Shay Given Interview Pt 2: Rating Sam Johnstone & Villa’s Play-off Chances

“It’s important that Villa try to tie him down” – Shay Given on Sam Johnstone

Shay Given, speaking exclusively to 888Sport (with questions posed by MOMS), discusses Aston Villa’s current number one Sam Johnstone, Villa’s play-off chances and Steve Bruce.

MOMS: What are you up at the moment and what’s your plans?

Shay Given: I’m just enjoying myself to be honest doing lots of TV stuff. I’m going back and forward to Ireland and doing Champions League stuff. I’m doing Sky and the BBC, and a company called PLP (Premier League Productions) and it’s going really well.

I’m still involved in the game and talking about football, and I’ve still got my coaching badges and if something came up of interest I might look at that. At the minute, I’m just enjoying how it’s going and it’s allowing me some time with the kids and there is a nice balance.

How do you rate Sam Johnstone in terms of the Championship?

He has to be up there with the best. Ruddy has been excellent at Wolves as too has Randolph at Boro, but he has to be up there. I’ve talked to a few friends like Gabby Agbonlahor, Alan Hutton and Jack Grealish and they speak very highly of him. They say he’s a top keeper and when you have a top keeper behind you, that gives a defence confidence and belief. You get that solely from performances.

He is still young so he will be looking to improve on all aspects of his game. This season he’s done very, very well but there is always room for improvement.

Sam Johnstone number 1

Obviously Sam Johnstone is only on loan at Villa, what do you think his future is with Manchester United? 

At this stage of his career he will want to continue moving up and not take a backward step and although Manchester United is a great, club if you don’t play regularly it is very disheartening and especially after such a great season he’s had at Villa.

David de Gea is one of the best in the world and Sam is not going to force his way past him, so he’s got a strong case in going to Mourinho and saying that he wants to carry on playing every week and progressing. So, a permanent deal makes sense and he’s got a great future ahead of him.

He’s been one of Villa’s key players…

He’s probably one of their players of the season, along with Jack Grealish and it’s important that Villa try to tie him down. I don’t know what the situation is at Man United and what their thoughts are – whether they want him for the long-term – but Sam Johnstone will have the taste now for first team football and at a big club like Aston Villa. He won’t want to go back to being a number two or three at United.

What do you think of Villa’s chances of promotion going into the play-offs?

 We all know it’s a bit of a lottery but they have a good chance because they’ve got an experienced group of players. Some of them have been there before and Steve Bruce has definitely been there before as a manager. He knows how to get the job done.

I hope to see them back up there because they’re a huge club with a great stadium and fan-base. We’ve seen a full house at Villa Park again this season and it’s great to see that atmosphere returning.

Do you think Bruce is the best man for Villa at the moment?

Yeah, I do and I said that at the start of the season, when Villa had a poor start. I said they just needed to relax and take a deep breath, because he’s been here before and knows how to get out of the Championship. It’s a long season and ultimately, he’s proven a lot of people wrong again. He’s the perfect man to get them up.

Read Shay Given Interview Part 1 – Fabian Delph Revenge, His Time at Aston Villa, Lambert & Keane


Read the full 888sport interview with Shay Given, including his thoughts on former teammates Stylian Petrov and Richard Dunne.

First thoughts on Villa vs Middlesbrough play-off games in the new MOMS podcast episode: