Tag Archives: Premier League

Ryan Giggs: Manchester United legend but no red-blooded Taffy

29 Mar

Anyone who thought Welsh football wizard Ryan Giggs would end his self-imposed international retirement and play against England last  Saturday must have been dreaming.

Because when it comes to the Land of His Fathers, Giggs and patriotism have never been particularly close partners.

I’m a big football fan. I am also proudly Welsh. But when it comes to Giggs and his contribution to his country’s cause, that’s where I grab my little red ranting hood.

When our best player Gareth Bale had to drop out of the squad for the England game, the cry went up for Manchester United legend Giggs to step in. He did – but only to show his face and perhaps offer some friendly advice during a family holiday in Cardiff.

Had he been as dedicated to the cause as any true red-blooded Taffy, he’d have stripped off for action there and then. The golden boy may be 37, but he is still as good as any player in Gary Speed’s Wales squad.

The problem is that throughout his career, the Cardiff-born star’s loyalty to the land of his birth has been tenuous, to say the least. And there was as much chance of him saying yes as there was of Speed calling ME into the squad!

Giggs opted out of international football three years ago – and Wales said goodbye to a tragic dragon rather than the magic one who has graced Old Trafford for the last two decades.

Ryan Giggs: No hero for Wales

For me, it was a case of good riddance because I can count the number of outstanding performances he made for his country on one hand, if not one finger.

Those who do not know the full facts believe Giggs chose to play for Wales rather than England.

The reality is that our Ryan was born in Wales of Welsh parentage and has absolutely no English blood.

So the option was never there…even though he did qualify for England Schools courtesy of being educated in Manchester (where I am assured Welsh was not on the curriculum).

Look at the contribution Giggs has made to his ‘beloved’ Wales since leaving his native Cardiff at the age of seven and began speaking more like a Salford scally than a true Taff.

Like myself and millions of other Welsh patriots, I’m sure he is proud of his blood line. But the reality is that everything about him, from his upbringing to his education and subsequent career, is pure English.

I was born in Birmingham but my Welsh father and English mother moved back to Wales when I was a baby and I will always by loyal to the country I regard as my homeland. Giggs is almost the reverse of this…so it would surprise me if his loyalty outside football is entirely to Wales.

I cannot imagine he supports Cardiff Blues at rugby and Glamorgan at cricket, as I do – and I’d just love to know which side he favours when Wales play England in the Six Nations!

Admittedly, the guy has played some blinders for United – and is right up there with the greats of the Premier League. But all those comparisons with George Best are ridiculous – George had tricks Giggs couldn’t live with and unlike his Welsh counterpart, he could do them with both feet.

The thing that irks me about Giggs’s Wales career is that when he condescended to don the real red shirt he invariably either went through the motions or developed a mysterious injury which incredibly cleared up before United’s next game.

For nine years from 1991 he refused to play for Wales in friendlies – missing 18 matches, many of them important build-up games towards major tournament qualifiers. Had he played in even half of those, Wales’s 49-year spell without qualifying for a major tournament may well have ended years ago.

Patriotic Welshmen simply do not refuse to play for their country without a very good reason. Mind you, it might all have been at Sir Alex’s instigation. Now that is a thought.

I’ll have a think about that one…and then maybe I’ll grab my hair-dryer and head for Old Trafford.

Brit-grit Blues show where England should be looking

27 Feb

I used to hate Birmingham City when they were owned by the seedy David Sullivan. But their Carling Cup Final victory over Arsenal had me cheering.

That’s because Alex McLeish’s glory boys proved at Wembley that British footballers can compete with the best in the business. And also that Premier League clubs do NOT need to spend a fortune on continental imports rather than buy the finest young talent from England’s lower divisions.

Anyway as a lifelong footy fan, I thought the Blues fully deserved their victory, even if I could have scored Obafemi Martins’ winning goal myself. I said could have, not would have! To me it was a special occasion when the British bulldog spirit conquered supposedly one of the best club teams in the world.

The experts predicted an easy win for Arsenal – and instead saw them sunk by a Churchillian effort from the boys from the Midlands

Wembley war was won by the true grit of a Birmingham team whose starting line-up included EIGHT players from the UK and Ireland. And that is rare indeed for a Premier League team, the majority of which are packed with megabucks signings from overseas.

Please don’t label me a racist, because that is the last thing I am. But while I love the way Arsenal play – indeed I think they are the best side in the Premier League – they are not an English team.

They are a World XI that just happen to be based in London. Sometimes Arsene Wenger’s team take the field without a single Brit but on Sunday the Frenchman’s World XI did at least have Jack Wilshere in the line-up. (OK, I accept that if Theo Walcott had not been injured, there may have been two Englishmen in the side).

I believe England’s flop in last year’s World Cup was largely due to the fact so few homegrown players feature in the top club sides. And I am convinced things would improve if Premier League bosses stopped buying abroad and started investing in the Championship – the second tier of the English game – which is packed with talented youngsters.

Birmingham centre-back Roger Johnson, one of Sunday’s bruised and battered Carling Cup heroes, is an example of what I mean.

Not because he was my hero before my beloved Cardiff City sold him for £5million a couple of years ago – and not because of the 6ft 3in defender’s special courage in the face of giant odds at Wembley.

Unable to train all week, he hobbled defiantly through the last half-hour after taking a knock that would have seen many lesser players carried off. The fact is that Johnson turned in consistently brilliant performances for Cardiff week after week – yet until Birmingham came in for him, he might as well have been playing on the moon.

Not that we Bluebirds fans were complaining at the lack of interest, of course. While the big boys were looking abroad to strengthen their defences, Roger was lifting us towards the Premier League.

Now, after less than two seasons strutting his stuff at St Andrews, he is probably rated at £20m and being touted as a future England centre-back. What I want to know is why was Johnson not poached by any of the Premier League giants much earlier when he was turning in consistently brilliant performances week after week for Cardiff?

Ironically, a few months before Roger’s move to Birmingham, Wenger had forked out £5m himself for Cardiff teenager Aaron Ramsey. Yet the names of the players that have since moved in at the Emirates continue to be as unspellable as ever. At least Arsenal’s sorry losers still have something to celebrate after their Carling Cup misery.

European Union law is apparently standing in the way of the desire by FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini to impose limits on the number of foreign players in a team.

Perhaps the solution would be a friendly agreement between the Football Association and Premier League clubs to field no more than five or maybe six overseas players in the team at any given time.

But I’m a woman. What do I know about football?