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Ryan's mighty 2009

Ryan Giggs
Giggs won the BBC Sports Personality and PFA Player of the Year awards in 2009

Rob Phillips
By Rob Phillips
BBC Wales football reporter

Trust Ryan Giggs!

He has hung up his international boots, but he's still the pride of Wales.

An unprecedented 11th Premier League title in the bag, the sheer size of the medal collection acquired by the most decorated player in domestic football makes his pure sporting genius undoubted.

Yet he ended 2009 with the ultimate accolade - the acclaim of the people as BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

His humble acceptance says everything about the character of the greatest footballer of the much-hyped Premier League era and - unfortunately for us in Wales - one of the finest players never to feature in a World Cup finals.

Ryan Giggs
It is time Wales fully appreciated Ryan Giggs for I suspect his commitment to his country may not be over

Shame on those who doubted his commitment to Wales as a player.

He was there when injuries permitted and even his decision to quit international football in 2007 has been justified by his success since and the longevity of his career.

They say a prophet is not recognised in his own land.

It is time Wales fully appreciated Ryan Giggs for I suspect his commitment to his country may not be over.

With his interest in coaching, I wouldn't be surprised if he emulated the path of his friend Mark Hughes and wanted to be the next Wales manager.

Surely he would be hard for the FA of Wales to turn down.

Then 'boss' Giggs would be looking to Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey to help quench the thirst for international success. Ramsey's development for club and country was the reason for most optimism about Wales' football future.

A World Cup group - over almost before it started given the presence of Germany and Russia - brought the ultimate low with the home defeat by Finland. Indeed, John Toshack's reign of rebuilding has been painfully slow at times.

But, as he approaches his last qualifying campaign, he must hope young guns like Jack Collison and Dave Edwards rise to the challenge led by Ramsey, a player they've grown up with.

I've often said the Welsh national team reminds me of some political parties - it always seems to be the next campaign which is going to provide the breakthrough.

With Ramsey at the hub - and no, he's not the next Ryan Giggs, nobody is - then optimism may not be out of place.

Early in 2009 hopes were high that one or both of our Championship clubs would make the shake-up for promotion.

Swansea City ran out of steam under Roberto Martinez, though not until they had impressed everyone with their very own total football philosophy and knocked holders Portsmouth out of the FA Cup.

Cardiff City looked play-off certainties, at least, for most of the season, but they suffered a catastrophic late decline hastened by a 6-0 defeat at Preston, who ultimately pipped them to a play-off berth.

However, a new season brought a new start for both clubs.

The Bluebirds said farewell to their Ninian Park home of 99 years and moved to a new £50m stadium across the car park - the switch appearing to have eased the pain of their Hillsborough heartbreak on the final day of last season.

More unexpectedly, Swansea City welcomed a new face at the helm following the departure of manager Roberto Martinez to the Premier League.

Roberto became ''Bobby'' again at Wigan Athletic - the club where his British football journey had begun.

The King was gone and Swans fans felt it badly, but in football a new monarch is just around the corner - in this case twice-Champions League winner Paulo Sousa.

Gavin Rae and Stephen McPhail
Gavin Rae and Stephen McPhail look dejected after Cardiff's play-off failure

He has settled quickly, tinkering with - rather than transforming - the Martinez way.

Both Cardiff and Swansea head into the new year as forces to be reckoned with in an open division. Expectations remain.

They were high at Wrexham, too, but so far Dean Saunders and his team have failed to meet them.

The Blue Square Premier can be an unforgiving stage, although Newport County would love to be there and are looking good to be upwardly mobile at the end of this season.

Elsewhere, Merthyr Tydfil stared into the abyss but the redoubtable spirit and energy of their fans pulled them through - real Martyrs to the cause - and in the Welsh Premier League, Rhyl ruled the roost and Bangor won the Welsh Cup.

The league stands on the brink of a controversial reorganisation, yet continues to stop short of what is surely required - summer football.

But why end this review on a negative? Let's give thanks for Wales giving the world a footballer supreme.

Who knows when his extraordinary career will come to a close, but whatever your club allegiance - enjoy it while you still can.

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see also
Giggs shocked to land BBC award
14 Dec 09 |  Sports Personality
Giggs wins BBC Sports Personality
14 Dec 09 |  Clips
In pictures: A 'genuine legend'
14 Dec 09 |  People and Places
Ferguson hails 'incredible' Giggs
07 Dec 09 |  Wales
Giggs secures BBC Wales accolade
07 Dec 09 |  Wales
Toshack pleased with closing win
14 Oct 09 |  Internationals
50m Cardiff City Stadium opens
22 Jul 09 |  Wales
Sousa confirmed as new Swans boss
23 Jun 09 |  Swansea
Wigan finally land boss Martinez
15 Jun 09 |  Wigan
Sheff Wed 1-0 Cardiff
03 May 09 |  Championship
Rhyl handed Welsh Premier title
18 Apr 09 |  Welsh
Wales retirement 'helped' Giggs
03 Oct 09 |  Man Utd
Farewell Ninian Park
20 Apr 09 |  Cardiff
Giggs earns prestigious PFA award
26 Apr 09 |  Football
Giggs ends international career
30 May 07 |  Internationals
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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