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Lessons in life from Ryan Giggs’ longevity and the relatively short list of team-mates

Posted on 1 March 2011 | 10:03am

Come on, be fair, it is ages since I did a blog on football. There is only so much I can say about David Cameron’s muddled foreign policy, his failure to explain the Big Society, or the ideological drive behind the cuts, which takes George Osborne into The Guardian today, rather defensively peddling a variation on his thinning ‘all Labour’s fault’ line of attack.

But in the same paper, the most interesting article of the day is about football and I feel moved to blog about it. It is a list. I love lists. They weed out the opinion of the journalist and allow you to give free rein to your own.

The list is of all the Manchester United players Ryan Giggs has played alongside in his 20 remarkable years with the club. And the first surprise is how short it is.

Just 131 players. In 862 matches. There are many ways of recognising Alex Ferguson’s abilities as a manager. But Giggs’ longevity and, in these days of enormous squads, that relatively small number of team-mates, are two of them.

Some of the 131 can be named immediately by football fans and non-fans alike, names that have entered the language, like Ronaldo, Beckham , Cantona, Neville(s), Scholes, Keane, Schmeichel. One or two – Gerard Pique at Barcelona being the most obvious, and maybe also Diego Forlan – have found greater success away from Old Trafford. One or two – Jaap Stam the most obvious here – have been allowed to go and after a while the manager has wished they hadn’t.

Some are still around, and active in management, like Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Laurent Blanc, Ole Gunnar Solskaer, Mark Robins, Paul Ince and Alex’s son Darren.

Some – Chris Eagles, Richard Eckersley, Phil Bardsley, Luke Chadwick, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Lee Roche, Andy Cole (hat-trick v QPR) and David May – went on to greater things, namely spells with Burnley. En route May managed to get into my diaries, in the photo behind Fergie on the night of his first Champions League triumph in Barcelona. He may not have played but he sure knew how to get in on the act! Giggs is in the diaries too, when he came out for Labour’s plans for devolution – another reason to like him.

Interesting that no fewer than eight of Giggs’ team-mates ended up at Burnley. Must remember to sing ‘you are our feeder club’ the next time we play them. One came the other way, and he is a reminder of just how long Giggs has been around – Mike Phelan, now Fergie’s Number 2.

Some in the list are largely forgotten amid the star names, like goalkeepers Massimo Taibi, Kevin Pilkington and Mark Bosnich, or players like Michael Clegg, Gary Walsh, Michael Stewart, Phil Mulryne, Ian Wilkinson, Mark Wilson, Nick Culkin, John Curtis, William Prunier. But they will always be able to say they played for Manchester United alonsgside Ryan Giggs.

Having seen one great match on Saturday – Burnley’s 2-1 win at Preston – I am hoping for another tonight when I go along to Stamford Bridge with those of my children (alas the majority) who have opted to support United ahead of Burnley.

But at least as they look at Ryan Giggs they will be able to look at a genuine role model in a sport where so many are anything but. Let’s hope he nutmegs Ashley Cole (am looking forward to the United fans shouting ‘shooooot’ whenever Chelsea’s left-back gets the ball); let’s hope someone whispers ‘loyalty’ to Fernando Torres; and let’s hope someone gets near enough to Roman Abramovich to sing ‘I don’t care too much for money … money can’t buy me all the titles I thought it would.’

Fergie is the master. Giggs is one of his true greats. The list is a great read.

A Anderson

B Phil Bardsley, Fabien Barthez, Russell Beardsmore, Bébé, David Beckham, David Bellion, Dimitar Berbatov, Henning Berg, Clayton Blackmore, Laurent Blanc, Jesper Blomqvist, Mark Bosnich, Wes Brown, Steve Bruce, Nicky Butt

C Fraizer Campbell, Eric Cantona, Michael Carrick, Chris Casper, Roy Carroll, Luke Chadwick, Michael Clegg, Andy Cole, Terry Cooke, Jordi Cruyff, Nick Culkin, John Curtis

D Simon Davies, Fabio da Silva, Rafael da Silva, Ritchie De Laet, Mame Biram Diouf, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Bojan Djordjic, Mal Donaghy, Dion Dublin

E Chris Eagles, Richard Eckersley, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra

F Rio Ferdinand, Darren Ferguson, Darren Fletcher, Diego Forlán, Quinton Fortune, Ben Foster

G Darron Gibson, Keith Gillespie, Andy Goram, Jonathan Greening

H Owen Hargreaves, David Healy, Gabriel Heinze, Javier Hernández, Danny Higginbotham, Tim Howard, Mark Hughes

I Paul Ince, Denis Irwin

J Ronny Johnsen

K Andrei Kanchelskis, Roy Keane, Kleberson, Tomasz Kuszczak

L Henrik Larsson

M Federico Macheda, Lee Martin (90s), Lee Martin (00s), Manucho, David May, Brian McClair, Liam Miller, Philip Mulryne

