Before I start this rant, let me get one thing straight: I have nothing against Ryan Giggs.
Yes, he's been a Manchester United player for 95 years. (He's been around so long that he's the only player to have scored in every season since the Premier League began in 1992.)
Yes, he scored that goal against my club, Arsenal, in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final, where he ran the length of the field five teams, beating 34 players and evading a flurry of surface-to-surface missiles in doing so. (But karma evened things out: he blasted over an open goal in a 2003 FA Cup tie against us at Old Trafford, an occurrence forever immortalised in the chant 'Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, missed an open goal'; Arsenal went on to lift the trophy in Cardiff that season.)
And, yes, he celebrated that goal in '99 by whipping off his shirt and displaying a chest rug that Chewbacca would have been proud of, an unnecessary display of unsightly hirsuteness which gives me nightmares to this day. (Ugh.)
Nonetheless, it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge all the great things about Ryan Giggs: one of the greatest players of modern times never to have been to a major championship finals with his country (Wales); a player of lethal pace, skill and trickery who has terrorised defenders for the best part of two decades (without resorting to the kind of histrionics employed by a certain Portuguese teammate); a one-club man and a model pro. The sight of Giggs streaking down the wing at full tilt with the ball apparently glued to his feet used to terrify me; God only knows what effect he had on full backs.
With hindsight, it is amazing that Giggs had never previously been honoured by his fellow pros as the PFA Player of the Year - until last night.
And therein lies the source of my annoyance this morning: Ryan Giggs, Player of the Year?
While it's true that football is increasingly about business and less about sporting passion, there was clearly something unequivocally emotional about Giggs being given this award.
Some stats: 24 Premier League games this season, but only 12 starts; one league goal (admittedly a classic against West Ham); one Champions League goal; one Carling Cup goal. Giggs has been an invaluable asset to Man U with his skill and experience this season, but rarely has he been a match-winner.
Is that really the profile of the Premier League's best player this year?
Better than Steven Gerrard, who has 21 goals in all competitions (13 in the league)? Better than Frank Lampard - 19 goals and a model of consistent excellence - who didn't even make the shortlist? Better than Mark Schwarzer and Brad Friedel, who have been the Premier League's best goalkeepers this season?
I don't think so.
Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased that Giggs has received this long overdue recognition from his peers. But surely it would have made more sense if he had been given some kind of Lifetime Achievement award, rather than this sentimental twaddle. It makes no sense, and it undermines the validity of the PFA Awards as a whole. (And don't even get me started on the nonsense of a shortlist that included Edwin van der Sar, just because he set a new record for clean sheets by dint of playing behind the Premier League's best defence.)
Should he play some part in this week's Champions League semi-final first leg against (irony of ironies) Arsenal, it will be Ryan Giggs' 800th Man U game. That alone is testament to both his longevity and his enduring ability in what is increasingly - Giggs is 35 - a young man's game. If he does feature on Wednesday, I will applaud his 800th appearance ... and cross my fingers that I won't be seeing his 148th goal.
Well done, Ryan. You certainly deserved an award (several, really) for everything you have done in your career. Just not the one you received last night.
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3 years ago