How Class of 92 is driving Ryan Giggs' Wales dream
Ryan Giggs has outlined how the Manchester United Class of 92 under Sir Alex Ferguson is helping drive his Wales dream.
The famous crop of young stars Ferguson brought through, including Giggs, David Beckham and Paul Scholes, forged a fabulous team spirit and helped the Old Trafford giants to an unprecedented period of success in the Premier League and Europe.
And Giggs is hoping a similar youth mantra with Wales will engage a nation and see the national team reach Euro 2020 and the World Cup in Qatar two years further down the line.
Giggs has brought in a youth revolution since becoming Wales boss, phasing out many of the senior stars and picking a richly talented crop of teenagers and early twentysomethings.
The Welsh team that started the recent 2-1 Euro win over Azerbaijan had an average age of just 24 for the outfield players, meaning the likes of Dan James, Ethan Ampadu, Harry Wilson, Connor Roberts, Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon have more than a decade ahead of them in the team.
David Brooks, Ben Woodburn and Rabbi Matondo are other youngsters Giggs wants in the mix and he cited the Fergie influence as part of the dream.
Speaking at the Cardiff Breakfast Club, which is jointly sponsored by the Western Mail, Giggs reflected upon how Ferguson first spotted him score a hat-trick for United under-12s against their under-15s side.
He told a packed event at Sophia Gardens it was the 'only hat-trick I scored in my career' and recalls Ferguson coming up to congratulate him.
"The first thing that stood out was that he knew my name," Giggs told Breakfast Club members as he spoke about football and leadership in the business world.
"His philosophy was to get to know the younger players and those around them. I was 13, yet he comes up and talks to you.
"Because of his accent I didn't understand what he said for about 10 years. I would just nod and say 'Yes boss, yes boss!'
"He's obviously the biggest influence on my career. Gave me my chance at 17, part of his attitude to the game was to give younger players a chance.
"When younger players come into a side, the older players are motivated, too. Suddenly you have a whippersnapper taking you on in training, or trying to kick you. That brings you back to what you were like at that age, youngsters play play with no fear and with a smile on their faces.
"I'm lucky to have a good crop of young players coming through, they get the Welsh fans excited. But the older players help out and that's just as important. So, even if he's not playing, Ashley Williams will be there offering advice to Joe Rodon and that's great to see.
"Top of my bucket list is helping Wales reach a major finals with them.
"The players and fans went on an amazing ride to get to the last Euros, then did so well out there.
"The fans were great before, but that success captured the imagination of everybody - not only football fans, but rugby ones too.
"It's like football fans watching the Rugby World Cup today. If we get to the final a Welsh nation will be riding a massive wave of emotion.
"It affects a generation. When eight, nine, ten year olds are watching their national football team at a major Championship they want to take up the game, or see more of that."
Continuing his theme of the Ferguson influence on his own management style with Wales, Giggs said: "What I learned from Sir Alex is that everyone is different. Some players need a rocket, I certainly got that a few times. But footballers are different today, you can't shout every day because you won't get a reaction.
"Sometimes they need it, sometimes they want it. At half-time, if they're not performing well, I will tell them.
"The hardest bit of the job for me is that I only get the players for limited time, so you have to try to communicate with them as best possible within that time.
"Whether you leave someone out, bring someone on as a sub, whatever, the best policy is to be honest with them. They may not always like the decision, but they'll remember the reasons you give. If I leave someone out for a particular reason, yet pick someone else for that same reason, they'll remember and point it out. So be honest.
"I always ask players 'Are you happy with what we're doing?' They're the ones who have to go out and do it on the pitch.
"Communication is key in everything. We're playing Slovakia next week and I've been watching them for two to three months. The players will get eight to 10 minutes at a team meeting to see them. You have to make everything as clear as possible in that time."
Giggs said he loves his job as Wales boss, but asked about the the worst thing he said: "November to March, when there is no game and we have lost the last one. It's not nice having to stew on it for five months."
Wales' final November fixture this year is Hungary at Cardiff City Stadium. Hopefully it will be a Wales win to cement a place at the Euros - and Giggs can look ahead to March 2020 with a spring in his step, instead of stewing.
Ryan Giggs was popular guest speaker at Cardiff Breakfast Club, which is sponsored by the Western Mail, Stills Branding, Lloyds Banking Group, Effective Communication and Blake Morgan.