By Tommie Collins
I never saw Il Gigante Buono, John Charles, play for obvious reasons. I remember watching Leighton James and Mickey Thomas play for Wales, these players who would excite me, wingers they were know as them days.
Then along came a young Welshman called Ryan Giggs, this kid was the real deal and he was one of us. I along with a few thousand others made the trip to Nuremberg, October 1991 in the hope of seeing a Wales win. As usual back then, they let us down, but there was a glimmer of hope when young Ryan made his debut at the age of 17 years, 321 days to become the youngest player to appear for the Welsh senior team. I and many others thought this was the first of many, it turned to be the mere 64. Sixty bloody four, international stalwarts Robbie Keane had 164 and Gianluigi Buffon had 175.
I travelled the length and breadth of Europe following Wales in Giggs’ time as a player. My choice, I know, but how do you think we felt when usually at the last minute he would pull out of the squad. I now know that it was due to Sir Alex Ferguson’s insistence, and if, as he assures us, he is a passionate Welshman, he should have told old Taggart to mind his own business.
What was the worst scenario? Transfer list him, put him in the reserves to rot – no chance.
I felt sorry for Welsh managers at the time; Sir Alex was seen to only treat Giggs this way. Whilst we were travelling usually by trains, spending our hard earned cash we felt cheated, betrayed, let down. And yet some fans, ex players, people in the media don’t understand our animosity, frustration towards him. Probably the reason why is that they’re not fans, it’s a job for them. It galls me to be honest.
I remember Giggs as someone who would excite me, them games in the Arms Park, the celebrations, he was my hero, and I even called my son Ryan (although I do say it was after Ryan Jones, Sheffield Wednesday.) I remember a game against Poland at the Millennium Stadium in June 2001, Giggs missed an open-goal as if it was on purpose. During this period, when yes, the players around him were far from his standard, he looked disinterested, hands on hips, not chasing; I was fuming.
He eventually retired in a Euro 2008 qualifier against the Czech Republic, at a time when I thought we needed him most. We had a promising bunch of youngsters coming through, but oh no, off he went to prolong his career with Manchester United – yes, he is known as Ryan Giggs, Man Utd.
Then to compound matters, he twisted the knife further. One of the biggest concerns among Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland fans was that competing in the Olympics – something that happened in 2012 but was viewed by many as a one-off because London was hosting the Games – could affect the individual nations’ independence within FIFA. Whether those fears have foundation or not, Giggs willingly came out of international retirement to represent Team GB at the London Olympics; it’s irrelevant if I have issues with Team GB, as he and others knew the risk this posed to Wales as an independent international team.
He has since continued to alienate himself from Welsh football fans by being a television pundit during England matches. Does he need the money? No, then why? Why wasn’t he a pundit during Wales games? Answers on a…
So 15 January 2018, Ryan Giggs becomes manager of Wales, to confuse matters and possibly alienate himself further, he doesn’t confirm if a key component of the Welsh set-up, Osian Roberts, will be part of his management team. What a public relations coup it would have been for him to have Osian beside him in his press conference – but no, the rumour mill is in full swing that his old Manchester United mate, Paul Scholes, is being considered… I despair.
I’m being told by Wales football fans that travelled over the English Channel to be part of the red wall, ex players and media people, to back him and support him.
To win me over, I want Giggs to visit Bala, Llanrwst, Pwllheli, Porthmadog, Cardigan, Haverfordwest and so on. I want to see him sing the national anthem with gusto – it means a lot for some of us. I want to see him promote our National League, I want him to take us to another major championship.
I want to remember him as Ryan Giggs, Wales.