Just how do you stop Ryan Giggs?


Last updated at 12:57 25 May 2007

Saturday sees one of the Premiership's all-time greatest players looking to add to his staggering collection of 16 major honours, including nine League titles.

Ryan Giggs has not only been a great footballer, but an amazing role model for kids, a player who has been loyal and dedicated to one club, a player who has almost solely appeared on the sports pages, a player who has adapted his game to compete at the top and a player who seems happy just to play football without courting all that could go with it.

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When Giggs burst on to the scene as a scrawny teenager, it was obvious the lad had incredible talent, the ability to dribble at pace and ghost past defenders.

I remember watching Giggs in his early days and thinking: "Oh my god, if I played against him I'd get murdered." He's quick, has great feet and can go past you on either side.

But I also remember a lot of critics saying that sometimes his end product or final ball didn't match the rest of his talent. He was only 17!

Under the protection and stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson, he grew as a footballer. We always talk about left-footed players, saying: "He's got a great left foot."

But Giggs is much more than that. He would torment defenders, twisting them this way and that. And I had some first-hand experience of it.

Unlike Ronaldo, who uses a multitude of tricks, Giggs would use his whole body to unbalance you, the ball didn't move much but his swaying from side to side would leave you not knowing which way he was going to accelerate - and unpredictability is the most difficult quality to defend against.

It was also infuriating that however many heavy tackles you put in on him he never used to get riled or let it affect him - he would just jump up and demand the ball again so he could have another go at you. He looked skinny, but he had a strong heart.

He is also physically incredibly strong and this, combined with such balance, makes kicking not an option either. Several wingers, like David Ginola or Marc Overmars, were known to go missing if you got stuck into them.

In more recent years, Ryan's football intelligence has grown and matured and now he is no longer just a left winger but can play almost anywhere. This adaptation has prolonged such a great career, allowing him to play at the highest level for so long.

I also believe that being Welsh has helped this. I realise he has played plenty of internationals, but while most of his team-mates were playing lots of extra games in tournament football during summer breaks, Giggs has for the most part had his summers off to relax.

This is not just a physical help but mentally it leaves you fresh, so when you return to pre-season you can't wait to play again.

For his team-mates who maybe only had three weeks off, when you get to November time it starts to take its toll. And when the mind becomes tired your game can suffer badly.

Earlier this week I watched as he lifted yet another Premiership title. It wasn't a moment of envy, but a moment of inspiration.

For me this season has been one of frustration, after going on loan to Hull to play some first-team football and then picking up an injury and missing the transfer window. I have now come to a crucial point in my career.

Not playing has made me realise just how badly I want to play football, and Premiership football at that. Seeing Giggs lift another trophy made me realise how his hunger for success has never waned and made me realise that mine hasn't either.

With changes plentiful at Manchester City I'm desperate to fight my way back into the first team. It's a fresh start for everyone and I have several points to prove.

At least I can say I have one thing in common with Ryan Giggs, even if it is only his desire to be the best he can.

Giggs is without doubt one of the best left-sided players who has ever played. As a right back I've played against some of the best so, believe me, I'm fully qualified to make that judgment.

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