Why Ryan Giggs is a truly dreadful choice for Wales manager
The man is a jabroni of the worst order and I hope he gets fired on his first day
Ryan Giggs is a jabroni of the worst order and I hope he gets fired on his first day as Wales manager.
I hope he walks into the Millennium Stadium and some FAW bod greets him all like “Ryan Giggs?” and he goes “yes?” and the bod goes “Fuck off!” with a big ol’ grin and chucks Ryan Giggs’ P45 into Ryan Giggs’ baffled face. I hope that Ryan Giggs lets out a defeated sigh and then when he bends down to scrape his P45 off the floor, John Hartson runs out and boots him straight up the arse. I hope he goes flying and has to pick it up all over again, and then Hartson boots him straight up the arse again. I hope this happens over and over like a Hanna Barbera cartoon until Hartson gets bored and Giggs is escorted out, simpering, at which point he is met by a jeering mob comprised of everyone in Wales and everyone he has also personally ever loved, and they pelt him with fruit and leeks and more P45s which he has to pick up, and he henceforth becomes the butt of every “Worst And Shortest Managerial Tenures Ever” article for all time. I hope this happens, but I have a nagging suspicion it won’t.
A lot of people like Ryan Giggs. Manchester United fans, for instance, are grateful to the former winger for his unwavering devotion to their club over the best part of a quarter of a century. And to be fair, he played very well for Manchester United, to the extent that the Queen herself awarded him an OBE for services to playing well for Manchester United. In fact, he played so well for Manchester United that the FAW have awarded him the job of Wales manager. Now, whichever way you want to look at it, you have to admit that in order to achieve all that just through playing for Manchester United, you’d have to have spent a career playing fairly fantastically. For Manchester United.
I used to like Ryan Giggs, too. Any child of the 90s cursed to both love football and being Welsh liked Ryan Giggs. Ryan Giggs was to Welsh football fans in the 90s what cool scars are to being repeatedly kicked in the head. A small silver lining.
But then he started withdrawing from squads. Sir Alex Ferguson, another Queen-acknowledged servant of Manchester United, used his influence to have Giggs bin off Wales in favour of focusing on playing for United. Now, you could argue that this prioritising meant Giggs enjoyed a fruitful career playing at the highest level for far longer than any outfield player should enjoy, for Manchester United.
But you could also argue that you didn’t give a fuck about Manchester United, that you wanted Wales to win, and you wanted to see your hero Ryan Giggs play for them, and that he felt the precise opposite.
You could argue that Giggs’ reticence had a catastrophic effect on the rest of the squad, that his near-permanent withdrawal from what he (or ‘SAF’) deemed to be pointless international friendlies meant that Wales barely had a chance to form a cohesive system around him, our best player, and so found themselves chronically unable to utilise him effectively in competitive fixtures. You could argue that when the country’s best player was so publicly not-arsed about representing Wales, he drastically compromised our already-slim chances of being competitive, having the knock-on effect of demotivating our few other vaguely promising talents, who came to similarly see international duty as a fruitless obligation and followed suit by withdrawing to prioritise their own club careers.
You could argue that our rag-tag squads composed of lower league also-rans, pub league never-rans and anyone who happened to be passing through Cardiff of a matchday meant we launched headlong into a self-perpetuating spiral, a spiral which saw us lose or else goallessly draw almost every single qualification game, and so slide down the FIFA Rankings, and so be drawn into increasingly difficult qualification groups while fielding decreasingly competent sides, and so spiralling lower and lower until there were no more FIFA Rankings left to slide down, until we slid clean off the FIFA Rankings altogether.
You could argue that Ryan Giggs the player contributed to making Wales absolutely shite, and so expecting Ryan Giggs the manager to have precisely the inverse effect seems strange. You could argue that when even Alan Shearer is taking potshots at Giggs’ likely inability to get Welsh talent to turn out for friendlies, he faces a considerable challenge to win over the dressing room.
You could argue that spending the best part of 15 years watching a Giggs-less Wales eke out a 0-0 with Azerbaijan every few months might diminish even the most forgiving Welsh fans’ enthusiasm for the bloke. You could argue that Giggs retiring from international football in 2007 and then ‘unretiring’ five years later to play for ‘Team GB’ - a squad assembled for the sole purpose of Britain trying to scam their way to another Olympic gold medal - might ‘grate’ and inspire some ‘ill will’.
You could argue that Ryan Giggs’ managerial experience seems dubious at best. You could argue that his tenure as United’s caretaker manager is somewhat marred by the fact that in just four games he conspired to lose to Sunderland and collapsed in tears after drawing with Southampton. You could argue that it’s telling that Giggs has vocally expressed interest in every vacant managerial position in Premier League football for the last two years, dragging his Oliver Twist ass around, CV-outstretched, without once having been offered a job. You could argue that it is extremely telling that Swansea even went so far as to make it public that the reason Giggs didn’t get the nod was because he gave an “underwhelming” interview, and thought that Bob Bradley - who would go on to be the worst Premier League manager of all time - was more suitable for the role.
You could argue that it seems even more extremely telling that the FAW disclosed that Craig Bellamy gave a “Hollywood interview” for the position, outlining his vision for the future of Welsh football having secured the backing of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. You could argue that this is the FAW all but tacitly admitting Bellamy - who dutifully turned out as the sole quality player in some of the most insipid Wales sides anyone could endure, who retired from international duty the year he retired from football, and who set up an elite football academy in Sierra Leone over a decade ago - was a better choice for the role.
You could also argue that Osian Roberts, who served as Wales’ technical director during the mid-’00s and as assistant manager since 2015, and who taught Gary Speed - the manager who revitalised the Wales set-up - during Speed’s coaching licence, could have been an appointment that guaranteed a healthy transition from our recent Euro successes. But you could also argue that neither Bellamy nor Roberts come with the PR prestige of having been one of Manchester United’s greatest ever players.
You could argue that Ryan Giggs is a complete charisma vacuum (especially when contrasted with Bellamy) who practically defined the perception of the modern footballer as a gormless and tepid bore. You could argue that Giggs’ self-styled squeaky-clean nothing-going-on-in-my-head-except-footy-me image was not only boring, but was deliberate obfuscation from the fact he was actually committing behind-the-scenes transgressions quicker than he could super-injunction them. You could argue that these transcended even your average celebrity indiscretions and infidelities, although there were plenty of those. You could argue that having an eight-year-long affair with his brother Rhodri’s wife Natasha (which Ryan described as “just about sex” and during which he paid Natasha to abort his child weeks after her marriage to Rhodri) is a singularly cruel and spiteful act which ruined his own brother’s life. You could argue, convincingly, that this alone earmarks Giggs as an odious and total dickhead who thought he could act with vindictive impunity so long as he could pay for his maliciousness to be covered up.
You could argue, as his father Danny Wilson did, that “to be a manager you have to have trust. I don’t see how the players can trust him after what he did to his brother.”
You could argue that actually liking the manager is a vital component of getting behind the national side, and to my mind, Ryan Giggs has done very little to endear himself - either on the field, or off it - to many Wales fans.
But you can also argue that you’re sadly lumbered with your country even more so than your club, that you can’t change the place you were spat out and that if you’re consigned to supporting Wales you don’t really have much choice but to hope Ryan Giggs either gets fired on his first day or turns out to be an unexpectedly savvy appointment.
Wales’ current ‘golden generation’ of Bale, Ramsey and Joe Allen will be 30, 29 and 30 respectively by Euro 2020, and on the verge of retirement by the next World Cup. Under Chris Coleman, Wales showed real signs of building on the attacking promise of Speed’s regeneration with our Euro 2016 semi-final triumph, but we almost immediately reverted to familiar toothless mediocrity during the Russia 2018 campaign. Thankfully, we have a genuinely exciting crop of emerging talent in Ben Woodburn, Ethan Ampadu, Tyler Roberts and David Brooks, and so Giggs takes the helm at a monumentally vital period of transition.
Ryan Giggs spent a playing career failing to shoulder the burden of a nation’s expectation. Let’s hope he starts failing to disappoint.