Few players get the opportunity to join one of world football’s elite club’s, fewer turn down a contract with one.
Throw in the chance to work under manager Sir Alex Ferguson, learn from the best player in the world in your position and join a team of Premier League champions and it’s an offer that’s hard to turn down.
That prospect was still not enough for a 15-year-old who was offered an opportunity most would dream of.
But turning down Manchester United had no bearing on Shay Given becoming one of the Premier League’s greatest goalkeepers, whilst handing him the opportunity to represent his boyhood club.
“I had a trial at Man United and they actually offered me a contract, but I turned them down in favour of a move to Celtic,” Given told talkSPORT’s Alex Crook in a new book about classic Newcastle United games.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and United had Peter Schmeichel just coming into his prime whereas Celtic had Packie Bonner who was 34 so my dad and I felt that was a quicker route to playing first-team football.”
It didn’t work out for him and he joined Blackburn in 1994.
“I left Celtic at 18 and had to go back to Ireland and stay at home for a month or two because I did not have a club before Blackburn offered me a contract.
“If you had have said then when I was back in Donegal that three years later I’d be rocking out at St James’ Park in the Champions League with the number one jersey on my back, people would have looked at me and gone, ‘Yeah, good one, mate,’ because that was just a dream.”
Given forged a superb career, racking up 463 appearances with Newcastle United spanning 12 years before spells with Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke.
And despite the passing of time, Ferguson was in no mood to let Given’s refusal lie when the Irishman had a brush with the legendary manager earlier this year.
“I met Sir Alex Ferguson at the 2023 League Cup final, some 30 years later, but he is like an elephant who never forgets. He said to me, ‘I still cannot believe you turned me down to go to Celtic.’
‘Newcastle United Match of My Life’ is available to pre-order now