Football: '30 Yrs Ago I Was Ireland's Robbie Keane Now I Can't Walk without a Crutch', but DON GIVENS Insists He Has No Regrets; LIFE OF AN IRISH LEGEND: 1970S STRIKER STILL IN LOVE WITH GAME

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Byline: Garry Doyle

DON Givens was the Robbie Keane of his day, a goal scoring forward who shouldered Ireland's hopes.

In his pomp he was good, and remains fondly remembered for the hat-trick he scored in 1974 against Russia, the four he got against Turkey a year later, and the other 12 that came from 56 international appearances.

He was the complete centre forward - fearless, energetic, strong, clever and filled with the same boyish enthusiasm from his first day as a 'pro' in 1965 through to the time he retired in 1987.

But the effort he put in during those 22 years came at a hefty cost. These days Givens is 55 years old and in pain. Just two weeks ago he underwent surgery for the second time on a troublesome hip.

And so the image of the man in his prime in 1974 is replaced by the reality of today. The price he paid for playing the game he loved is measured in the suffering he goes through now.

He needs the aid of a crutch to walk - although that is only short-term - but there is a possibility that he will have a limp for the rest of his life.

Yet he is insistent that his is not a hard-luck story. In fact there is not a hint of bitterness in his tone or words.

If anything there is a willing acceptance that this is the penance he has to pay for playing the game he loved.

"I'm not the only player that has had this injury in later life," said Givens. "John Giles had his hip done. Eoin Hand needs surgery as well.

"It is an occupational hazard and I am sure if you had told me when I was 21 at Luton that carrying on playing would force me to have surgery at 55 I probably would have said OK.

"Certainly I have no regrets. The fact is that I have had a lucky life. For 22 years I had a career in a game I adored. I loved playing. I loved training.

"Some players found training a drag. Not me. I enjoyed it and during my career I was fortunate enough to have very few injuries.

"In hindsight that was a miracle because being a centre forward in the 1970s carried a health warning.

"Defenders had to commit GBH before referees would even consider a yellow card.

"So I look back at my time and give thanks that I had 22 years in the game.

"Yes, I do have pain now. You know it is there but you just get on with it. At times I don't even realise I am limping until someone points out to me that I am.

"But so what? Life goes on and I knew the surgery was coming.

"I just think the hurt now is part of life, a payback for all the enjoyment I had in my career. This is a little bit of a price for the good times."

In fact it is more than a small price. While Givens does not complain, he has every right to.

For the last six months he has been struggling to get around, and the effect of surgery has practically placed him under house arrest. …