressures as

England manager Fabio Capello would want Hart to be a first-team

regular with City. “There’s so much stuff in England at the moment

regarding Joe and the England goalkeeping situation,” added Given.

“I don’t know if that would influence the manager, you would need

to ask him, but I do understand. “I’m sure Joe will play on

Wednesday, so the situation is an interesting one.” Asked whether

he feels Hart will become England number one, Given replied: “Only

if he’s playing, which is the same for me because I need to be

playing every week to be with the Ireland team.” For now Given at

least has an historic occasion to look forward to as the Republic

play their first match at the new 50,000-seater Aviva Stadium this

week. The stadium was built on the site of their old spiritual home

Lansdowne Road and throws open its doors for the prestigious visit

of managerless Argentina. They may no longer be without their

colourful character of a boss in Diego Maradona after the

Argentinian football association decided not to renew his contract

in the wake of their 4-0 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Germany.

But that does not lessen the occasion for Given who added: “He’s a

legend, someone who everyone bows to, and rightly so because he was

a fantastic player. “It’s a shame he’s not there, but Argentina

still have many world- class players and when you play Argentina

it’s a special game. “They were one of my favourites for the World

Cup, and were unlucky not to have gone a bit further. “But it’s the

start of a new era for us as we’re playing at the new stadium, one

I’ve not even seen yet. “I’m going there tomorrow for the first

time, and it looks pretty special when you see the pictures and TV

shots.” Defender Richard Dunne and striker Kevin Doyle are boss

Giovanni Trapattoni’s main doubts after sitting out training today

with knee and calf injuries respectively.