Tribute: Goodbye Giggs, thanks for the memories!
It was the summer of 1995 and an exceedingly excited five year old was about to make the single most important purchase of his thus far, rather relaxed life; the purchase of his first football shirt. The decision making process of a five year old in the early 90’s revolved around power rangers and a packet of pogs, this purchase however, was different.
It wasn’t the mere acquisition of a piece of clothing, oh no, it was much more than that. It was the first public display of ones association to a football club, the type of association that is characterised by an unrivalled emotional attachment and unwavering support. It’s the initiation into the tribe that will predominate much of ones life. As the King once professed “You can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never, never can you change your favourite football team”
I don’t remember much about the year of 1995, but the vivid memory of acquiring my first ever United shirt will sit with me forever, it has sowed the seeds for much of my life to date. The shirt in question was the blue and white away jersey that was used between 1994-1996 (yeah, before the commercial juggernaut of capitalism swallowed up football and new jerseys weren’t recycled annually).
I remember the trip to the store, Mick Dowling’s in Terenure Village, no more than a 5-minute drive from the family home, but at the time what seemed like an eternity away. Having been told that we will be making the trip on Saturday the previous Thursday you can imagine how those 48 hours felt like 48 days. As we reached the store anticipation was now at an all time high and to me, I was minutes away from making my debut for United, after all, the initial adorning of that shirt equated to signing of a contract in the mind of a five year old.
There it was, hoisted high above on a rack, out of reach of an overly eager kid… so close but yet so far. The shirt in question just so happened to be covered in famous names that had played for United, but it was the name that I was about to get printed on the back that will forever go down as the most illustrious in the clubs history.
When asked whom I would like to get on the back there was no hesitation…. “Giggs please”, and in all my child-like innocence I added, “he’s number 11” (as if he didn’t know already). There was no logical thought process, no real reasoning, I subconsciously knew… I was already mesmerised by the dazzlingly runs of the young Welsh winger. After waiting a further fifteen minutes for the print to settle it was ready, and I too was ready to revel in the role of Giggs on the field in front of my house. I left the shop with the shirt on, Giggs 11 on the back and the club crest pressed against my heart.
Tonight, Giggs will most likely make his final appearance as a United player in Old Trafford, while potentially his last as coach/manger (although reports emanating today suggest he may be kept on as assistant). Having amassed 671 United appearances, broken countless records and collected a plethora of personal and team honours along the way, Giggs, in the truest sense of the word is a living legend. He is Mr. Manchester United, and it is with a heavy heart that The Theatre of Dreams will bid him farewell tomorrow. It’s easy to get lost in the hype and hysteria surrounding modern football; the all too often attainment of legendary status for undeserving players does little to dispel such rhetoric, but Giggs is more than deserving.