N Nani, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Erik Nevland

OGabriel Obertan, John O’Kane, John O’Shea, Michael Owen

P Gary Pallister, Park Ji-sung, Paul Parker, Mike Phelan, Kevin Pilkington, Gerard Piqué, Karel Poborsky, Rodrigo Possebon, William Prunier, Danny Pugh

R Felipe Ricardo, Kieran Richardson, Mark Robins, Bryan Robson, Lee Roche, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Giuseppe Rossi

S Louis Saha, Peter Schmeichel, Lee Sharpe, Teddy Sheringham, Paul Scholes, Les Sealey, Alan Smith, Mikaël Silvestre, Danny Simpson, Chris Smalling, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jonathan Spector, Jaap Stam, Michael Stewart

T Massimo Taibi, Carlos Tevez, Zoran Tosic

V Antonio Valencia, Raimond van der Gouw, Nemanja Vidic Edwin van der Sar, Ruud van Nilstelrooy, Juan Sebastián Verón,

W Danny Wallace, Ronnie Wallwork, Gary Walsh, Neil Webb, Danny Welbeck, Ian Wilkinson, Mark Wilson

Y Dwight Yorke

  • Lovely post. As the man at my local off licence says, claret is just another shade of red ;-).

  • Hope Marshall

    Well done on getting through the whole thing without mentioning that you beat United at Turf Moor last year. Well done too on your support for your club to the end of your hammering atWest Ham last week. ESPN caught you singing like a madman … enjoyed it.

  • Colin Hinde

    Giggs is also a product of Fergie’s greatness in other ways. He could easily have gone off the rails. That he didn’t is as much about the manager as it is about his own qualities.

  • Harry Hillyard

    If he had come out for the Tories would you have been as nice about him?

  • Richard

    What a shame that politicians do not retire at the top of their game, or thereabouts. Giggs will leave in triumph: who was the last PM who left No 10 other than in disgrace? The truth is that after a number of years at the top, like footballers whose skills wain, politicians judgement wains. This, after they have packed their cabinet with people who present no threat to them, results in their falling flat on their face in the eyes of the public.
    Managers and the paying public tell a footballer when the time has come. Political advisers recognise that the fall of their boss will result in their own loss of office, so they all cling on to power.

  • Ann

    Haven’t you got any work to do?

  • Olli Issakainen

    George Osborne is recycling old 24-carat rubbish in the Guardian.
    The structural deficit of 2.7% before the crisis was, of course, lower than the 2.9% inherited from the Major administration. Debt was also lower.
    The difference between Labour and the Tory-led government when it comes to cuts and tax rises is, in fact, £40bn. The cuts are ideological as they will not be reversed when the books have been balanced. David Cameron has also said that he wants to replace Big Government.
    The £2.5bn bank levy is only 0.075% of the balance sheets. Those who caused the “mess” should pay their fair share for it. It is morally wrong to make the low and middle earners to pay for the casino capitalism. The profits of this game were always private, so why should the losses be public?
    If Mr Osborne already has a plan B, why has Sir Gus O´Donnell asked him to get one?
    Nobel-winners Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz oppose Mr Osborne´s plans. Mr Osborne is not a trained economist. He really does not have a plan B as he has painted himself into a corner. He cannot lower the interest rates as they are already at 0.5%, and he cannot ask the BoE for a new round of quantitative easing because of high inflation.
    Professor David Blanchflower and Martin Wolf of the FT also oppose Mr Osborne. At Davos, Tim Geithner was also against drastic cuts.
    Britain´s public finances before the crisis caused by banks were in better shape than under John Major. Both IFS and C4 have confirmed that the deficit was caused by bank bailouts and recession.
    Why it is so difficult to accept the truth?
    The Tory-led government is using lies and fear to get its ideological cuts through. It tries to create an atmosphere of a crisis.
    But the debt is still relatively low. Interest payments only represent a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to pension funds etc. within Britain as the bulk of the debt is owned by Britons.
    David Cameron has shown that he is for turning. There is still time to get a U-turn on the oversized cuts if the majority that already agrees with Labour speaks out.
    Recent events in the Middle East have shown that it is the ordinary people who have the real power – if they want to!

    Ps. During the 1972-73 season we (BFC) used only a handful of players. So it seems that the route to success in football is to have a settled side and consistency.

  • Fabulous footy post! And that’s from a Chelsea fan…hubby will like this as is from nearby Oldham. Even a Latics fan can appreciate the lifelong work of a true great – thanks for this one Alastair.

