Friday 20 April 2018

Rachel Wyse: It's been a wonderful run from forever - Young Giggs

Welsh Wizard has displayed guts and guile to stay at top level for so long

Alex Ferguson deserves enormous credit for protecting Ryan Giggs in the early stages of his career
Alex Ferguson deserves enormous credit for protecting Ryan Giggs in the early stages of his career
Jonathan Trott

Years from now, when a generation hears the name Ryan Giggs, will it bring to mind a curly-haired wonder kid dancing his way past defenders or will the mind recall a greying man, two days shy of his 40th birthday, helping Manchester United claim another victory in a Champions League clash?

The Welshman has had a remarkable career, one decorated with almost every honour in the game, but surely the feat of surviving at the top level for such a long time is his single most remarkable achievement.

Meaningful longevity is scarce in the top echelons of our sporting world. We have all seen great talents in every sport; talents that never fulfilled their potential. They burn away as quickly as they emerge.

Giggs longevity, for one so gifted, has required remarkable discipline. For all his natural ability, he never lost sight of the ethos that propels the good to great.

Remember the early days and comparisons to George Best? People identified the dangers for one so young as easily as they recognised Giggs' genius.

Alex Ferguson deserves massive credit for protecting his player against the trappings of fame and fortune that stalled numerous careers in their infancy.

Giggs was clearly disciplined enough to buy into Ferguson's regime and a love of the game, aligned with fierce determination, has helped deliver a career spanning 23 seasons.

And still he goes on.

His legs aren't as quick as they once were, but his brain compensates for the effects of father time.

His guile and natural ability shone like a beacon in the BayArena on Wednesday night.

PRESSURE

After an inconsistent start to the season, the game with Bayer Leverkusen was a critical juncture in United's season.

Defeat would have heaped substantial pressure on the new regime at Old Trafford.

David Moyes turned to those on whom he could depend and, not for the first time, Giggs didn't let his boss down as he dictated proceedings from midfield.

For him, it was probably just another game. After wearing the United strip in over 900 senior games, he has seen and done it all. He has met the demands of a great club and of a great manger during their most successful time.

No one had higher standards than Ferguson. Players came and went – great players, who, in Ferguson's eye, lost something over time. And when they did, they were gone.

For Giggs to remain ever-present in such an environment required traits that no words could adequately do justice to.

Maybe the numbers do it best – 21 The only player to have appeared and scored in the 21 Premier Leagues up to this season; 2 Champions League winners' medals; 4 FA Cups; 4 League Cups; 13 Premier League titles; 64 caps for Wales; 168 Goals for United; 952 Manchester United appearances, the most in the club's history.

Ferguson tells a very good story about an Italian agent ringing him up in the late 1990s and asking what his children did and, after hearing the United manager's answer, declaring: "Sell me Giggs and I'll make them rich."

He ended the conversation with customary haste. A good manager – an even better judge too. And so he remains Ryan Giggs of Manchester United. Forever young. Forever brilliant.

TROTT PROVES HE'S 'CHAMPION OF A MAN'

Mental illness has no boundaries. It doesn't much care whether you are sweeping the streets or making millions playing sports in front of the eyes of the world. No one is immune.

There is a body of thought that would have you believe that someone who earns way more than the industrial wage and enjoys a lovely lifestyle pursuing a career most can only dream about could never suffer from a mental illness. Any problem could and should be solved with a kick up the backside and good stern talking to.

Such ignorance is frightening. Unfortunately, these problems aren't caused by the presence or, indeed, lack of material items in a person's life. We all know unhappy rich people and people who have very little but epitomise contentment.

Usually the problems are not evident to the eye. They rest in a far deeper place. Often it's an issue from early life. People know something isn't right within themselves, but carry on. Initially, we take the easy way; besides, there are expectations to be met. Slaves to perceptions, determined to conform.

Through the ups and downs of life, maybe nothing is apparent. But some day it will come to the surface.

England cricketer Jonathan Trott knew such a day this week. His departure from the England squad after the first Ashes Test has been divisive. Trott was described as "weak and poor" by Aussie cricketer David Warner during a press conference following their first defeat in Brisbane.

Some would say – and I would agree – that Trott's willingness to admit, in front of a global audience, that he was suffering with problems is the complete opposite to a display of weakness.

Whatever the issue, it takes real strength to face internal conflicts. The journey brings people to a place where the levels of honesty are brutal. It's frightening. And unless people have been there, or have the courage to travel such a path, condemning those who suffer is a nasty trait.

This is a story that will have touched many people. A topic that is slowly becoming easier for society to discuss. The key now is that such a conversation focuses on the important aspects of the problem and doesn't get side-tracked by peripheral issues. For those struggling to understand or are sceptical in their belief, they too can play a role in such a conversation.

Please listen. Open your mind. Don't judge. Don't pass comments. If you don't understand it, don't try hiding your fear with ignorance.

On Monday, Marcus Trescothick joined Jim White and myself on the set on Sky Sports News to discuss what had become the biggest story in the newsroom.

Trescothick experienced a similar situation in Australia in 2006. He left the team due to depression. Trying to put his feelings at the time into words, Trescothick said: "It's a really tough one, until people have experienced mental health issues; it's really hard to explain.

"There's no respite from feeling depressed, feeling upset and not being in the right frame of mind. It sits with you most of the day. It does ease off slightly towards the evening time – sometimes. But it just consumes everything you do from sitting here having a conversation to trying to watch TV and acknowledge what's actually going on when actually your not really focusing on the TV at all."

There are many sportsmen and women that I admire for their achievements, for their determination, for their charisma, the list goes on. In Trescothick's case, I admire him for his ability to share with others the difficulties of depression in sport.

Trescothick, Michael Yardy and now Trott – high-profile examples of athletes who have had to publicly deal with similar circumstances in cricket.

Anyone trying to deal with issues in their life, such as those Trott is facing, know really difficult times. And while Trott is famous in his field, be under no illusions that his difficulty is no greater or less than for those who walk the street with anonymity.

There isn't a first-class ticket available for the journey ahead. Money won't lessen or ease the pain of these issues. Thankfully, he knows he needs help, and when someone has the courage to ask for assistance, there is always hope.

The process may well be slow, but he is a man headed in the right direction.

Following his request to travel home, Trott's England team-mate Stuart Broad described him as a champion of a man. How right he is. And he isn't alone. Those who know his pain are all champions.

Irish Independent

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