Ryan Giggs, why England’s hypothetical loss is England’s very real gain

by Will ODoherty

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
 

Ryan Giggs should take to the field at Stamford Bridge tonight, ready to mark his 20th year at United with another accomplished performance.

In doing so, Giggs will add further weight to the incontestable argument that he is truly one of this island’s iconic players.

He will look to crown his 20th year at United with a win at Chelsea that will do much to keep United on track for a 19th league title, and his 12th, thus extending his lead as England’s most decorated player.

If he were English – and I believe the whole rumour that he could have chosen to play for England has been dispelled – then who knows? We probably would have been talking about a global great.

But the fact that Giggs did not spend every second summer being beamed into living rooms in Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Spain – and therefore flew under the radars of much of the world football audience – merely serves to increase his legend on these shores.

Giggs is the great ‘what if’ for English fans who, before the question of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard’s compatibility became the national team’s great handicap, yearned for a left winger of note.

The Welshman certainly was that, his flair and good looks making him a natural poster boy for the formative Sky years, but as the years progressed he developed into something even better.

I say even better because Giggs the out-and-out winger was still one of the great players of the Premier League, but as injuries struck, the technical, creative, dangerous leader that emerged was a cut above.

You may disagree, but, for me, Giggs’ quality would still be plenty good enough for Fabio Capello’s England squad. In fact, if he had been English he would most likely have been captain for much of the last decade.

But the added physical pressure of European Championships and World Cups would surely have taken their toll on him, while who knows what the relentless scrutiny of being an England player would have done to his development, or whether he would have soured his relationship with English fans by hanging up his international boots to conserve his United career.

It is impossible to argue that Giggs would not have enriched the English national side over much of the last two decades, but there is plenty to suggest that England’s hypothetical loss was more than Wales’ gain.

Like Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and John Charles before him, Giggs will be forever be a legend of England’s game, not just because of sheer ability, but because of the unobtainable air that surrounds and protects him.

Untainted by English failure, and never having let his adoring public down, Giggs remains untarnished.

But that goal he scored against the Arsenal still gives me nightmares.

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