Published in The Sunday Post (Scotland) 12.06.2011
What sort of footballer cheats on his wife with her sister who’s married to his brother then makes a pass at her mum? And is said to have committed adultery on the days that both his children were being born? And buys sex from a prostitute named Imogen Thomas whose other famous customers included Wayne Rooney? And is alleged to have slept with another of his brother’s girlfriends without telling him and also alleged to have enjoyed a further affair throughout the time he was starting a family with then fiancé Stacey? AND tries to keep it all secret by means of a £150,000 super-injunction in celebrity-addicted, soccer-mad Britain?
The answer is someone both very misguided and very rich. Both full of himself and running on empty. Let’s try to get inside the mind of Ryan Giggs.
Let’s also be fair. Few of us have spoken to Ryan and only his closest friends and family can ever claim personal knowledge. But their published comments and explanations are highly revealing.
For instance, his disgusted aunt Joanna has called him a “sex addict who can’t keep his trousers up” – a man who “preys on women using his star status to get them into bed”.
His devastated brother Rhodri, not the strongest character in the world, is variously said to have broken all family ties with Ryan, chased him down the street with a claw hammer and more recently to be thinking about accepting hush money “even though he’s heart-broken”.
Most telling of all is the testimony of Rhodri’s wife Natasha (Ryan’s sister-in-law) with whom Ryan conducted a secret love affair for over eight years. She’s shopped him to the press having realised that “he just used me for sex. When I found out he was cheating with Imogen too, I was really hurt… I know that sounds really strange, but he wasn’t just cheating on Stacey he was cheating on me too”.
Strange is a word we might need to come back to but the puzzle remains: why did Ryan do it?
Explanation one. Ryan Giggs learned to bottle up his feelings as a child and distrust the permanence of a reliable loving relationship. What’s the evidence? It’s quite strong.
Ryan, a mixed-race boy from Cardiff, the son of a rugby pro who was always on the road, became deeply attached to his gran and grandad who almost appear to have become substitute parents. His happiest days are spent kicking a ball from dawn to dusk round at their house.
Disaster strikes at the age of six. Ryan is uprooted from Wales because his father has switched contracts and gets moved to the foreign streets of Salford, one of Manchester’s tougher inner suburbs. He pines for his beloved grandparents and gets picked on racially. Result – he has to grow a very thick hide in double quick time.
Such “insecurely attached” children – if that is truly the case with Ryan – do become distrustful and resentful sometimes to the point of internal fury but are often reluctant to open up. They can also hate the world to the point where they later on decide to take revenge on those around them.
Explanation two. Being one of the world’s greatest and most successful footballers is at the root of Ryan’s sexual incontinence. What’s the evidence? Pretty overwhelming.
Sudden soccer wealth allows an insecure and callow young man to do almost anything he wants. Surrounded by yes-men and yes-please! women, it’s difficult to stay grounded. Once you believe your own publicity and see your image staring back from a packet of Quorn Burgers, your hatsize will inevitably increase. Do the rules apply to me? Nah. Not even the speed limit, mate.
As the supreme golfer Tiger Woods has also found, it’s extremely difficult to keep your feet on the ground and your trousers buttoned up while you are immoderately rewarded for personally absorbing the most intense moments of sporting pressure and afterwards can have any woman on the park.
Explanation three. Ryan hasn’t really had much chance to mature emotionally. What’s the evidence? Almost total.
It’s an extension of the previous explanation if you like but have you noticed what Ryan Giggs does for a living? He plays games. Now he plays them supremely well and he’s likewise a legend and a hero, but at the end of the day Ryan’s activities and preoccupations are not that much different from your average schoolboy’s.
I imply no disrespect and, unlike Mrs Thatcher, I’d never try to abolish the Premiership. But as he approaches middle age Ryan’s targets in life are confined to… scoring goals.
In psychological terms, competitive sportsmen find it all too easy to remain “arrested” in an adolescent phase of development – “My club’s bigger than yours” etc – and their most accurate job title is possibly that of “play-boy”.
So I wouldn’t just blame Ryan Giggs for chasing the opposite sex – that’s down to evolution and the relentlessly boyish world of soccer. I can understand that Ryan might have become somewhat self-centred as a result of his childhood miseries. Sex is one obvious way for virile men to “get their own back on the world” if they have trust issues about relationships. And living life in tight compartments with sex divorced from love is only natural when you are terrified of expressing your feelings. Add in the groupies (Natasha appears to have scored with more than one United striker) and you’ve set the scene for Ryan’s Shame.
The remaining question is this. Can Ryan stop digging a bigger hole into which to fall or will he save himself by realising that, even at 38, he’s got a chance to grow up?