Sunday 18 February 2018

Giggs enjoys his 'proudest' time but feels the heat of friendly fire

Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs

Jeremy Wilson

The managerial appointment of the most iconic player in a country's football history would usually prompt unequivocal enthusiasm but it was always clear that the "proudest moment of my life" would be a little more complicated for Ryan Giggs.

News that he would succeed Chris Coleman as Wales manager broke shortly before Match of the Day 2 on Sunday night and Alan Shearer was soon outlining what many others were thinking.

"It'll be interesting to see how he gets the players to turn up for friendlies," he said.

Giggs famously did not play in a friendly match for Wales during his first nine years as an international although the very fact that his final tally of 64 caps was actually one more than Shearer's 63 England games hints at a more nuanced reality.

Injury-management, career longevity and prioritising competitive matches both for club and country were the salient factors, Giggs suggested yesterday, even if he was well aware of wider perceptions.

"I think it is a bit unfair," he said. "I played over 1,000 games, (but) early on in my career I had problems with my hamstrings. I missed loads of United games. I expect that people in football have got different opinions and the criticism I'm getting is something I just have to deal with."

How? "By winning games and giving my all," he said. "The people who have got an opinion of me not giving my all, I can promise that I did when I played for Wales and I'll continue to do that as Welsh manager.

"I loved playing for my country and it is probably the proudest moment of my life to lead the Welsh nation."

Giggs still noticeably played down the obvious influence of former United manager Alex Ferguson over his past international availability but could specifically recall games, such as against Brazil in 2000, where he had been preparing to play before suffering injury.

A factor that he also did not highlight, but which was clearly also significant in both his and Ferguson's thinking for away matches, was simply the more basic logistical and medical support back then for Welsh internationals.

Times have changed at the Football Association of Wales to the extent that Gareth Bale had his own physio as part of the backroom staff at Euro 2016 and yet even he has played only 26 minutes of Wales's past seven friendlies.

Giggs's first match will be at the China Cup in March but, in consistently stressing that his priority will be the major international tournaments, it is hard to see him pushing the issue of Bale's availability in Asia too far with Real Madrid.

"It's about managing what is best for the player and the country," said Giggs.

"When you've got Champions League quarter-finals and you are asking the players to travel all around the world, it's just about striking that balance. There has to be flexibility because every situation will be different. Ultimately it's about getting Wales to a major championship.

"In my first attempt as a player, we got really close to the 1994 World Cup and then with Sparky (Mark Hughes, for Euro 2004). That desire to get there still burns and I want to do it as a manager."

Giggs has signed a contract until the Qatar World Cup in 2022 and, although he is still deciding the composition of his backroom staff, he left the door wide open to an approach for one of his former Manchester United team-mates.

Paul Scholes or Nicky Butt are regarded as likely options and there will also be talks with Wales technical director Osian Roberts who, with Craig Bellamy, was also seriously considered for the managerial job, about staying on.

Ferguson has spoken to Giggs since his appointment and, as his protege embarks on a first permanent job in management, remains a sounding board.

It is almost four years since Giggs retired after winning his 13th Premier League title but, in working as interim and assistant manager at Manchester United, a UEFA technical adviser and then with a psychologist to help manage the transition from playing, he believes he is now ready.

"When I took over at United for those four games (in 2014), I felt comfortable," he said.

"It felt right. I thought I was ready then but I wasn't. The next couple of years I learned a lot. It was a great apprenticeship but now I am ready to go on my own with Wales. I will do what I did as a player - be professional, give it my all and enjoy it."

Telegraph.co.uk

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport