Ryan Giggs could play Beckham role for Brand Wales
WHATEVER you think of David Beckham, you must concede that his contribution to England’s 2018 World Cup bid, while ultimately in vain, was nevertheless nothing short of statesmanlike.
That’s a word which, 10 years ago, I never thought I’d use in the same sentence as the former Manchester United wizard.
For all his star quality in his earlier playing days, there was always a chavishness about Becks that, when he talked about his sport, wouldn’t allow him to get far past ‘I fink the boys done trific.’
Not any more.
One thing Beckham has always possessed is the visual presence of a genuine sports celebrity inordinately concerned with fashion and preening.
But now it seems he’s developed a vocabulary to go with it.
There will be those who sneer that he never achieved anything on the world stage with England.
True enough, he didn’t if you don’t count 115 caps over 13 years as much to write home about.
But that doesn’t take away from Beckham’s aura – and that’s what he has.
I recall the time Wales were in the same World Cup qualifying group as England, and Becks was captain.
It was September 2005 and the Saxons were in Cardiff and holding the obligatory pre-match press conference.
When Beckham walked in, even experienced journalists stared, he just had – and still has – the kind of magnetism that only comes with being an icon of his chosen sport.
Yet it struck me this week as I watched him hob-nobbing with Prince William and the PM in Zurich, that there’s a Welshman, roughly the same age, with every bit as much gravitas and ability to influence world powerbrokers as Beckham.
His name is Ryan Giggs and, in a week when his ex-Old Trafford team-mate was doing so much for the Three Lions, it made me hope that our own wizard could, somehow down the line, do the same for Wales.
When I put this admittedly vague theory up for debate in the office and invited ambassadorial suggestions for Giggs, the only one that struck a chord was facetious.
“Why don’t we get him to attend the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and try to persuade Fifa to give us an easy qualifying group?” said one wag.
If it were possible, I’m sure Giggs could get us into a group with Luxembourg, San Marino, the Faroe Islands and me and my mum. But, alas, it’s down to seedings and the luck of the draw.
However that doesn’t mean all is lost.
It is purely coincidental that at the same time as Beckham has answered his country’s call, Giggs, through his agent, has told the Football Association of Wales not to bother trying to persuade him to succeed John Toshack as manager of the national team.
Apparently, eking out another season on the field with Manchester United is his priority at the moment, and if that’s what he wants to do then good luck to him because as a professional sportsman you’re a long time retired.
But while Giggs’ decision to play on is his prerogative, I hope he has felt keenly the FAW’s desperation to secure his services.
Giggs has always trumpeted how proud he was to play for Wales, how England was never an option for him and how, one day, he would like to manage his country.
But, rightly or wrongly, his attendance record for friendly matches has always made a section of Welsh football supporters suspicious of his allegiance to the Dragon.
Well, while nobody should have to prove they love their country, Giggs could go a long way to silencing those doubters with a significant contribution to Welsh football that starts some time in the next few years.
All sorts of offers will come his way from clubs, I’ve no doubt, but he simply must consider strongly what he could, and should, do for his country as well.
Being seen at a Wales game – which he hasn’t since calling it a day internationally back in 2007 – would be a good start in that process.
I’m convinced Giggs will one day be Wales manager, but circumstances may not allow him a direct involvement with the team as soon as he stops playing altogether.
That’s because by then there is likely to be someone else in place and it is inconceivable that someone of the stature of Giggs could be an assistant to, say, a fellow like Chris Coleman.
But, even if it is as an advisor, a consultant or, yes damn it, an ambassador a la David Beckham, Giggs must not be allow himself to become a stranger to Welsh football in the coming years.
He must make the kind of meaningful contribution only he can.
Otherwise it will be such a waste for Wales. Such a terrible waste.