Giggs' past achievements deserve better than mere vote of sentimentality in the present

Neil Trainis SENTIMENTALITY invariably infuses itself in sport but that came across as something of an aberration when Ryan Giggs was named Professional Footballers Association Player of the Year. A footballer, whose propensity to produce the electrifying has waned w

Neil Trainis

SENTIMENTALITY invariably infuses itself in sport but that came across as something of an aberration when Ryan Giggs was named Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year.

A footballer, whose propensity to produce the electrifying has waned with the sapping effects of time, still continues to defy convention merely by his presence on the highest plane.

At the age of 35, the Welshman has been transformed from eternally youthful scintillator to a miracle of physiology the sporting laboratories at AC Milan, famed for its preservation of veteran footballers, would be proud to call their own.


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Giggs has still has some way to go before emulating the longevity of one Paolo Maldini, whose 40 years (he turns 41 in next month) casts the one-time wing wizard in the role of mere whippersnapper by comparison.

Yet Giggs' very own maintenance is just as astounding, considering the power, pace, technical precision and fitness levels demanded by the Premier League and Champions League.

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There is little doubt that, for all his accomplishments during a sustained period of unique success, which is about to take in an 11th Premier League title and possibly a third Champions League, his claim to the award has been irrefutable.

A travesty is embedded in the failure in past campaigns of enough of his fellow professional footballers to have voted for him after nearly two decades carving defences to shreds with his blistering acceleration and quick-footedness seldom matched so consistently by anyone else in his position in Europe.

Recent seasons have marked an inevitable alteration in his role at Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson, lavished with sprightlier, younger alternatives in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo, Park Ji-Sung, Patrice Evra and Nani, despite a poor season, has been able to conserve Giggs in a more central role.

The legs are no longer able to blaze a trail up the left wing, leaving would-be pursuers trailing in his wake, but a man who rarely ventures into the public eye for non-football reasons possesses an inspiring natural fitness which has never been threatened by heavy drinking sessions or stumbling out of nightclubs in the early hours.

Dedication and responsibility encapsulate Giggs the footballer but also Giggs the human being. Yet that does not justify providing him with an accolade he described upon receiving it as "the big one".

The PFA award, like all football tributes, essentially comes down to a matter of opinion but such judgements should be based on some form of rationality. Bu the time Giggs had been named as the recipient of the 2008/09 version, he had amassed 12 Premier League starts.

Compare that figure to Steven Gerrard's 28 starts and 15 goals, 23 in all competitions, and there is a sense of flawed judgement. Throw in the others Giggs defeated for the award, the reliability and solidity brought to United's assault on all fronts in the form of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar, who had gone 1,311 minutes unbeaten in the league, and that impression is exacerbated.

Ronaldo, the other player in the running for the award, has not scaled the giddy heights of last season but his impact at Old Trafford has still been felt. Giggs, for all his diligence in the centre and the maturity he brings to a squad replete with youthful exuberance, has not left an indelible mark on this season.

He has had much more influence on previous seasons and not claimed the PFA award and that has been perplexing. Yet it also feels inappropriate for arguably United's greatest ever player to take it when there have been others whose exertions over the course of one season have warranted it more.

Those footballers who voted in his favour, many of whom he has left on the seat of their pants down the years, may have thought of him in tribute to his past rather than the present. And that, surely, is simply wrong.

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