James Lawton: If Welsh winger needs pointers he should look no further than Giggs

Bale has for some months carried the highest expectations - and with an admirable refusal to submit to the perils of celebrity. Giggs has been doing it for 20 years

It can't be so easy responding to the gravitational force of the earth when you are Gareth Bale and, even after being ushered out of Europe by Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho waits to give you his embrace.

Not when a rather tawdry attempt to steal a penalty is inevitably cast into the margins of another performance filled by a magnetic combination of speed, power and skill, one indeed to give still more substance to the gushing appraisal of Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

In Madrid, they are not short of perspective on football greatness, not after the likes Alfredo di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Zinedine Zidane and now Cristiano Ronaldo, which is something to remember when we read that Bale is equipped with the running rhythm of Steve Ovett, the fierce eye for the jugular of world champion wing three-quarter Bryan Habana and the ball skill of any of the more serious Brazilians.

So where does Bale look, as he frets over every twinge and tweak, for sure footing as he waits to see if he is indeed the next mega transfer deal, the player who according to his knowing team-mate Rafael van der Vaart is capable of injecting terror into any opponent?

It is surely Ryan Giggs. There is, after all, an extraordinary symmetry in the stories of these players born 16 years apart in Cardiff who in their different ways so quickly captured the imagination of football.

Bale for some months now has carried the highest expectations – and with an admirable refusal to submit to the perils of instant celebrity.

Giggs has been doing it for 20 years now and if Bale thinks a heavy burden of expectation has been placed on his shoulders, he need only consider the scale of the one his compatriot ran so brilliantly from beneath when he was several years younger.

Bale has been told that he can inherit the football world. Giggs was told that he was the next George Best, which of course is pretty much the same thing.

But then Giggs was never Best – no one ever will be – and the swift and ferocious declaration of this was not the least evidence that Sir Alex Ferguson not only had a fine eye for outstanding young talent but a sure instinct for how it would best develop.

For several years Ferguson put Giggs into a version of football purdah. He was screened from the world. The details of a fraught family background were not so easily picked over – nor the personal development of a young man who would become a model for avoiding all those pitfalls that in a more innocent age had bedevilled the hauntingly brilliant but tragic Best.

It is ancient history now, perhaps, but no less astounding when you weigh it against the performance of Giggs two decades on, his almost surreal ability to remain so relevant, albeit in a vastly different form, to the best hopes of United.

This week Wayne Rooney, who has probably discounted himself, suggested that a knighthood was surely in the works for his veteran team-mate, which was a poignant reminder of Best's wry comment when he was taken to the cells after being sentenced for a drink-driving offence. "There goes the knighthood," said the genius who never found anything so easy as having a ball at his feet.

If Giggs is a genius – and certainly there is a case to be made – it is in his ability to re-make himself, physically and mentally, with each new challenge.

You could not have reasonably imagined, in his early days as a flying, corkscrewing winger, that in another two decades he would have a huge hand in the three goals that carried United into the semi-finals of the European Cup, goals that were so much the inventions of a man who had nursed his body and his mind through so many of the obstacles thrown up by all the years.

For Ferguson, he is both a gift and a huge challenge. In this season of all seasons he has to simply eke out the last of a great player. He has to draw the line between ambition and inevitable fatigue.

The dilemma comes again at Wembley tomorrow when he picks the side to go against Manchester City, against whom a few weeks ago Giggs had arguably his worst game of the season. But then who better to pick at the composure of a City side who last Monday night displayed the body language of the doomed than the man who this week played such a vital part in tearing away Chelsea's last chance of redemption in a season that had gone horribly wrong?

Bale, who has so much before him, can only marvel at the enduring presence of the running, grafting, crafting legend – and count his example among the many gifts he received back home in Cardiff.



Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
News
Stephen Hawking is reportedly taking steps to trademark his name
people
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor