Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal (vs Manchester City, 8th April 2012)
Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal (vs Manchester City, 8th April 2012)
Our inaugural selection for The Gold Club is Premier League stalwart come human trophy cabinet Ryan Giggs. The Manchester United winger has graced this country’s top division for over twenty glorious years and although his indispensability to The Red Devils has faded over time, he still has the capacity to change the direction of a game, to dazzle and surprise in equal measure.
His longevity and other-worldly consistency place him at the apex of the league. He is timeless but refuses to become a relic; United’s midfield Zelig, not so much reinventing himself as renewing and reproving his relevance to each new Ferguson incarnation. Even at forty years of age you fancy him to snag a goal in United’s remaining games thus continuing his remarkable record of having scored in every Premier League season to date.
He is also obscenely decorated. Among the honours he has amassed over his career are thirteen Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions Leagues, an Intercontinental Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup, seven appearances in the Team of the Year, a Player’s Player of the Year Award and an OBE for services to football. At no point during his career can you ever accuse Ryan Giggs of being a passenger; a charge you could arguably level at several of his teammates at various points during their illustrious careers.
But success, consistency and an extraordinary work rate, although undeniably key ingredients, would not alone qualify Giggs for a place in The Gold Club. United teammate Michael Carrick has these traits in abundance too and yet he is missing something, an artistic propensity, a flagrant genius which is critical to our understanding of the game as a thing of beauty. Henry referred to it as ‘va-va-voom’; whatever the English term Giggs reeks of it.
As a young man Giggs would centrifugally pivot into space, always asking questions of his marker, questions his marker rarely had answers to. As an elder statesman the Welshman has become the player to exploit these spaces now created by others, threading through eye-of-the-needle balls and delivering pinpoint crosses. Perhaps an understated quality of Giggs’ game is the near-perfect weighting given to all of his passes. Watch the compilation of assists in his Player of the Year campaign below and witness the sheer delicacy and preciseness given to each one, all are exact and instinctive in their measurement.
Then there’s his dribbling. At his most deadly the ball became an extension of Giggs’ boot, an appendage the winger willed in whatever direction and at whatever speed he saw fit. In another life the Welshman would have made a fine American footballer, guaranteed to gain yards with every mazey run he undertook, dragging his team deeper and deeper into the opposition’s half.
The ultimate contradiction is that, despite Giggs’ vast career and long list of achievements, he is often boiled down to one moment of on-field excellent. That goal.
Perhaps it was the timing of the goal (late in extra time for a team playing with ten men), perhaps it was it’s placing in the overall narrative of United’s outstanding treble season or perhaps it is simply the sheer magnificence of it as Giggs weaves through multiple challenges like honey through a sieve before smashing the ball into the roof of the net with a finish infinitely harder than it looks. To this day it still raises hairs on the back of the neck. Breathtaking does not do it justice. If it is the goal Ryan Giggs will always be remembered by then it is a fitting image through which to remember his career.
Ryan Giggs. An unstoppable, vivacious, inspired wizard with an unquenchable thirst for winning. And our first member of The Gold Club.
Every week we’ll be breaking down and rating well-known and memorable goal-scoring celebrations. When judging celebrations we’ll be looking at such key ingredients as originality, how iconic the celebration became, identity (do you instinctively link the celebration to the scorer) and, of course, playground appeal (which celebrations are kids ripping off after shinning a beauty between their schoolbag goalposts at lunchtime).
‘The chicken is firmly not dead.’
Kevin Nolan’s celebratory chicken dance differs from previous occupants of The Celebration Station. It is no less energetic, no less self-involved, less frequent perhaps but only due to the midfielder’s lack of recent goals. No, the difference lies within the evolution of Nolan’s chicken, the path the bird has made over the course of the journeyman’s career and the lessons it has learnt.
In its earlier days a fresh-faced Nolan would carry the celebration with broad smiles and whimsical delight. The chicken was alive and well as it scampered along St James’ Park’s turf, clucking itself silly after every goal; but between then and now something has changed. In recent times an older, wiser Nolan goal has layered his chicken routine with angst and torment. The clucking rooster is all clucked out as he struts past the baying Upton Park crowds, wings furiously flapping to no avail.
One can only wonder when and why the celebration changed. Has the West Ham captain lost his love for the game; a secret he is only willing to reveal through the sacred medium of chicken dance? Perhaps the Boleyn Ground bard is making a veiled attempt to criticize battery farming? Or maybe, as many have speculated, Nolan’s celebration is performance art; a one-man ongoing interpretation of the circle of life chronicling the working man’s plight in a world devoid of meaning revealed gradually one heartbreaking chicken dance at a time? Only the thinking-man’s enigma that is Kevin Nolan holds the answers to these questions. For my part, I give the celebration a solid six out of ten.
Joshua G. Grüber felt unable to fully comprehend Nolan’s ‘Serious Chicken’ and has therefore declined to contribute to this week’s Celebration Station.