Why have Wales taken a risk on rookie boss Ryan Giggs?

Alex Keble by Alex Keble / 19 January 2018, 17:54

Sometimes the urge to indulge in the romance of football is just too great to ignore, even when all evidence suggests such an act would be frivolous – and potentially damaging.

Ryan Giggs is the most decorated footballer in Welsh football history, and so to appoint the 46-year-old as the new Wales manager makes sense on the most basic level; after all, international football is largely about charisma and positive thinking due to the short bursts of tournament football and the minimal time afforded to coaching tactics.

But if Wales are hoping for something similar to the Zidane effect at Real Madrid, then they might want to think a little harder about what separates Giggs from the legendary status of the Real coach.

Zidane was always the consummate professional; an intelligent tactician on the pitch; and, crucially, is universally seen by Real fans and players as an idol of the club. By contrast, Giggs refused to play in 30 Wales friendlies, has frequently displayed an egotism at odds with the work ethic of Wales under Coleman (more on that later), and has achieved less in his country’s colours than the current crop of Wales players.

What appears to have happened here is a conflation of the romance of outcomes with the romance of hope or opportunity. The fairytale of Wales at Euro 2016 had nothing to do with the romance of a legend leading the way – this is the sort of idealism that rarely works out - and everything to do with a set of quiet underdogs working incredibly hard to achieve the unthinkable.

That Wales have built a cult following for inspirational moments such as Hal Robson-Kanu's Cruyff turn against Belgium does not make them more likely to benefit from romantic appointments like Giggs.

You create legends, not force them.

Not that his appointment should really be seen as a fairytale anyway. Wales' success at Euro 2016 means the current crop have already achieved more than the man who, with no managerial credentials to speak of save a four-game spell at Manchester United that reportedly ended with Giggs in tears due to stress, was appointed solely because he supposedly demands respect.

Why should his authority resonate more than any other ex-pro?

This is not to say Giggs will fail; his lack of managerial experience makes it impossible to know whether or not he has the makings of a top coach. However, his decision to turn down an offer to learn under Jose Mourinho (citing his own ambition) only to dismiss opportunities most managers can only dream of (Swansea City didn’t match that ambition, apparently) hardly inspires confidence. Successful managers are those with the humility and thirst to constantly learn, adapt, and dedicate themselves to every detail of a football club.

Wales had better hope they’ve accidently stumbled upon a brilliant young manager. With a crop of talented young players coming through and Gareth Bale in his prime, Wales are entering a critical few years. An opportunity like this one – to challenge the very best at Euro 2020 and qualify for the 2022 World Cup –might not come along for another 50 years.

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