Desmond Kane

Giggs the player, Giggs the man

Desmond Kane

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Ryan Giggs is made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) during an investiture ceremony by Britain's Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in London December 11, 2007.

It is easy to get carried away with people when you are not provided with the full facts of what they are all about. These are fundamentals of life that you tend to learn the longer you live. In the rush to place individuals on pedestals, we continue to believe only what we want to believe.

There have been plenty of plaudits flying around over the past few days celebrating the rather astonishing achievements of the Manchester United player Ryan Giggs in performing in the Premier League and Champions League at the age of 40. And rightly so.

[Jim White on Giggs's 'insatiable appetite for more']

Giggs belongs alongside figures such as Kenny Dalglish, George Best, Bobby Moore, Jimmy Johnstone, Sir Bobby Charlton, John Charles and Sir Stanley Matthews as the very best British football has to offer.

Having played in 953 matches since 1991 amid his rise to several Champions League and Premier League trinkets, Giggs is arguably the greatest footballer to emerge from the British Isles on longevity alone. He is probably the most decorated British footballer never to play at a World Cup finals.

"He is a phenomenal human being, never mind being a phenomenal footballer,” gushed Phil Neville, Giggs's former team-mate turned United coach in an article turned eulogy in Friday's Daily Mail.

The only problem with tributes dripping from the chandeliers of Giggs's golden years is that they are also illusionary.

The notion that Giggs is a phenomenal human being would be disputed by more than one person. Probably more than two. There is hard evidence to suggest he is far from such a man. That is no bad thing. It is just the way it is.

Neville's brother Gary interviewed Giggs the other night in a powder-puff piece meant to show Ryan Giggs OBE, a winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, in the most positive light possible.

[15 things you won't believe are younger than Ryan Giggs]

The constant stream of sycophantic plaudits all got too much for QPR's part-time philosopher Joey Barton. "Giggs has done unbelievable to get to 40. Still a vital player for United. Some career he's had. The British Paolo Maldini," said Barton on Twitter.

Much like the Emperor’s New Clothes, Barton then came to his own conclusion.

"Still can't have him for getting up his brothers bird though. Great player but can't be doing that. No matter how much of a top player he is. Respect him as a player. But as a man, you don't do that to your own. He's a wrongun in my book. If you all want to put Giggs on a pedestal, then thats your right. I am merely pointing out that what he did was as low as it gets."

Barton's belief can probably be filed under fair comment. There is Giggs the player, there is Giggs the man.

The monastic lifestyle of yoga, clean living and meditation that has apparently contributed to extending his career does not fit in with the other persona of him as a bloke who would cheat on his wife, a man who could not reel himself in when presented with the open goal of deceiving his brother with his brother's wife.

Giggs reportedly had an eight-year affair that apparently led to the collapse of his brother Rhodri’s marriage in 2011. Giggs has allegedly not spoken to his brother since that sordid episode, one of several alleged affairs that included a liaison with former Miss Wales Imogen Thomas.

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Giggs failed with a 'super-injunction' that only ended up further publicising his extra-marital activity rather than suppress the truth.

A British politician defied a court order by identifying Giggs as the man fighting a legal battle to prevent newspapers from publishing allegations of an affair. The move was the latest twist in a farce that pitted Britain's judiciary against Twitter users, the media and politicians. All it ended up proving was an abuse of money, position, privilege and power.

The money Giggs spent on legal fees to cover his tracks would have been better off shoved into the arms of the homeless.

In a week when Nigella Lawson is fielding lurid allegations of drug use in a messy court case a world away from the carefully manicured public image of rustling up a few dumplings, we should all be careful about who we are placing on pedestals.

[Giggs at 40: tributes from the football world]

We should remember that it was people working within the public broadcaster BBC who failed to uncover the truth about the vile paedophile television presenter Jimmy Savile.

It is only two years since the BBC aired a Christmas special edition of Jim'll Fix It hosted by Shane Richie four months before the truth about Savile emerged. It was a nauseating programme with an unknowing Richie settling into the big red chair once occupied by a piece of human garbage, whose crimes continue to stalk the victims of a cover up that should shame anyone who helped conceal it.

Savile was the ultimate figure of public relations illusion, a wretched human being, who was somehow portrayed as a 'great' charity worker.

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them,” said William Shakespeare.

In public relations, greatness can be made up for a price. In sport, there continues to be some ancient drivel spouted by old hacks about working class values of honesty, fair play and decency shaping the vision of men such as Giggs’s former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Where were those attributes when Fergie was flogging his autobiography by sticking the knife into his former captain Roy Keane among others?

Giggs is a great footballer, but a great man occupies a domain a million miles away from the tawdry behaviour of depressing celebrities.

You pay your money, you take your choice. His faults should not prevent us from appreciating his ability as a footballer if that is your want. People are too complex, too flawed to justify embracing blind loyalty beyond a superficial public persona.

Without fraternising with a cracker-barrel philosophy, Joey Barton hinted at a grander truth on Twitter: human beings are born to disappoint by their very nature.

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