Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Giggs - boo or cheer?

The news that Ryan Giggs is to retire after Saturday's game against the Czech Republic has left me reeling. My first reaction is one of panic, disappointment, and even mortality. That young lad who was scoring free kicks against Belgium in the early nineties is to stop playing for us. How can this be? Does everything have to stop? It seems so.

The decision is another kick in the teeth for Wales. We need to know why so many of our best players feel that they can't be bothered to turn out for Wales, something the rest of us would sell our Grandmothers for. Let's just look at the team we could put out on Saturday.

Coyne; Delaney, Bale, Collins, Gabbidon, Speed, Savage, Giggs, Davies, Bellamy, Earnshaw.

I wouldn't mind backing that team, but in crucial areas, we have players missing that we just can't afford. And they're missing out of choice. Take Giggs out of that lineup and things look really depressing.

Even when we have been really poor and seemingly hopeless, the presence of Giggs on the field has been reassuring, some cause for optimism. And let's face it. Giggs' presence has doubled crowds over the past ten years. we can all complain about the kids blowing their hooters, but we'll soon find out that life without the Giggs fans is even worse.

What irks me is that Giggs apparently made his decision to retire after the game in Dublin, a game in which he was totally ineffectual, and played far below his club standards. This is something we've become used to, but nevertheless if he had played half decently, he wouldn't be retiring now.

He had many detractors amongst Welsh fans, some of whom wanted him dropped due to his paltry total of friendly appearances. Well they're going to get their chance to experience life without him, and it isn't going to be pretty.

More immediately, I'm not sure what my reaction will be on Saturday. Do I applaud and respect the best footballer that we've had since Billy Meredith? Or do I boo a man that is undoubtedly letting us down?

Welsh football is at a low already, and it's going to get a lot, lot lower. Who will be the next rat to desert the sinking ship?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Campione Y Felinheli !

Last night, Y Felinheli Under 17s went to Holyhead and drew 0-0, a result which made them Champions of the Anglesey League (there is no league in Gwynedd).

It was a result which gave me as much pleasure as any professional game in my long history fo watching football. The distinction between the grassroots game and the professional game is become increasingly blurred for me. And on a night when Liverpool beat Chelsea in front of millions, the small band of travelling supporters at Holyhead felt the same elation as the millions who have latched on to those big teams.

It was a night which justified our decision to form the club 2 years ago. The people who converged on the pitch to celebrate with the lads have all played their part in the success. I looked around me and saw the faces of people who have given up so much time over the years for the benefit of football in the village, and they all deserved to share the celebrations. There can't be that many youth teams that travel 25 miles to play their penultimate game.

This was potentially an explosive encounter. We had beaten Holyhead 6-5 earlier in the season, in a match which left our goalkeeper scarred, and Holyhead walking off the field in protest after having two goals disallowed. There were muttered threats about the return game, but in fact the game was played in decent spirit, greatly helped by the league's decision to supply official linesmen.

It was an emotional evening for Joe, the manager. Having managed the same group of players for 10 years, representing a neighbouring village, this was an achievement which saluted his skill and commitment, and which crowned his time as their coach. Softly spoken and easy going, the team plays in his image, and their extraordinary discipline is a reflection of the respect he holds amongst the team and his peers in local football.

I have watched this side often, and they have given me a lot of pleasure. Their football is fluid, controlled, and seemingly effortless. They have come through in the face of intimidation throughout the season, without once responding in kind. I know it's a cliche, but last night was a victory for football. They proved that you don't need to snarl and growl your way to success.

Some of you may scoff at the eulogies I give for our little team, but others will recognise that our small success means as much to us as any glittering television spectacular. The simple fact is
that we don't need to share our delight with millions of others. The happy faces in the Fic last night weren't celebrating a Liverpool win, they were celebrating a tremendous achievement by Joe and Gwil, their team of players, and the community of football in Y Felinheli.