Ryan Giggs added another prize to his already full-to-bursting trophy cabinet on Sunday evening as he was named the 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The Manchester United midfielder finished ahead of Formula 1’s Jenson Button and world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, who placed second and third respectively. In a 10-person field, all would have been worthy winners, but Giggs proved the popular choice.
The list of Giggs’ achievements is staggering – the only man to have played and scored in every season of the Premier League, one of only two players to net in 14 Champions League tournaments (the other is Raul), a member of the PFA Team of the Century, the Premier League Team of the Decade, Manchester United’s record appearance holder, the current PFA Player of the Year and the proud owner of an OBE. That is without mentioning his 11 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two European Cups. Giggs’ Sports Personality of the Year victory could have been viewed as a lifetime achievement award, if not for the excellent form the Welshman showed in the 2008/09 season. Giggs made 47 appearances for United last term, 11 of which were in European competition as the Red Devils reached a second consecutive Champions League final. Giggs captained United in that game but Barcelona took the trophy with a 2-0 victory, denying Giggs a third European Cup. There was no such disappointment domestically, however, as Giggs played an integral role in United’s record-equalling 18th title victory.
With 28 Premier League appearances, the evergreen Giggs belied his advancing years to produce a season of impressive performances, marked in February 2009 by a fine goal in a crucial 1-0 victory over West Ham at Upton Park. It was United’s eighth win in succession but, more importantly, took Sir Alex Ferguson’s side two points clear of second-placed Liverpool. The strike against the Hammers was one of four goals claimed by Giggs during 2008/09, one of the lower totals of his career, but with his 14 assists the former Wales captain provided a valuable attacking threat despite taking a deeper role in midfield. Once blessed with lightning speed, Giggs today uses intelligent movement and remarkable vision to get into dangerous positions. Whereas Giggs previously used his incredible pace to aid more deliberate players such as Eric Cantona, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy, now it is Antonio Valencia, Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney who make the bursting runs with Giggs supplying the passes. Often, the day a player loses his pace is the day his top-level career is over, but Giggs is one of a rare bunch that has excelled despite being robbed of a key aspect of his game.
Hamstring problems may have dogged Giggs’ early career, but in recent years the two-time PFA Young Player of the Year has been free of serious injury. As of December 12, Giggs has made 821 appearances for United – 63 ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton. The 36-year-old looks likely to hold that record for some time as only two other current United players make the top 10 – Gary Neville and Paul Scholes – and the clock is ticking on their time at Old Trafford. Giggs’ goal-scoring record is equally impressive, with his 151 strikes placing him eighth, behind legendary names Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, but ahead of prolific forwards van Nistelrooy, Andrew Cole and Cristiano Ronaldo. Giggs is just 12 goals behind former teammate Mark Hughes, and could catch the current Manchester City boss this season. With a contract extension on the table to tie him to the club until 2011, Giggs will have plenty of time to find that next dozen.
If Giggs was to surpass Hughes this season, combined with the three goals already claimed by United’s No 11, 2009/10 would be one of the most prolific seasons of his career – his highest tally being 17 in 1993/94. Giggs also netted 12 goals in 64 games for Wales, ending his international career in 2007. Despite rumours to the contrary, Giggs was never able to play for England – he captained England schoolboys, but eligibility for schoolboy level depends only on the location of the school.
In fact, the only thing missing from Giggs’ r