One-club Giggs a relic of bygone age

HERE’S an easy tip for you to spot a wrong one, Red-wise: did he burble to you on Saturday night about Ryan’s “100th Premiership goal”? If so, it’s as sure a mark of a clown as a bright red nose. (Erm, that’s not a dig at you, Fergie.)

Some are still, apparently, surprised to learn that the world was NOT created in 1992. But there’s plenty of these cretins knocking about, even at Old Trafford. I shudder to recall the shameful T-shirt produced by some ignorant trolls after our 15th title win, which bore the legend “We Won It Eight Times”.

The only silver lining to that particular fart cloud was that it made it simple, if you found yourself caught short on one of the few remaining terraces, to choose into whose pocket to piss.

Actually, that urinary deviance was something Scousers tended to do in the Good Old Days, rather than Mancs. But as we have all grown older with the Premiership one cannot help notice that old skool Mancs and Scousers are finding more and more common cause in the face of the Nu-Football plague. We are never going to become friends, of course, but I found it hard to object to the following, put to me by an old LFC-supporting sparring partner from the years I was a missionary amongst the heathen in Southport, Murkeydive: “What is happening these days proves Marx was right. The class solidarity between your lot and my lot is now stronger than the ‘nationality’ divide between us.” (The Mickeys are very good at this kind of airy-fairy fancy.) Certainly, your time-served LFC hardcore resent the PL Year Zero rubbish as much as we do; they, like us, refuse to bury their heads in the sand over the sheer centrality of ownership questions; they, like us, look at some of those camera-toting know-nowts shipping over from the Far East on a Friday night and shake their heads in (non-racist) despair.

I would like to think, therefore, that deep down, quite a few of such LFC fans would have felt some fleeting grudging respect for Ryan Giggs as he marked his 36th birthday with yet another goal, heading inexorably towards 20 years with one club, and the club of his hometown to boot.

Before Year Zero, the old First Division had a lot more of this kind of player, partly as a result of lower overall transfer turnover, but mainly for cultural reasons. Liverpool, in particular, always seemed to me to have a lot of players since Shankly began who, although they might have started at another club, and perhaps dribbled out a last two years elsewhere too, would spend their main decade quite happily at Anfield.

Liverpool, like United, and quite a few others too, was A Destination Club. If you were lucky enough to get there, you stayed if you could. More often than not, you’d name a player, and just one associated club would spring to mind: and for every travelling Alan Ball or Brian Kidd, there’d be three or four such stay-at-homes.

It was a nice balance, wasn’t it? Team compositions had both flexibility and rootedness, matching perfectly a fan’s desire for both reassuring stability and exotic novelty. Freud always reckoned such inherent conflicting desires were the essential feature of the human condition, but football appeared to have a way of satisfying both. And how lucky we were at OT in the 90s to see this balance continue, as the Fledglings formed the stable nucleus around which various in-and-out foreigners would sparkle.

So to last night, where doubtless various kids got a run-out. How many will make it, and if so, then stay on until the end, like Giggs, Scholes and Gary Nev? You cannot help fearing that this creaking trio could be the last of their kind. Not for the first time, one can only mutter ‘o tempora, o mores’ – it works even in Scouse….


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