"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Friday, 2 September 2011

Ryan McGivern, a bright new hope?

For a supporter who has grown up on a series of left-backs cast out of the same mould, it has become one of those quirky 'golden' positions for me at City. Martin Scott, Mickey Bell, Matty Hill and Jim Brennan (briefly) held the No.3 shirt for years and were all legends or cult-heroes to differing extents.

It's fair to say Jamie Mac has been a dependable owner of the shirt for the past few seasons, and I'm one of those still loathe to overly criticise any of the players who brought us up and got us to Wembley in 2008. Although there has been an under-current of feeling amongst many fans that we could do better, there has certainly been a groundswell of pressure building to get decent cover in at the very least. It's been so long I can't actually remember who the last 'regular' reserve left-back was.

So the signing of Ryan McGivern, on the face of it, was treated with some excitement. Surely a player recently handed a new two-year contract by gigantic-spending Manchester City can't be half bad? They've bought a few players in the past 12 months (in case you hadn't noticed) so an investment in a youngster from these islands must bode well?

Well, perhaps. I asked David Bevan of the magnificent 72 Football (TheSeventyTwo) to give us a profile as McGivern spent a few months on loan at the Walkers Stadium two seasons ago.

I should warn you that the following profile may offend. I would add, before you click off thinking this is just a wild rant, that the quality of David's work is right up there with the best, to the extent that a year into his website's life, he was hand-selected by the Daily Mirror to write a weekly piece for their website on the football league (Mirror Football League Blog). This is no jingoistic Leicester fan having a dig for the sake of it. In fact, it's quite amusing in a gallows-style humour manner!

"If there's one thing that running a Football League blog has taught me, it's to be wary of opinions of footballers from supporters of their previous clubs. As soon as a player moves on, memories in many cases seem to shift towards the negative. Even at the best of times, fans make their mind up about a player based on one or two poor performances and that will remain their opinion for ever more, pausing only to sneer knowingly when a misplaced pass confirms their proclamations. I've even, whisper it, been guilty of this myself. There was much glee to be had when Matty Fryatt wasted numerous one-on-ones in the opening game of the Football League season live on Sky. What a familiar sight, I chortled.

Supporters are often unwilling to give a neutral assessment of a player to fans of the club he has just joined - fans that are now eager to see what their new acquisition is like.

"You're shit mate, couldn't hit a barn door with the arse of a cow's banjo."

"Garbage, all pace and no final ball."

"Imagine the footballing equivalent of Piers Morgan, without the humility or natural charm. That's you, that is"

But regardless of what my old five-a-side team-mates regularly write on my Facebook wall, fans cannot always be trusted to write reliable opinions of their former players.

Having said all of this, Ryan McGivern is one of the worst footballers I've ever seen wearing a Leicester City shirt.

This is a little while ago now, and he seems to have won some decent reviews recently from Crystal Palace fans following his brief loan spell there at the start of this season. Some even claimed he had scaled new heights of being "average" and "not too bad".

We dreamed of McGivern turning in displays we could term "average" or "not too bad". We yearned for them. Where were they? Nowhere to be seen. McGivern was bloody useless.

At the time I thought it was slightly harsh that my fellow Leicester fans and I were displeased with the efforts of a player that was, at the time, very much a backup option. When Bruno Berner was unfit, rested or suspended, Ryan McGivern played. Well, he was on the pitch anyway. "Played" is perhaps going a bit too far. McGivern didn't play in the same sense that Yehudi Menuhin played the violin or Laurence Olivier played Hamlet. McGivern played more like Daphne and Celeste played the Reading festival. Only with fewer bottles of faeces hurled in his direction by disgruntled punters.

Of course, McGivern's performances on loan for Leicester two years ago mean very little now. He may well prove to be a solid loan signing for Bristol City and I genuinely hope that he has a decent season. In time, the bad feeling between Leicester and Bristol City generated by the most boring transfer saga in history will fade and we will return to just being two clubs that rarely mean very much to each other.

But Lord alive, I travelled to Wales FIVE bastard times that season. One of those trips was made for a game which was promptly called off as soon as we arrived in Cardiff, another for a play-off game in which our maverick French striker panenka'd a penalty down David Marshall's throat and a third when we were denied a crucial late equaliser by the most blatant rugby tackle seen in Cardiff all year (and yes, I'm counting the Millennium Stadium).

