McLeish hails Given heroics
Alex McLeish admitted Shay Given had got him and Aston Villa off the hook with a point-saving debut in their Barclays Premier League opener at Fulham.
McLeish was not exactly welcomed with open arms at Villa Park following his controversial summer defection from Birmingham and defeat in his first competitive match in charge would have provided ammunition to his critics. And but for new signing Given, that could easily have been the outcome here, the Republic of Ireland star making several saves in a pretty dire goalless draw.
He said of Given, who Villa rescued from his Manchester City nightmare last month: "His experience tells him when to go into the right positions. You might have seen other goalies diving for one of the two that came point-blank at him, but that's the experience of a great goalkeeper."
He added: "The bottom line is, when there was all the furore, I always said it's about results. We started the league with a very good away point."
McLeish denied Given was solely responsible for the draw.
He said: "I don't think it's fair to say that. I would never say that. It's a team game and the team contributed to that point."
In fairness, Villa's defence also stood up pretty well to a side which was battle-hardened following their run to the Europa League play-off round.
"It was some great defending, people launching themselves to block balls on the edge of the box," McLeish said. "That's terrific for the cause and the fans will love players who do that."
Any antagonism towards McLeish from the hordes of travelling Villa fans was drowned out by their new-season optimism as they gave team and manager a rousing reception as they entered the field.
"I was very, very pleased to walk across the turf and the Villa fans were very appreciative," McLeish said. "I was delighted with it."