Ryan Giggs has Olympic call for footballing reasons
In the fall-out since David Beckham’s Olympic omission, Manchester United veteran Ryan Giggs’ selection has largely gone untrumpeted.
It is believed the final choice for one of the three over-age players in the Great Britain football squad came down to a straight fight between United’s two former team-mates.
Having chosen City’s Micah Richards and Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy, Stuart Pearce had one spot to fill – and the illustrious pair from the Reds’ Treble-winning team had to, metaphorically, slug it out.
GB coach Pearce has put his head on the chopping block as Beckham’s London 2012 supporters lament his exclusion. But for many, the fact Pearce ignored the Becks’ shout, has been eased by including the Premier League’s best-ever player in Giggs.
Old Trafford’s No 1 appearance-maker, with 21 years’ senior service for the Reds, will now be involved in a July 20 friendly at the Riverside against Brazil.
Then it could be an emotional whistle-stop tour in the Games group section for the 38-year-old, starting off at his Old Trafford home on July 26 against Senegal in Great Britain’s Olympic opener.
Then, on July 29, it is a visit to a venue he has graced so many times when GB play United Arab Emirates at Wembley.
The final group match is in Giggs’ birthplace, Cardiff, against Uruguay.
He and Bellamy will be the first Welshmen to play for the Great Britain Olympic team since Matt Busby managed amateurs Frank Donovan from Pembroke Borough and Gwyn Manning of Troedyrhiw at the 1948 Games in London.
The last Welshman in a GB Olympic squad was Idwal Robling of Lovell’s Athletic FC in 1952.
He was a manager at the Lovell’s sweet factory in Newport and played for the work’s team – a far cry from United’s most decorated player.
Giggs’ Olympic duty will see him miss the Reds' pre-season tour, but his former Wales and United team-mate Clayton Blackmore doesn’t believe that will be a problem and applauds Pearce's selection.
“Stuart Pearce has shown, by overlooking David Beckham, that his selections were not down to reputation alone. It wasn’t about sentiment,” Blackmore told M.E.N. Sport.
“I was surprised Beckham wasn’t chosen, but on what he can bring to the GB Olympic team, the choice of Ryan Giggs was, I am sure, made on ability and nothing else.
“Of course, it is brilliant for a player of Ryan’s stature, who has not been able to perform on a big international stage like the European Championships or World Cup for Wales.
“We’ve missed out agonisingly on a couple of occasions.
“Ryan would have deserved that platform but this is a great honour and a great opportunity for him, but I still think it has been a football decision.
“Giggsy is the hardest player I have ever played against.
“As a full-back facing him in training for United it was torture.
“He was so elusive. Fast, tricky and great balance. It was a nightmare for a defender.
“Twenty-plus years on and I still think those attributes are there.
“Yes, he has reinvented his game a bit, but at times he still has the pace to go past a man.
“He has the ability still to open up a game. That’s just the sort of player England were missing at Euro 2012. Giggsy is still very effective.
“He’s not just a big name to sell tickets for the Olympics; he can make a difference.
“He still hasn’t got an ounce of extra weight on him. He has his yoga exercises which have made him more flexible than ever before.
“Depending who else is chosen among the younger players will have a say in how GB perform, but Ryan can still make his mark.”
Blackmore doesn’t view the Olympics as the Welshman’s big platform swansong either.
Though he will be 39 in November and has played over 900 games for the Reds, Blackmore believes there is more in Giggs’ tank.
“I don’t think this season will be his last,” Blackmore added.
“Ryan will be 40 in 2013, and as we stand now, I don’t see why he couldn’t be still playing for United then. For all the reasons I have given why he can make an Olympic impact for Great Britain, I believe the same stands when you are assessing his future. His game time is less these days but he is still having an influence and I could also see him ending his career as a full-back.
“I have seen him play there occasionally for United and I think he has the brain and ability to do it and get even more years out of him.
“He’s a good tackler. He played rugby league as a youngster so he doesn’t mind a bit of physical contact. He knows what will be in opposition winger’s heads when they face him in a one-on-one. He wouldn’t be easy to get away from, I can assure you of that, because he’s still quick off the mark.
“But before that is the Olympic Games and I hope Ryan can top it off with a medal. That would be brilliant.”