Cymru Culture

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Russell Todd; Giggs, China Cup & Nations League

(March 01, 2018)

Pêl-droed Cymru - Wales football
Giggs, China Cup & the Nations League

 Cymru-Wales, at Cardiff City Stadium

The world’s worst kept secret was finally revealed on 15 January when Ryan Giggs was appointed Chris Coleman’s successor as Wales national team manager. Much of the narrative that followed predictably veered from Giggs’ patchy appearance record for Wales and personal indiscretions, to his glittering club career and marketability.

Following his departure from Manchester United Giggs had little connection with managerial vacancies other than apparently underwhelming in his interview for one of the several times of late that the Swansea City job was vacant, though he later cited club ambitions incompatible with his own. Instead, aside from a role with a football academy in Vietnam, Giggs had settled for the comfort of TV punditry and to wait until the Wales vacancy came about. The FAW had long spoken of marketability as a criteria in its preferred candidate and Giggs’ profile and age was in keeping with the previous two appointments. The only question about his getting the job was: when?

Ideally Giggs would have been unveiled in the summer of 2018 after a triumphant World Cup in Russia in which Wales emulated – bettered! – its giddy achievements of two summers previous. Ideal, yes. But alas Wales’ obsession with draws early in its World Cup qualifying efforts left it with too much ground to make up in the group in which a decent, but by no means great, Serbia eventually cantered to qualification. The limp, toothless effort at home to Ireland in the group’s climax was a crushing disappointment, but on reflection not entirely out of keeping with the preceding nine qualifiers.

As much as Ben Woodburn’s emergence might have obscured the fact, Wales had lost its mojo under Coleman. Saying this is not intended to detract from Coleman’s considerable achievements. He is clearly Wales’s greatest ever manager. But it was a dangerous group-think on social media that appeared to imply that such success disqualifies one from criticism. If the fire was no longer in Coleman’s belly then he made the correct decision at the correct time: immediately after November’s France and Panama friendlies with two months before the Nations League draw. That he swapped Wales for the bottom of the Championship should also act as a sober reminder where Wales are in the footballing pecking order, irrespective of being European semi-finalists.Ryan Giggs, captain of Team GB 4 August 2012; image Jon Candy

Though the succession was not swift, it was not as messy as it had been after John Toshack, Bobby Gould or, in particular, Terry Yorath. The FAW is a different beast these days and Giggs was announced unfussily and perfunctorily. Within weeks, with little fanfare Giggs was posing with children, PCSOs and school staff in Wrexham, suggesting that Coleman’s outreach and fan engagement activities will continue. Muted though Giggs’ reception might have been among most Welsh fans, an openness and ability to connect with fans in the likes of Nantyffyllon, Neath and Newport will ingratiate him with fans every bit as much as results in Nanning, Guangxi province, where Wales will play their first games in his charge in the China Cup.

Given Giggs has had such little management experience it is difficult to know what sort of identity his Wales team will have; one hopes it is not as inoffensive, bland and forgettable as his punditry was. Still, Chris Coleman once referred to England as “we” so worse crimes have been committed in the chummy confines of contemporary punditry by Welsh managers. We will never know whether Coleman would have chosen to represent Team GB against the express wishes of his future employers (the FAW), as Giggs did - as captain; his playing career had ended following a car crash ten years before the London Olympics and five years before Giggs' 'international retirement', from Wales only, apparently. Though, given the strength of Coleman's opposition to a Team GB, it seems more than a little unlikely.Might his team provide the same edge-of-the-seat – literally – expectation that he engendered among Wales fans of this writer’s vintage when he first played for Wales? Or will his Wales team be more akin to his latter days in the Manchester United midfield: measured, controlled but incisive? Both have their merits.

Unquestionably he has a greater array and depth of talent than any of his predecessors had available to them upon becoming Wales manager. He is also taking over the reins in far less trying circumstances than Mike Smith did for his second stint, John Toshack did in both of his, Mark Hughes or, it goes without saying, Chris Coleman. Is it unreasonable to expect Giggs to be the first Wales manager to hit the ground running since Mike England famously thumped his eponymous opponents 4-1 at The Racecourse in 1980?

At the time of writing Giggs’ coaching team was still to be announced and it remains paramount that Osian Roberts remains in and around the senior team in tandem with his role as Technical Director of the FAW. Having thrown his hat into the ring, Roberts will have been disappointed to not get the manager’s job; but one wonders whether his time will come again. If it does, then patience can be another quality to add to his list of undoubted virtues.

Osian Roberts, 13 November 2015; image Jon Candy
Osian Roberts, 13 November 2015
image: Jon Candy

After the China Cup, Wales will feature in an interesting Nations League ménage à trois with Ireland and Denmark. Ireland were eviscerated by Danish wit and invention in the World Cup play-offs having previously ground Wales down in a dour arm-wrestle. With the talents of Bale and Ramsey now augmented with those of Ben Woodburn, Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks, Giggs will do well to have noted Denmark’s bold approach. It will be interesting to see if there's any 'afters' at the Ireland game, due to Neil Taylor's horrible tackle on Seamus Coleman, and the double assault on Joe Allen. Though, bearing in mind Ireland's usual tactics when playing against skillful teams, it may be difficult to notice any difference.

Ampadu playing for Chelsea U23s in 2017
A 16 year old Ethan Ampadu
playing for Chelsea U23s in July 2017

Russell Todd, March 2018

If you enjoyed this you will probably like these from Russell too:
     So near,yet so far; December 2017

     Make or break... Austria and Moldova; September 2017
     Next up... Serbia; June 2017
     Next up... Dublin; March 2017
     Pêl-droed: the beautiful country's beautiful game; December 2016

Russell Tweets as @llannerch
wefan Russell's website:
and he is one of the team Tweeting on Podcast Pêl-droed
wefan Podcast Pêl-droed's website is:


cylchgrawn Cymru Culture magazine
Published by/Cyhoeddwyd gan: Caregos Cyf., 2018

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