Alex McLeish has confirmed that Shay Given will return to the side this afternoon for the game with Everton with fellow Irish international and recent signing, Robbie Keane set to start on the bench.
Speaking to the press at his media briefing ahead of the game, McLeish said while Given would resume his place between the sticks after just over a month out with a hamstring injury he had been delighted with the form of his understudy Brad Guzan during his absence.
The former Birmingham manager also revealed that he had spoken to Guzan in advance – and out of respect for the USA ace – to explain his decision.
McLeish said: “Shay is available again and he will go back between the sticks.
“We explained it to Brad that Shay is our No.1 goalkeeper.
“Football is cruel at times, but Brad’s been magnificent. It’s the first time I’ve had a chance to see him in high profile games and I’ve been really delighted.
“He understood, he didn’t like it and he didn’t necessarily agree, but he’s a proper gentleman.
“I communicated with him. I wasn’t going to drop it on him five minutes before kick-off, so there’s a mutual respect there and I think he’s earned that respect. It’s the hardest part of being a manager, but I like to communicate with the players.
“I don’t just pin it up on the board although sometimes that would be easier – and just let them get on with it.
“But I try to give my players respect and talk to them beforehand. Maybe I’ll give them a reason why.
“It’s one of the most difficult parts, leaving someone out when they’ve been in the team. But it’s got to be done.
“Big Brad has been absolutely excellent. I’m sure he would have loved six shutouts or something, but he’s obviously got to rely on other people as well to have that kind of record.
“I can’t speak for previous management, but Brad has certainly shown me that he’s capable of going between the sticks for a number of games if Shay should go down. But Shay is our No.1 goalkeeper.
“I did the same with Joe Hart and Maik Taylor at Birmingham. Maik came in for one game and it was the Manchester City match that Joe couldn’t play in. Joe had been a bit rocky in his early days – the press at the time were talking about him maybe being left out.
“Maik came in and played in that game – he had a shut-out. He fully expected to be in between the sticks for the next game. But I reinstated Joe, because he was our No.1 goalkeeper.”
McLeish also revealed Robbie Keane would be on the bench for the Everton game, with the hope of throwing him on to make a Thierry Henry-style impact.
He added: “It is more likely that Robbie will make an impact like Thierry Henry did for Arsenal so Robbie won’t start.
“He’ll just come on and score instead! I’ve told him that.
“He would be desperate to start, but I have to be fair to my own players and those who are here for the long term.
“And I don’t think any of them have done too much wrong. We could do with getting our strikers back in the goals and if Robbie is here to shake it up then great, but he has a part to play also.”