Grassroots North Wales writer David Cooke, who used to play for Denbigh Town and Caerwys, celebrated wildly with the rest of us after Wales qualified for Euro 2020 on Tuesday.
But despite that achievement, the jury is still out for many on whether Ryan Giggs is the right man to manage our national team.
Here is David’s take on a genuine Mr Marmite – you love him or loathe him, just like the sandwich spread!
Following the Welsh national side for a North Walian had been and can be a torrid and turbulent journey over the years.
The travelling, the many lows, the usual high expectations (although sometimes not warranted), the crushing defeats to the odd ray of light. Rush v Germany from that long ball from Bodin or Bellamy skinning the apparently impenetrable famous Italian back-line to secure that 2-1 victory on a murky Wednesday evening at the Millenium Stadium.
Now I will confess I have not jumped on the ‘Wales away’ bus as of yet, but rarely do I miss the home dust ups. For the last 15-20 years I’ve hauled myself down that road to cheer the boys on in a lot more bad times than good, and experienced the rise and fall of a five managers through the Wales door.
Sparky (Mark Hughes) took us so close to qualification with his rigid formation and a team at the time full of English Premier League players, a team on paper with a lot more experience and some may say more top quality performers than what Giggs has at his disposal.
The John Toshack era was a testing time, frustrating, but…..he blooded the basis of squad we have now, he threw them in with the message ‘Get on with it!’ Bale, Ramsey, Hennessey and the hugely influential little Joe Allen, who consistently defies his status as just an ordinary player for his club side with astronomical performances when the Welsh badge is stuck firmly to that fiery chest.
The very much loved Gary Speed started the uphill momentum, and at the time of his tragic passing we could see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, to which Chris ‘Cookie’ Coleman delivered the ‘Dream’, yes the dream, that unreachable event, the land that we couldn’t quite reach no matter how far and how hard you stretched every sinew in your body.
I told my eldest boy years ago after another sobering defeat, a 5-1 thrashing at home to Slovakia (that game where Paul Jones had ’50’ shaved into his head for caps reached, and proceeded to be beaten five times), we would never qualify for a major tournament, and now in his tender 19 years on this planet we have qualified twice.
He has had it a lot better than my 41 years has had I can tell you!
Ryan Giggs is generally seen as the man who missed countless games for his country, collecting 64 caps in a 16-year international career, a man a lot of diehard Welsh fans would dismiss from their all-time Welsh teams as a fella who didn’t turn up enough and was more interested in his club Man United.
My take on Giggs is different. Stats show that he was there when we had a chance of qualifying, and usually in his era of Welsh sides that was only three or four games into the campaign – then we were basically out.
Qualifying tilts when we were in with a shout, the Paul Bodin penalty miss v Romania in 93 and that demoralising play-off loss to the Russians as we fell short for Euro 2004, Giggsy was virtually ever-present.
I truly believe he would have had many more caps, but when Uncle Alex whispers in your ear in training and gives you that wink ‘ Ryan the old hamstrings are looking sore, it’s best you don’t travel to Belarus’. Not many players stood toe to toe with the Scottish enforcer and stayed at Man United, who through Giggs’ era were arguably the best team on the planet.
Now the fledgling manager’s career with Wales was by no means great, I for one was a #Giggsout Twitter user.
Losses to Albania ‘I know it was a friendly, but who loses to bloody Albania!’, then the two away defeats to Croatia and Hungary, two games where in all honesty Giggs’ marauding all-out attack style made enough chances to have come away with something.
Especially the Hungary game, that square ball to Bale, an open goal, ‘lovely 1-0’, a God among Welshmen, missed. Maybe he is only human after all?.
Osian Roberts proceeded to leave the Welsh set-up, the country was in uproar, a fallout with Giggs??, a difference in opinions in tactics? Let’s face it, we were all but done in the group anyway.
This is were the ex Man United star came into his own, the odd tweak, the back to basics defending, the more reserved all-out attacking style, speaking of More ….the Kieffer Moore factor!
The need for a target man had arose, and not fancying the loyal but less mobile Vokes, Giggs plumped for the giant presence of Wigan’s Moore, one club goal to his name (a penalty).
As a Latics fan in work said to me ‘He is 6’5 and we don’t cross the ball to him, 6’5!!’, but Wales do and in that one tactical twist the whole dimension of this current group of Welsh players changed. The big fella may take one, two, three attempts to trap that incoming ball but these modern day defenders at international level hate coming up against the former fitness instructor.
In what seemed a less that dedicated commitment to his Wales playing career, Ryan Giggs’ face at the end of the game on Tuesday evening as our manager said it all.
Love him or hate him, us band of Welsh international football lovers owe him some praise for giving us another great Summer memory maker in 2020.