Given delighted to mark first league start in over a year with assured display

Fulham 0 Aston Villa 0
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The Independent Football

Shay Given did not start a single Premier League game last season, but few in football wrote him off. The Republic of Ireland goalkeeper had been reduced to a bit part player behind Joe Hart at Manchester City but there was still a scramble to sign him this summer.

New Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish won that race and was rewarded here as Given marked his first league start since April 2010 with a clean sheet and a man-of-the-match display.

Given, 35, was signed for £3.5m, making him a bargain replacement for Brad Friedel at Villa, and his three second-half saves to thwart Fulham's Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson were the feature of this otherwise predictable match, which Fulham shaded with their second-half display.

Given said: "In the run-up to the game there was the excitement of the Premier League starting again, and knowing I was going to be playing was pretty special.

"I've missed it. You train all week to play at the weekend and it's very frustrating when you don't play. Last year was frustrating, but it's nice to be back and nice to feel wanted again and feel part of the team and be playing in front of big crowds again.

"I left home at 16 and even before I left home I'd been playing football all my life. I was pretty regular at most clubs I'd been at, so it was a bit strange last year, so it's great to be at Villa and feel part of the group."

The match also marked the Premier League return of Fulham manager Martin Jol, almost four years after he was sacked by Tottenham.

He said: "I'm the same. I can't keep saying I'm excited because that is a cliché, but feel part of something special."