A centre forward, Givens started his career at Manchester United in 1968, making a scoring debut against Shamrock Rovers in May 1969 but he played just 8 games before moving to Luton Town. He then transferred to Queens Park Rangers for £35,000 from 1972 to 1978, he made 243 appearances and scored 76 goals for the club. He helped them win promotion to the old First Division in his first season with the club, scoring 23 times in their victorious campaign. As a First division striker, the next few years would see him reach his peak, scoring a combined 49 goals in four seasons and helping QPR not just hold onto their top-flight status but contend for the First Division title. After an unsuccessful season in 1977–78, scoring just four goals in 37 appearances, he parted ways with QPR, and he was transferred to Birmingham City (£150,000) Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Neuchâtel Xamax. His time at Sheffield United will forever be remembered for the time he missed a last minute penalty in the last match of the 1980–81 season against Walsall at Bramall Lane in the old third division. If he had scored, The Saddlers would have been relegated, instead it was Sheffield United who were consigned to the 4th division for the first (and only) time in their history.
In 1981, escaping the negativity of his time at Sheffield United, Givens moved to Switzerland to play for Neuchâtel Xamax. In the 1981–82 UEFA Cup Givens scored at Hamburger SV in a quarter final tie. This turned out to be Franz Beckenbauer's last game in Europe. He would make 144 appearances for them, scoring 34 goals. He had the honour of leading Neuchâtel to their first ever League championship in his final season 1986–87 Nationalliga A.
Givens made 56 appearances for the senior team between 1969 and 1982, scoring 19 goals, including a record four goal haul against Turkey, and becoming his country's leading goalscorer for a period. He currently ranks joint fourth on that list along with Tony Cascarino, behind Frank Stapleton on 20, Niall Quinn on 21 and Robbie Keane on 68.
Givens time in an Ireland shirt was one of frustration. He began playing during the ill-fated 1970 World Cup qualifying campaign, when an Irish team with great names including Givens, Mick Meagan and John Giles, could not find enough consistency to make an impact, and finished last in a group containing Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Denmark. Givens did open his competitive scoring account for Ireland with goals against Hungary and Denmark.
In the following 1972 European Championship and subsequent 1974 World Cup, Ireland faced tough opposition and never found themselves in with a chance of qualification. Givens did not score in either of these tournaments.
The 1976 European Championship qualifiers pitted Ireland against the Soviet Union again, along with Turkey and Switzerland. The winner of this group would have to play-off against the winner of another group to determine the qualifier. This may have seemed a bridge too far but it would prove to be Givens finest moment in a green shirt as he scored a hat-trick against the USSR to give Ireland a 3–0 win in the opening game and a fighting chance of making that play-off. He scored again in a 1–1 draw against Turkey in Izmir. Ireland had peaked too early in the group though, and after a 2–1 loss to the Soviet Union in Kiev and a 1–0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland in Berne, Ireland last match against Turkey was not expected to mean anything, since the Soviets were already a point ahead with a game in hand. Even a win meant that the Soviet Union would need only two points in their final two games to finish on top. Ireland won the game 4–0, with Givens scoring all four goals, the first and only time an Irish player has done this. But it was not enough and the Soviet Union went on to top the group.
In the 1978 World Cup, Ireland was paired with France again, and Bulgaria. Ireland beat France 1–0 in their new home stadium, Lansdowne Road, but lost 2–0 in Paris. Givens scored in Sofia, but it was a consolation as Ireland lost 2–1 and subsequently went out of the World Cup with a 0–0 draw in the final game against Bulgaria at Lansdowne Road.
For the 1980 European Championships, Ireland was drawn in a Group alongside England, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Denmark. It was a disappointing campaign for Givens, who, despite scoring against Denmark, was unable to make an impact in a group where Ireland would manage just two wins from eight games.
By the 1982 World Cup, Ireland had acquired a world class team, with Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton, Mark Lawrenson, Chris Hughton, Gerry Daly and others, and there was excitement that this team could not only qualify for the World Cup, they could make some waves there. It was therefore devastating to the team to hear their draw: Belgium, France, Holland, Cyprus. Ireland would end up losing out to France on goal difference, but Givens was no longer the main threat, and Givens last appearance for Ireland was in the 3–2 win at home to France.
Givens was the Republic of Ireland U21 team manager from 2000 until 2010 when he stepped down.Scores and results list Ireland's goal tally first.
Swiss Super League
Neuchâtel Xamax - 1986/87