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Champions: Shay Given

We're marking the 25-year anniversary of our club's greatest ever season

2 December 2019

This season we're looking back on that memorable and historic achievement of 1994-95, 25 years on, with a member of that legendary squad.

Shay Given was next to take a trip down memory lane for our programme against Barnsley to reflect on some magical times...

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Shay, how did your move to Rovers from Celtic come about?

I spent two years at Glasgow Celtic and then got the call off Kenny Dalglish. I walked away from a contract at Celtic and then Kenny was in touch with me through my dad. The goalkeeper coach at the time, Terry Gennoe, was sent to Holland the previous season to watch me play and I think he liked what he saw and so Kenny spoke to my dad and we agreed terms and over I went.

Did it feel like a massive move for you at the time?

Yeah, it was a great move for me. Blackburn Rovers was obviously a club that was going places under Jack Walker and Kenny Dalglish, so it was a big opportunity for me.

Could you sense that something special was building at the club when you arrived?

Yes, you get a feeling for these things. I used to train every day with the goalkeepers, which was great for me personally – the likes of Bobby Mimms, Tim Flowers and big Frank Talia, who was the other goalkeeper at the time. It was a great environment with Terry Gennoe, the coach, and it was fantastic for me to learn from the likes of Tim Flowers, who was number one at the time and was brilliant for Blackburn Rovers that season and the seasons after that as well. He was one of the reasons they won the league really and to work with him every single day was a great learning curve for me.

Given that you worked so closely with him, just how good was Tim Flowers in your opinion?

He was brilliant. I worked with Packie Bonner at Celtic and then I was working with Tim Flowers, who was England’s number one keeper at the time. He was really right at the top of his game. The game that really stands out for me was the Newcastle game when they won 1-0 and I remember the next day he was in for a warm-down and I was just looking at him thinking he was super human the night before! I just felt ‘are you even real?’ because it was such a phenomenal performance from any goalkeeper. He was so inspired that night and that performance alone was enough to win any league. He was absolutely amazing.

What was Terry Gennoe like to work with?

Terry was brilliant. I worked with Terry for Rovers and then Kenny brought him to Newcastle and I ended up at Aston Villa with him as well, so I’ve had a long time with him and he’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. He was so enthusiastic, he mixed the sessions up every day, he kept what we were doing really fresh and he had a jovial side to him as well, so it was always fun. Training with Terry and the other goalkeepers, we worked really well together.

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What was Kenny Dalglish like to work under?

Kenny was great. You don’t get called King Kenny for no reason! He was a fantastic player and then his leadership qualities as a manager were clear for everyone to see. He was brilliant for me when I went there and he made me welcome from day one. He was just a special guy. Players wanted to play football for him and players wanted to run through brick walls to be successful under Kenny’s watch.

What are your standout memories from the 1994-95 season and just what was it like to be at the club and a part of the squad at that time?

It was certainly a mad finish! I remember going on loan to Swindon during the season and I think Tim Flowers got sent off, so Kenny called me back from my loan spell, which I was enjoying because I was playing in the first team at Swindon. So Bobby Mimms played and I was on the bench for a few games when Tim was suspended. It was nice to feel part of it, albeit I didn’t play any games, but I still felt part of the group. All the first team made me feel very welcome and to train with these guys, who were challenging at the top of the league, for me as a young goalkeeper, it could only make me a better goalkeeper.

Was it a very tight-knit and welcoming group of players?

Yes, they were a great group of lads. There were some characters in there as well, the likes of David Batty, Billy McKinlay, Chris Sutton. There was always people winding people up and playing tricks on people, but they were a good group of players, a good group of lads and all craving to be successful.

What was Alan Shearer like to come up against in training every day? He’s somebody you obviously know very well.

He was fantastic. Again, going back to me personally and my development as an 18-year-old, to train against Alan Shearer every day, if you’re making saves from him then it gives you huge belief in what you’re doing and helps you improve as a goalkeeper. Yes he scored his fair share of goals past me as well, but that was the standard I had to get to, to try and get to the Premier League.

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At the end of the season, how much did it mean to the club, the town and most of all Jack Walker that he was able to deliver the Premier League trophy to the people of Blackburn?

It was special, especially for Jack. He ploughed his money into the club and built up the stadium and the training ground and, of course, the ultimate was to win the Premier League and he did.

Before you left Rovers for Newcastle, how pleasing was it to finally make a couple of appearances for the club during the 1996-97 season?

Yeah, I would love to have played a lot more games, but Tim Flowers was a very hard man to replace. He was very much in his prime and that’s why I didn’t stay at Rovers, because of Tim and because I didn’t get as many opportunities as I would have liked, but that’s purely because he was so good. I wanted to go and play, I felt I was ready to play, but it was still nice to play a few games and make my debut for Rovers down at Selhurst Park against the Crazy Gang. The stereo was blasting through the wall and in the tunnel they were shouting at this young keeper to put him under pressure to try and get into my head. I remember Tim Sherwood and few others were saying ‘just laugh it off, don’t mind them, you’re good enough and you’re here for a reason’ and that gave me great belief.

Nowadays, do you still keep an eye on Rovers’ results and are you forever grateful for the opportunity the club gave you?

Yeah, definitely. I was at Ewood Park last year with Derby County and we’ll come up against them again in a few weeks. All the clubs you played for, there’ll be good memories and special memories, and to win the Premier League title in my first year coming to England with Blackburn Rovers, I thought ‘this is easy!’ But in all seriousness, looking back now, they’re great memories.

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And are you still in contact with many of the players that you were here with at the time?

A few. Alan Shearer I’m still in touch with, I’ve done some media stuff with Chris Sutton and I did my coaching badges in Belfast with Billy McKinlay, so you come across different players at different times and that’s what football does. 


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