Sherwood hails his FA Cup hero Given

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Given set for Wembley date
Given set for Wembley date

Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has confirmed that Shay Given will start in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool and suggested he has been central to their push towards Wembley.

Republic of Ireland veteran Given is back-up keeper to Brad Guzan in Villa's Premier League line-up, but he has made the most of his chances in the FA Cup to confirm he still has plenty to offer as he approaches his 39th birthday next Monday.

"Shay plays. Absolutely. He's done nothing wrong Shay, he's a large part of the reason we're in this semi-final," confirmed Sherwood.

"The saves he made against Leicester were fantastic and at the right time. He trains fantastically well and he's pushing Brad all the way for that No.1 spot."

There was bad news, however, for another of Villa's Irish contingent after Sherwood confirmed defender Ciaran Clark has damaged knee ligaments and may be out for the rest of this season.

With doubts over the fitness of Gabriel Agbonlahor, the presence of Christian Benteke in the Villa team on Sunday will be crucial, with the Belgian international sparking into life since Sherwood replaced Paul Lambert as Villa boss. 

Benteke has given Liverpool's defence plenty of trouble in previous meetings and having scored eight goals in his last eight matches, he credits his surge in form to Sherwood.

“It is not just about scoring,” says Benteke. “I am happy to score, but I am also happy because now I play how I want to play.

"I think maybe before this manager came he saw that we needed to play more straight, more forward, because even if I didn’t score we didn’t shoot a lot at the target, we didn’t score a lot also, so now it’s a bit different.

"He has given me a lot of freedom, a lot of responsibility, and he has said to the other lads to play maybe more direct with me. When a manager says that, you feel more important, more responsible.”

Read a revealing interview with Shay Given in this weekend's Sunday World.