Ryan Giggs didn't look much at home with "God Save the Queen" when he stood on the Middlesbrough pitch for his Great Britain debut last Friday and it will clearly take something other than the anthem to summon up that passion in him which Wales knows as hwyl. But the captain of Stuart Pearce's side will tackle the last unfulfilled ambition of his playing days – international achievement – when he takes the side out to face Senegal tonight on the turf which he has called home for 21 years.
The disappointments of Giggs' Wales career are more crushing than many realise. "I'm still disappointed I never got to a major championship with Wales, but we weren't good enough to get to a European Championship or World Cup," he said, and it was not just the despair of the last-gasp defeats in Romania and at home to Russia – which denied him a place at the 1994 World Cup finals and the 2004 European Championship – but the sheer, maddening amateurism at times.
Giggs always remembers the day the squad arrived at Stansted, early in the Mark Hughes era, to find that they were fully a ton and a half over their excess baggage allowance. Hughes had to ask 13 of the nation's fans if they would mind catching a later flight, to allow them to get all their gear on board.
Giggs, right, whom Pearce has involved in his coaches' meetings, now seems unburdened in a way that he never was with Wales. The encounter with Dame Kelly Holmes at the Olympic Village two weeks ago was particularly inspiring. "The other day we were with the divers and the swimmers," Giggs added. "You normally wouldn't get a chance to spend time with them."
And, of course, there is not the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson on his shoulder, brooding at the sight of him playing too much football. That factor explained one of the more bizarre statistics of Giggs' Wales career which began in 1991 but didn't include a friendly until March 2000. "Right from the start, he wanted me to be a part of this," Giggs said of Ferguson.
International captaincy seems to fit him better now. His three experiences of it for Wales all brought defeat, not to mention his first ever dismissal on the second of those occasions – a bitter 3-2 defeat in Oslo. "The onus is on me as captain and the most experienced player," Giggs said.
The captain, deployed in central midfield in the warm-up against Brazil on Teesside, provided GB's one opportunity of the 2-0 defeat – a dangerous free-kick which Manchester City's Micah Richards could not convert.
Giggs' compatriot Joe Allen looked perhaps Pearce's sharpest against Brazil, though that performance – with its criminal concessions of possession – put medal aspirations into perspective. Giggs has reached an international finals tournament at last, however, and he won't deny himself the indulgence of discussing medals. "As a footballer, you don't start out in your career hoping to win the Olympics," he said. "You want to win leagues, FA Cups and European Cups. This is different but [any kind of medal] will rank highly. This would be up there. Hopefully, we'll get the chance to go a long way."Reuse content