Shay Given will put friendship to one side when he faces old pal Richard Dunne at Villa Park on Monday night.
The pair had already formed a formidable double-act in the Republic of Ireland’s defences over the last decade, but Given’s move to City last January gave them the chance to frustrate opposition attacks on a regular basis at club level.
Dunne departed for the Midlands just over a month ago, but the fixture list has given the Irishmen a relatively quick chance to pit their wits against each-other.
Shay said: “Richard was a great servant to the club, and I have known him for a long time with Ireland. He’s a really good friend of mine, but for 90 minutes we won’t be, he will want to win just as much as I will.
“We’ll be enemies for the 90 minutes, but we’ll be friends afterwards. But I’m hoping we can go there to get three points, keep the run going and keep climbing up the table."
This year both players have left clubs where they have given long years of service for pastures new, so is Shay still getting used to seeing Richard in a Villa shirt rather than a City one?
“People said that when I left Newcastle as well!” he laughed. “Richard was at City a long time, and seeing him in a Villa shirt is a bit strange. He’s settled in well in the games he has there’re so far, and we know what qualities Richard has. He’s a superb defender, and he’s great at set-plays at the other end as well. We’ll have to be careful that he doesn’t pop one in himself!
“He was a big favourite of the fans here and in the changing room, too. I think that the manager and Dunnie both felt he needed regular football, so with us signing Kolo and Joleon he felt he would not get as many games as he wanted. I wish him well at Aston Villa, but not too well on Monday night.
“But we’ll be team-mates again on Tuesday for the internationals. We’re still in touch, in fact he’s booked me a flight to Dublin on Tuesday morning so I owe him a few quid for that!”
Assessing the threat posed by our opponents on Monday night, Shay sees a side that, like City, have high hopes of breaking the domination of the so-called ‘big four’.
“Martin O’Neill has done a great job there, they came close to doing that last year. He’s built up a great squad and added some good players to it recently. They will definitely be challenging that top four.
“Set-plays are one of Aston Villa’s strongest points, there’s Carew, Dunnie, Collins and a few other big guys who like to get in and attack the ball. Milner, Agbonlahor and Milner can deliver good balls into the box as well, so it’s an area they are good at.”