  • Steve Cooke

    Since you digressed from football, I feel obliged to reply. Last week, RBS announced losses of £1.13 billion. I may have missed it but I don’t remember seeing people queuing up to take their money out. When you have the BoE as “lender of last resort”, banks simply cannot just collapse. Therefore the bank bailout idiocy of the previous Labour govt. was TOTALLY unnecessary. GB should have just carried on with his “light-touch” policy & let the banks sort themselves out. I find it quite ridiculous that some people think 2 wrongs (bank bailout & therefore huge deficit) make a right. Dumb & Dumber is a more accurate way of describing it.


  • Richard

    ” Interest payments only represent a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to pension funds etc. within Britain……..”? (What percentage of this money is from abroad?) So it doesn’t matter how big the debt, then, or how large the interest payments. Now we get it.

    Where did you get that one from? Now we see your strategy: Taxation at any level is good and the more money which is removed from the pockets of the public, the more is in the hands of government, and nanny knows best how to spend it.

    Some would say that this takes money out of the economy which hard working families cannot otherwise afford to pay. But for you the big spending nanny state is the goal.

    Over and out.

  • Olli Issakainen

    According to the National Audit Office report the £850bn for the banks was justified to head off the potential damage of one or more going bust and to preserve people´s savings plus to maintain confidence in financial system. The long-term bill for the rescue to taxpayers is estimated at £20bn-£50bn. Shares were bought, the BoE provided liquidity support, wholesale borrowing was guaranteed, loans were provided and insurance covered.

  • Dave Simons

    I don’t think anyone wants a big-spending ‘nanny’ state – at least I’ve yet to meet a positive advocate. It’s about time this sort of Daily Mail rubbish got knocked in the head once and for all, so that people like you stop parroting it. It’s in the same league as Labour Council ‘person-holes’, and in the good old Tory-supporting tradition of the Zinoviev letter of 1924. Apart from the unsubtle sexism of the expression ‘nanny state’ the idea that Labour supporters want a top-down bureaucratic state that does everything for everyone is a complete myth and certainly shows a complete ignorance of the history of the Labour Party. The idea of a safety net is different, and the minimum wage is an example of its application. But original pre-Stalinist ideas of socialism made much of people using their own initiative and employing their own resources, not being part of any kind of dependency culture. The latter boomed during Margaret Thatcher’s years in office when unemployment lost its stigma and became a normality. Also in a situation where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer you can hardly blame people for wanting to get a bit back by fair means or foul. I think Labour needs to tackle this mythology and stop letting the Tories appear to be the party of individualism,initiative, standing on your own feet, etc.

  • Ehtch

    Giggs at Manchester United is incredible, and looks as if he will be a one-club man, and what a club to do it at, especially with how it is in this day and age.

    Two players that stick in my mind, not that well known, is the full-backs Denis Irwin and Nigel Winterbottom – unfussy pros that no doubt were right up Alex Ferguson’s street. There should be more of them about I say.

    And well done to Alex Ferguson for looking after Giggs over the years, even if he did not play for Wales as many times as others due to it. Think someone said that one game for Wales was equivalent to five for Man U for him, due the extra work on the pitch he had to do, so is understandable.

  • Ehtch

    OOPS! Nigel Winterburn was Arsenal, wasn’t he. But still.

  • Ehtch

    Might as well post this, Alastair, if you do not mind, Ryan Giggs and his hairy chest v. The Arse, a cracking goal,

  • Ehtch

    Sorry to bore you again, but the marvellous Brian Glover in Ken Loach’s Kes, from 1969,

  • Ehtch

    Fred Trueman, one heck of an England bowler,

  • Quinney

    Giggs was at city’s academy and at one minute past midnight on his 16th birthday Ferguson knocked on his mum’s door and wouldn’t leave until Giggs had signed professional forms for United.

  • Steve Cooke

    I like the way you just throw out the figures like they are just small change. £850 bn – at least £200 bn more than the budget. It wouldn’t be so bad if the UK is a rich country. But it is not. All Brown/Darling had to do was say the BoE would cover the banks WITHOUT any bailouts because that’s the function of the central bank.Savings were safe without any limit because that’s the whole logic of banking, create £75 of lendings with every £100 of deposits. If savings were not safe, then neither were loans.mortgages & other outgoings. Even now, with all that bailout, banks haven’t changed the basic logic & more importantly central banks haven’t made them change it. Like I said, DUMB & DUMBER.

  • Quinney

    An absolute classic……

  • Ehtch

    More bore, another bit of brilliant Manchester, New Order, and my favorite track and mix from them. Bit like how Ryan Giggs plays footie – simply brilliant,

  • Ehtch

    And talking of Burnley, Alastair, where the highest sales of Bénédictine in the UK is, the Belgium abbey drink, brought home to Burnley where “the pals” from Burnley were based in World War one, in those stinking trenches,

  • Ehtch

    Talking of sport, good luck to the Llanelli Scarlets tomight in Dublin. : )