Ryan Giggs on owning a football club
The ex-Manchester United stars known as the Class of '92, including Ryan Giggs, Phil and Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt are embarking on a new adventure, as the owners of non-league Salford City football club. Ahead of a two-part series detailing their attempts to turn it around, Giggs, 41, talks to Susan Griffin about football, retirement and being less selfish.
HOW DID THE IDEA OF BUYING YOUR OWN FOOTBALL TEAM COME ABOUT?
Gary [Neville] is always coming at you with different ideas, but to be fair, the majority of them work out. So you sit down and process it and think about it, you say, 'Actually, that's a good idea'. It's the same conversation we had when we were 29, 30: what are we going to do when we finish football? Are we going to go into coaching? Are we going to go into TV? We don't want to be twiddling our thumbs. Now we're not players, you can't be sitting at home doing nothing.
HAS THE EXPERIENCE GIVEN YOU A GREATER APPRECIATION OF WHAT GOES ON BEHIND-THE-SCENES?
It's a different skillset and a different way of thinking. You've got to think about so many other people, whereas, as a player you're pretty selfish. You've got to look after yourself, making sure that you're fit, making sure that you're contributing to the team, and basically just looking after yourself physically, mentally, ready to play on a Saturday. As an owner, you've got to think about everything that's involved with the club and that doesn't just mean the players. That means the coaching staff, making sure the committee is happy, making sure the fans are happy, making sure our facilities are as good as they can be, and learning sometimes to say, 'No, that isn't going to happen', which you have to do.
DID YOUR HEART SINK A LITTLE BIT AFTER EXPERIENCING LIFE AT THE TOP OF THE LEAGUE?
No, because we've all been there, we've all played Sunday league, we've all played on these sort of pitches. OK, we've played at the best stadiums in the world, but you still remember playing Sunday league, and it'll stick with you for the rest of your life. It was different, but still the same. You still need to train properly, prepare properly, and win your games. But it's just a different level and some things you obviously take for granted at a Premier League side, you're not going to get at a non-league club.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO LET THE CAMERAS IN?
We just thought it was a great story really and we didn't want to get promotion, like we did this year, and then think we should have got that [on camera]. We monitored it as we went along and had plenty of input. We wanted to do it properly, but we just didn't want to have that regret.
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH HOW YOUR FIRST SEASON WENT?
We're delighted it was a success. Our main aim was to [get] promoted. So that was the main objective and it's the highest Salford City have ever been, so that was a huge boost for us and it was a huge boost for the club. We're under no illusions, it's not going to be like that every season, we're going to have disappointments, but each season we'll try and get better.
DO YOU ALL HAVE DESIGNATED ROLES?
Gary's business-minded, whereas probably the other lads aren't so interested. He's interested in every facet of the football club. We trust him and, together as a team, we bounce ideas off each other. We'll get around a table and sometimes we say, 'No Gary'. Not very often, but that's what it's about, being a group and ultimately trying to get to that decision.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO TAKE A STEP BACK AND NOT GET INVOLVED WITH THE PLAYERS AND TACTICS?
It wasn't that difficult for me. I think it was harder for Phil and Scholesy because they were seeing a lot more and going to training and maybe seeing things they didn't like, but we made a conscious decision when we did take over that, yeah, we're owners, but we don't get involved in training, that's not our bag. If they need our help, then we're there to help them.
HOW EASY IS IT TO COMBINE YOUR ROLE AS CO-OWNER AT SALFORD FC WITH YOUR POSITION AS ASSISTANT MANAGER AT MANCHESTER UNITED?
It doesn't clash. I'm still putting all my time into United, it's a full-time job, but if I can go down and watch Salford City, I will, which I did five or six times last year. If I can go down to training on a Thursday night, I will.
Class Of '92: Out Of Their League is a two-part series starting on BBC One on Thursday, October 29.