But they were all jolly jaunts compared to the other two visits - both of which featured our friend Mr McGivern torn to shreds by such luminaries as Nathan Dyer and Chris Burke. Alright so they're decent wingers with a turn of pace but at least put a tackle in. Or kick them. Either of the two would have done. It wouldn't have been that bad but they were showing an advert the following week during daytime TV to raise awareness about the poor and all that - I swear the montage included a brief glimpse of Burke skipping past McGivern like a car sailing through a green light. Loooong trips back to the Midlands after those displays. And as you can probably tell, I'm only recently fully recovered from them.

He actually played even worse at home against Reading. I'm convinced Jimmy Kebe still has a lock of McGivern's hair as a memory of the day he was made to look like Cristiano Ronaldo's more extravagantly talented distant Malian relative. It got to the stage at one point where opposition clubs would share a tactics board for their visit to our stadium - one with a picture of a football pitch on and a gigantic red arrow scrawled up the right wing.

The coup de grace was when he gave an interview halfway through his spell with us saying that he was hopeful of breaking into Manchester City's team the following season.

Well, two years on and he's just been given a new contract by the richest club in the world.

I saw it coming all along... honest...

PS - if you were after attributes, he was really slow, couldn't tackle, couldn't pass but sometimes won a few headers. He also had a decent game at centre-back against Sheffield United once. But... well... that was Sheffield United."

So, what to make of that? There's enough above to keep debate raging, so I'm going to draw on the positives.

This was nearly two years ago, when McGivern was only 19. We all know how much development, both physical and mental can occur with experience and this spell may have been the making of him.

Secondly, there is a slightly more promising review from a Crystal Palace fan, Martin Searle (CalneEagle) who has seen the player more recently as McGivern spent the first month of this season on loan at Selhurst Park. His remarks to me included "OK, can't really say more than that.. Impressive hair bleach!". An apparent improvement on his Leicester days at least!

He did go on to add that there was one decent cross and a goal-saving block, and also that Palace manager Dougie Freedman wanted to keep him - but Dean Moxey was ahead of him for the shirt. So we've got a player that wasn't good enough for a Palace team amongst the bookies favourites to go down. Maybe this tells us all we need to know about our expectation level for the season.

On the face of it I must admit a slight sense of being under-whelmed. On a day when Jermaine Beckford, David Bentley and Henri Lansbury arrived in the Championship this perhaps wasn't the headline we were all hoping for, but then City don't really do deadline days. More on that later.

If McGivern is good enough for Man City to offer an extended contract in the same month they sign Gael Clichy then maybe we've got a developing star.

Time will tell, as ever, and I for one will not be judging until I've had a long enough peek of the new guy at work. Let's just hope we see more of that player Man City felt able to offer a new contract to, rather than the hapless individual seemingly lost at sea in the East Midlands not so long ago.

Following the initial reaction to this post I feel the need to qualify. It is simply a view, a profile from a couple of supporters who have seen McGivern play to act as an insight for most of us City fans who haven't. I would have far rather published a post hailing him as a young Ashley Cole or Roberto Carlos. I am certainly not a boo-boy, in fact quite the opposite. I've spent a number of years on the forums in strong debates with those seemingly unable to give players, managers, coaches etc a chance. I always give my full support to anyone who pulls on a red shirt, and will forever continue to do so. As far as I'm concerned McGivern is one of ours now and I hope as much as anyone this is his breakthrough season and he can return to Man City to compete for a place in their star-studded line-up.


  1. NI fan in peace.

    He was thrown into the international side far too early, was sent off in his first game and generally looked like a headless chicken thereafter. Our only real alternatives were Biggles McCartney (now retired again), some pisshead from ManU's bench, and some D3 players. So he has a chance...

  2. Have to say that he has been the direct cause of some goals being given away missed tackles and people just running past him but in contrast he has also made some good tackles and a couple of blocks and laid on the odd goal as well. He's a bit like the curates egg, good in parts but that seems to be an improvement on how he was at the Foxes so perhaps Man City are right they can see something in him but realise it is going to take time for the gloss to show through the dross.


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