Ryan Giggs is the man to fire up Wales
IF there’s one thing that could arrest what seems like the terminal decline of the Wales football team it’s the appointment of Ryan Giggs as manager.
And that’s coming from someone who has never been impressed with the contribution someone of his calibre made to his country as a player.
Giggs’ stature in the game – even accounting for the fact he was largely surrounded by far more limited team mates with Wales – suggests he should have had a greater influence on our nation’s fortunes, and certainly won more than 64 caps in the course of a 16-year international career.
But Giggs remains the only Welsh figure who could transform a national set-up that is going nowhere under Chris Coleman and is bedeviled by indifference and a complete lack of realistic hope that improvement is remotely imminent.
The Football Association of Wales know this, and have twice made moves for Giggs.
The FAW’s chief executive Jonathan Ford made his name as a marketing guru. He more than anybody appreciates that Giggs is the type of figure to get the association’s brand on the bedroom walls of youngsters, a situation he covets intensely.
You therefore wonder what Ford makes of the fact Giggs is close to becoming the first man still playing to complete his Uefa Pro Licence coaching qualification, which allows him to oversee teams at Premier League and Champions League level.
Giggs, who has decided to take the course under the aegis of the Football Association at St George’s Park rather than of the Football Association of Wales, will undertake 240 hours of study to gain the qualification – including spending three days at a European club and making a detailed case study of a business. He is expected to secure the badge within the next 12 months after a period at Warwick University’s Business School.
To do this, he will need the approval and support of Sir Alex Ferguson, pictured below, the man Manchester United chairman David Gill says will get a huge say in who succeeds him when Ferguson eventually decides to step down at Old Trafford.
Inevitably then, there is speculation that Giggs, who will play one more season after this one, is being lined up to do just that.
That could well turn out to be presumptuous, but one thing looks crystal clear; Giggs IS heading into management when he hangs up his boots, but doesn’t appear to view the FAW as potential employers.
Good riddance will be the attitude of some football followers in Wales who have never warmed to him for the reasons mentioned above, however fair or unfair they may be.
But if Welsh football cannot utilise Giggs in some way after he has retired, then it will be a criminal waste.
Apart from the marketing spin-offs which would be obvious, Giggs, given the esteem in which he is held by his peers, would have a huge galvanising effect on the national squad.
There will be those who trot out the old ‘great players don’t always make great managers’ line and sure, there’s merit in that.
But I believe Giggs would rally the players around the Welsh cause in the same way the late Gary Speed managed.
It took Speed a while to start turning results around and he clearly had a bit to learn tactically, especially in the international arena.
But Speed’s triumph was that he got his players turning up and performing not just for the badge, but for him too.
The respect he was held in by each and every member of the squad was palpable. It would be the same with Giggs.
I’m not saying current boss Chris Coleman doesn’t command respect, but I see little evidence of the kind of dynamism, the kind of new mood that is needed around the Wales camp to effect an upsurge in results and to get the public to buy into the whole set-up a bit more.
We are heading into an era of arguably unprecedented interest in, and publicity for, Welsh football. But little of it centres around Coleman’s Dragons, who still have only one Gareth Bale-inspired victory over useless Scotland to their name.
The way things are going, promotion-chasing Cardiff City and Swansea City are likely to outgrow the Wales national side with their deeds in the Premier League.
The Swans, of course, are already there. Expect the Bluebirds to join them and face Manchester United.
A United side still managed by Ferguson for the foreseeable future, but for whom Giggs appears to have become a genuine contender as his successor.
Would he really be able to handle the mantle of bossing the world’s biggest club, or do United need a figure of the stature of Jose Mourinho?
Whatever, the Premier League champions will be spoilt for choice.
Wales aren’t. Which is why Giggs matters so much.