A rumour persists that Ryan Giggs could have played for England. It comes from the fact that he played for England schoolboys during his early years at Manchester United. But the truth is the senior England side was never an option.
Giggs played for England at schoolboy level because he was a schoolboy living in England. Plenty of Scottish youngsters have done the same. It is all down to residence.
He could and would only ever play for Wales. And when he captained Team GB at last year’s Olympics, it was felt, at least in part, to be the only available substitute for never appearing in a major international tournament.
Giggs is hailed as one of the greatest players never to appear in a World Cup or European Championship. And as another Welshman starts to show all the signs of being a true great, the question must be asked as to whether Gareth Bale can do what Giggs couldn’t and help take his country to a major competition.
Currently third in their World Cup qualifying group with half the games played, Wales may be a few points short of making this one. Although a win against second-place Croatia on Tuesday would narrow the gap between them to four points and put at least some pressure on Igor Stimac’s side.
But while Brazil 2014 may be beyond Bale and his teammates, a third-place finish in this qualifying campaign would stand them in better stead for the next. And from there, should the Tottenham forward continue his outstanding form, there is every chance of reaching the next European Championships.
The comparisons between Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo are premature; a few years premature to be precise. But one that can be made is that they are both their country’s best player by some way. However, at international football, being the best in the midst of mediocrity is not enough, your teammates must step up.
Should Aaron Ramsey put his club troubles behind him and become the player he has the potential to be, and should Ashley Williams continue to grow into one of the Premier League’s best defenders – as he seems destined to – there is a very good chance Bale can take that one step Giggs couldn’t.
That step onto the field of a major international tournament, a memory shared by the very best, although even some of them never get the chance.
Do you think Bale can help inspire Wales to a major tournament? And which other Welsh players are crucial to their future success?
image: © andybrannan