Shay Given winning battle for fitness

Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given is winning his fitness fight to be ready for tomorrow’s FA Cup final.

Shay Given winning battle for fitness

The Republic of Ireland international missed Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley with a groin injury but has returned to training ahead of the Wembley showdown with Arsenal.

Kieran Richardson (calf), Aly Cissokho (groin) and Jores Okore (knee) are also back in training to boost Tim Sherwood’s numbers.

The Villa boss admitted Given was a doubt for the final but is now in contention to feature again.

He said: “He trained today so we’re hopeful he’ll be alright. But the nature of this club is you can’t hold your breath. We’re training tomorrow so we’re likely to lose two or three.

“I’ve not yet made my decision on the keeper. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you then.

“Kieran trained today, Cissokho is fit and Okore trained for the first time today.


“If everyone’s fit we could play the same team as the semi-finals.”

Villa are heading to their first FA Cup final for 15 years and have not won the trophy since 1957. They beat Liverpool 2-1 in the semi-final last month and Sherwood insisted his side are not just in it for a day out.

“It’s a huge occasion for everyone involved and it’s a huge honour to be taking them to Wembley,” he said.

“But no-one ever remembers the bridesmaids, no-one remembers who loses in a cup final.”

Cup holders Arsenal finished third in the Premier League, 14 places above Villa, and beat them twice, by 3-0 and 5-0, before Sherwood took over.

“Arsenal are probably the best footballing team in the league,” he said. “They are a top, top football team. They’ve got players that can win a game on their own.”

Sherwood said he intends to counter Arsenal’s close-passing style by attacking them in an attempt Villa victory.

“We intend to take the game to them. The boys know they can make history. Someone can be a hero. It’s an opportunity for everyone to write the history books again.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s Mathieu Flamini has praised the contribution of Francis Coquelin, even though his fellow midfielder is likely to deprive him of a place in the Arsenal team at Wembley.

Coquelin has been a revelation for the Gunners this season, since returning from the obscurity of a loan spell atChampionship side Charlton.

Flamini has not started since the FA Cup fifth-round defeat of Middlesbrough but has no objections given Arsenal’s form since.

“If you look at the stats, we nearly won every single game since February,” Flamini said.

“It’s a situation I accept. Competition makes you better, but there’s not much to say when the team is winning every single game.

“You just have to accept it and it’s part of the game.

“We all knew Francis was a great player and I’m really pleased for him.”


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