Given return gives Allardyce a goalkeeping headache

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The Independent Football

Already hit by the fresh injury to Michael Owen, the Newcastle United manager, Sam Allardyce, has the looming issue of Shay Given to deal with. Owen is Newcastle's record signing but Given is the senior player at the club and, having also been injured in pre-season, has lost his place in goal to Steve Harper. It is not a situation Given will want to tolerate for long and Allardyce knows it.

"When you have got two outstanding goalkeepers the hardest part of the job is keeping one happy when one is not playing and the other one is in the team," Allardyce said. "That is the hardest part of management, but to have two such outstanding keepers is also very comforting.

"Will Shay be happy on the bench? He cannot be. Steve Harper is slightly better at it, but it is not about making a decision based on who will create more problems for me. It is all about doing what you think is the right thing for that particular time."

Given played in the 2-0 Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal on Tuesday but Harper is expected to return for the trip to Manchester City in the Premier League tomorrow. Harper has played in all six of Newcastle's league games to date and impressed last week against West Ham.

This is 31-year-old Given's 11th season at St James' Park and he has never disguised the fact that he is uncomfortable on the bench.

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