Aston Villa's Shay Given expects bright Ireland future for compatriot Ciaran Clark

Shay Given

The veteran goalkeeper has been more than impressed with his teammate's form in recent months.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given has praised how defender Ciaran Clark has turned around his fortunes at the club this season, telling AVTV that he hopes his compatriot can now continue his form with the Republic of Ireland.

A testing 2013-14 campaign saw Clark fall out of favour at Villa over the summer, as he began this term as fourth-choice centre-back behind Ron Vlaar, new signing Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker.

A loan move was even in consideration at the time, according to the Birmingham Mail, but a spate of defensive injuries in November saw him handed a second chance, which he has since taken and run with.

Starting 21 of 23 games, while striking up a fantastic rapport with centre-back partner Jores Okore, Clark is even a strong Player of the Year-candidate and, heading into Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland, looks like a good bet to start for Martin O’Neill’s men.

The 11-times capped defender has struggled to hold down a regular place in the Ireland setup since his 2011 debut but Given believes he is now well on track to becoming one of the first names on the teams sheet.

“I think he’s a fantastic defender,” he said. “He’s a no-nonsense defender, who always sticks his head in places where others wouldn’t put their foot.

“He’s quietly got on with his business and done really well for the team. If he stays playing regularly for Villa then I’m sure he’ll be in the Ireland line-up.”

Given himself has been back in the Ireland squad in recent months, having come out of international retirement in August in a bid to reclaim the number one spot he gave up after Euro 2012.

However, having been stuck on the bench behind Brad Guzan for the past few seasons and limited to cup action, the veteran shot-stopper accepts that he’s far from guaranteed to start over either David Forde or Kieran Westwood.

“Ideally, I need to be playing more to be first-choice with Ireland but it’s great to be working with Martin O’Neill again and Roy Keane, of course,” he added.

“It was a bit strange [coming back] but I still believe I’ve got lots to offer. I think maybe I initially retired too soon from Ireland and you don’t want to look back on your career with regrets.”

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