Shay Given's future at St James' Park is most uncertain this morning following the release of a statement last night from Given's representative Michael Kennedy that outlined the 32-year-old Newcastle United goalkeeper's dismay at the club's direction.
Kennedy said that Given "feels compelled to consider his position" after last Sunday's dreadful 5-1 home defeat by Liverpool. Kennedy said that the game had been "the lowest point" of Given's career.
With Kennedy confirming that there is interest in Given regarding a January transfer – from Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham – it would appear that, after 11-and-a-half years on Tyneside, the hugely popular Irishman has run out of patience with the seemingly never-ending instability at Newcastle and would now be prepared to leave.
"Shay is very despondent following the very poor performance of the team against Liverpool last weekend," Kennedy said. "Having served the club loyally for over 11 years, Shay feels compelled to consider his position in the light of the interest being expressed in him by Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham."
It is not known whether there has been any bid from those three clubs yet. What price Newcastle would ask is also unknown.
Given was bought for £1.5m from Blackburn Rovers in August 1997, when Kenny Dalglish was Newcastle manager. He has been a consistently excellent performer, and Sunday's appearance against Liverpool was his 459th for Newcastle. He is third on the club's all-time list of appearances.
His good nature has also impressed supporters. In turn, he regards himself as a naturalised Geordie and his children have been born in Newcastle.
Given may yet stay if there is no offer Newcastle will accept. But what Kennedy's statement has made plain is the level of behind-the-scenes disenchantment among some players. In some cases this pre-dated Mike Ashley's takeover – Given questioned the club's direction three years ago when Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd were in the boardroom – but Ashley's perceived undermining of the previous manager Kevin Keegan has not been forgotten.
After Keegan's departure after the August transfer window, when there was speculation Ashley had put the entire squad up for sale, the senior players are understood to have been alienated by the lack of communication from the Newcastle hierarchy.
Ashley then put the club on the market, which further destabilised the playing staff, who had been heartened by the opening day draw at Manchester United, when Keegan was still in charge.
Hope evaporated with Keegan's exit. Out of the blue Joe Kinnear arrived at the end of September as Keegan's temporary replacement. After Sam Allardyce and Keegan, Kinnear was Newcastle's third manager in nine months.
Ashley, having decided last week to take the club off the market – though he would clearly accept a good offer – has seen Michael Owen effectively reject the offer of a four-year deal and Kennedy's statement will be a further reminder of the unease surrounding Newcastle. As of Monday, Steve Harper, Given's stand-in and another long-server, had not signed a contract extension.
In an ideal world Given's situation will be resolved at Newcastle, but the sort of strategy required to bring the club closer to silverware would have to be graphic and persuasive. Newcastle are at Hull City in the FA Cup third round tomorrow. It will be interesting to see whether Shay Given is there.
Time to move on? Given's statement
"Shay is very despondent following the very poor performance of the team against Liverpool last weekend. It was the lowest point of his football career and a performance that he would not wish to be repeated.
When he signed a new five-year contract in 2006 it was on the basis that the club would challenge for major honours, but on the present evidence all that he can see ahead, with the turmoil on and off the pitch, is a battle for survival. Having served the club loyally for over 11 years, Shay feels compelled to consider his position in the light of the interest being expressed in him by Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham."