Ryan Hedges: I wanted to be Ryan Giggs… now he’s helping me get better
Aberdeen winger Ryan Hedges has described the “learning curve” of training under icon Ryan Giggs.
Hedges has been called back into the Wales boss’ squad for their September 6 Euro 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan and friendly against Belarus three days later, both in Cardiff.
He earned his first international start in a 1-0 friendly win against Trinidad and Tobago at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground in March under the Manchester United legend.
The 24-year-old was also in the Algarve in May for a training camp with the Welsh squad.
Hedges, who joined Derek McInnes’ Dons on a free from Barnsley and has impressed with his pace and left-footed deliveries into the box, previously revealed Giggs encouraged him to swap the Tykes for the Reds as regular club game time will increase his Wales chances.
The boyhood United fan is delighted to have continued chances to work with a mentor he “wanted to be” growing up.
Hedges said: “Especially when I was younger, I always wanted to emulate Ryan Giggs. He was somebody I wanted to be.
“As I grew up, it was Ronaldo, then the likes of Gareth Bale.
“It’s been a great learning curve when I do go away. I take anything I can from that type of player and try to better myself.”
Hedges says it was initially quite surreal to meet someone he’d idolised like Giggs, who was appointed after Chris Coleman departed the Welsh hotseat.
With his supreme pedigree as a winger – Giggs won the Premier League 13 times with the Red Devils, as well as two European Cups over close to 700 appearances – the boss has gone out of his way to pass on guidance for Hedges to improve his game.
Hedges said: “I met him when I first made the squad.
“It was quite a surreal experience to meet Ryan Giggs, and to be called into his first squad was a huge honour.
“I really like him.
“He knows what he wants from his players, especially wingers, and can help you wherever he can and does, which is good.”
The Red Army will hope some of Giggs’ knowledge can help Hedges continue to star for both his country and Aberdeen.
Hedges scored his first Aberdeen goal – a thumping late winner – in the Premiership-opening 3-2 win over Hearts on August 4.
He has made nine appearances for the Dons so far this term and will likely start against Ross County at Pittodrie on Saturday before leaving for Wales duty the next day.
In the international squad, he will be joined by the likes of Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, although Juventus and former Arsenal playmaker Aaron Ramsey has withdrawn as he continues his comeback from a hamstring injury.
Hedges – who started his senior career at Flint Town United before four years at Swansea City which saw him loaned out to Leyton Orient, Stevenage and Yeovil – is among world-famous names.
Bale’s summer on-then-off-again departure from the Bernabeu was global news, while Hedges’ arrival at Pittodrie would’ve barely registered outside of Scotland.
However, Hedges says he cannot afford to let himself get “starstruck” by these players when he joins up with Wales, because it would be a distraction from the main aim – turning round a qualifying campaign which has brought one win and two losses thus far.
The winger said: “Obviously they (Bale and Ramsey) are huge names.
“But they’re your team-mates, so you can’t be too starstruck by them.
“You need to share a pitch with them at the end of the day.
“Wales have got a very good group on the whole.
“There are no egos and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing for domestically, everyone’s pulling the same weight internationally to try to achieve the same thing.”