SHAY GIVEN was part of a strong contingent of Middlesbrough players mixing with young supporters yesterday but the experienced goalkeeper does not know how long he will be at the Riverside Stadium for.
As Given and the majority of the first team squad, along with head coach Aitor Karanka, helped selected children celebrate Christmas, the Irish shot-stopper played his part in making the occasion special.
The 37-year-old might be unclear on how long he will still be on Teesside, but the former Newcastle and Sunderland man is enjoying being back in the region and could well stay.
Given's loan deal from Aston Villa expires after the New Year's Day trip to Bolton and further talks will have to take place between the two clubs to determine what the future holds for him.
“A lot will depend on Aston Villa and Middlesbrough as well,” said Given. “It's out of my hands. Nobody has said anything to me. I'm delighted to be here.
“We will see what happens at the end of the month. If they don't agree I will have to go back to Aston Villa and weigh up my options. I don't actually know.”
Aston Villa will be keeping their options open on the Given front in the hope an agreement can be reached with a club which would see his lucrative contract moved from the Villa Park wage bill.
Despite winning just one of his four matches for Middlesbrough since his arrival in late November, Given has enjoyed his stay having not played a first team game before that since January.
He said: “It was ten months or whatever since I played competitive football. It's nice to have the buzz of the pre-match build up, the excitement, the nerves again.
“You miss the furore surrounding the games. That's what you live for as a footballer. It's great to be back involved. You miss that. You might not forget it but you do miss that match-day involvement.”
After keeping a clean sheet in his first outing to help Middlesbrough defeat Bolton, Given has since seen Middlesbrough lose two and draw one ahead of Saturday's trip to Millwall.
Last weekend's defeat to Brighton has reduced the gap to the relegation places to just three points, highlighting that Karanka's time in charge has not been as fruitful as he would have liked.
Given said: “It's early doors for the new manager. It takes time for players to adapt to a new manager's approach. It's still new for everyone.
“The fans will be frustrated with the results which have been disappointing, but we have given away a late goal in the last few minutes of every game. That's the big frustration. We have not played too badly. But we need to improve.
“New managers don't really get time any more because it is such a high pressure job. We all have to keep a cool head, stay calm. That goes for the players and manager himself.
“If we keep playing the way we have been and improve on a few areas then the results will come. It's not a time for panic. We have to keep working hard. Once you get one result then that can give you a huge confidence lift.”
Given's trip to the Riverside yesterday was to see the Champion Children selected by Boro visited by Santa during the club's Golden Ticket Party.
Some of the youngsters have fought against serious illness or cared for brothers, sisters or relatives.
Given said: “It's important to come to things like this. It's only a small bit of time the players are giving up to come to see children from different backgrounds with different disabilities.
“Even if it takes their minds off things a bit. Nobody is better than anyone else so it is important that we come along to things like this to show we are just normal like everyone else.”
Middlesbrough striker Marvin Emnes, meanwhile, has restarted training and hopes to be available for this Saturday's trip to Millwall after hamstring trouble.