Eleven titles in 20 years at the top – Giggs is a one-off
Sunday 10 October 2010
He is almost certainly the last of a breed, in more ways than one. It seems inconceivable that any player in future could emulate Ryan Giggs in playing for 20 years at one of the country's top clubs, let alone winning 11 Premier League titles. While too modest to admit it could never happen, he agrees that what we will certainly never see again is the emergence of a whole clutch of mainly local lads like the second wave of Manchester United babes ("Fergie's fledglings" was just too contrived a title) who made their name in the club's youth teams of the early Nineties.
John Terry, for instance, would need to be playing at Chelsea until 2018, aged 38, to match Giggs' longevity. As for half a first team materialising from one academy, the chances are these days – even at United – that half of them would be foreign. No, the names of Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, the Neville brothers and Paul Scholes are destined to go down as the last of their kind.
"It won't happen again," said Giggs, who has been reliving his United career in a new book. "And those that didn't make it went out and had careers as well, so it was a special team. But for six players to come through the youth system is unheard of and it's a great way for fans to associate themselves with these players because they've seen them in the youth team and the reserves."
Beckham was the first to depart, falling foul of Sir Alex Ferguson after a mere 265 League games in 10 years; Butt (270) went a year later, in 2004, and Phil Neville (263) 12 months after that. Does Giggs reminisce much with his fellow survivors Gary Neville and Scholes? "No, we talk more about what we are going to do when we finish rather than what we have done. We have got stories and times when we've had great banter and we talk about that all the time but we don't talk about what we've achieved. I'm sure if we meet in a pub in five years' time then we will talk about that then."
As to those future plans: "I am halfway through my A licence and I want to make sure I've got all my qualifications before I do anything, or go into coaching or management. I've not really given it much thought." As he revealed in this newspaper a year ago and confirmed last week, managing Wales would be an ultimate aim, but there was no approach to him following John Toshack's recent resignation.
Looking back from this distance, it is easy to assume that all has been sweetness and light as a one-club man, though he admits that has not necessarily been the case. "I think it's hard sometimes. For me, there's not been many times when I've not been getting picked. There's the odd time where there's a loss of form or you're dropped or you don't play the odd game but I knew that if I played well I would get back in. But some players like Phil Neville and Nicky Butt, who are great friends of mine, I wanted them to stay but I would never have told them to stay because there are different circumstances. I think players move round a little bit too much, but again I've always played at a club that has always won things and always been up there. So others might want to go to a bigger club and who am I to say they shouldn't do?"
While he stays, and, like Scholes, continues impressing Ferguson, more milestones are in sight: Sir Bobby Charlton's club record of 606 League appearances is only a dozen away. But another birthday – his 37th – is looming too. Time and tide refuse to wait for even the football greats.
'Ryan Giggs: My Life, My Story' (Headline, £20)
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