Newcastle United FC goalkeeper Shay Given is desperate to end his club's long trophy drought.
By Alex O'Henley
On the night of Newcastle United FC's goalless draw against Olympique de Marseille in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final, goalkeeper Shay Given reached a personal milestone, in making his 300th senior appearance in club football.
"It's quite an achievement to play 300 senior games," Given told uefa.com. "Hopefully I can manage another 300 and of course, it's really nice to do it at a big club like Newcastle United and especially in the semi-final of a European tournament."
However, the 28-year-old Republic of Ireland international is hoping for an even more historic showing at the Stade Vélodrome on Thursday as Newcastle hope to reach the final of the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history - something Given would love to achieve with Sir Bobby Robson's side.
'One step away'
"We're one step away from a European final, so it's exciting times for us, but we know it's going to be tough," he said. "Marseille are a very good side. There's not a lot between us in terms of ability, but we know a lot of hard work will be required if we're to go through."
Signed as an apprentice with Celtic FC back in 1992 by fellow Irisman Liam Brady, the Donegal-born goalkeeper was released a year later by Brady's successor, Lou Macari, going on to play for Blackburn Rovers FC - from where he had loan spells with Swindon Town FC and Sunderland AFC - before joining Newcastle in 1996.
Given still has a soft spot for Celtic, and was delighted to see them go all the way to the final of last season's UEFA Cup, where they lost 3-2 to FC Porto. "Celtic did superbly well to reach the final last year," said Given. "I thought they were unlucky not to win it, but hopefully Newcastle can go one better this season."
Certainly, Given is making the UEFA Cup his priority for the season even though his side's other goal is a fourth-placed finish in the Premiership and a place in next season's UEFA Champions League.
"You don't win a medal or a trophy for finishing fourth," he said. "Obviously to get back to the Champions League would be great and we'll do all we can to achieve that, but to get that first trophy for the players and the fans who have waited such a long time would be something special."
Newcastle have not brought any significant honours back to Tyneside since the 1968/69 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup - the predecessor of the UEFA Cup. The last of their six FA Cup wins was in 1955 while you have to look back to 1927 for the last time that they won the English league title.
However, Newcastle's chances of adding to that trophy haul depend on Given's team-mates' ability to beat former Manchester United FC goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, now back at Marseille following a stressful spell in England. And Given for one knows what a tough task that will be.
"As the saying goes, 'the cream always rises to the top'," said Given. "He had a few bad games for United, but that happens to every keeper at some point in their career. He's gone back to Marseille and shown that he's the top-class goalkeeper we all knew him to be."
His 300-plus appearances have suggested that Given is a class act too. Now, like Barthez in his time, he is looking for the silverware to prove it.