The Rundown

Who the hell is Russell Beardsmore? Ryan Giggs’ XI most obscure team-mates

The Rundown

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Manchester United's tribute to Ryan Giggs (@ManUtd)

Manchester United commemorated the career of the retiring Ryan Giggs with a fabulous graphical tribute, combining the names of every single one of Giggs' 150 career team-mates with a photograph of the man himself in unforgettable fashion.

But after our initial reaction (specifically, going "Hey! That's cool!" and sharing the link on Twitter) we started to look more closely. And that's when we realised that for every Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney, there was the name of some player or other who we had absolutely never heard of before.

So we decided to create a first XI of Giggs's most obscure team-mates - some you might have heard of, some you almost certainly won't have, but almost all will make most football fans go, "Eh? When on earth did HE play with the Welsh wizard?", or words to that effect.

Some of you might know the lot of it, of course. So if you know any of the following without checking your old collection of Rothman's Football Yearbooks (that's what we used before the internet existed, kids) or some sort of online equivalent, then pat yourself on the back: you are a true football nerd.

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Russell Beardsmore

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Whaddya mean, you've never heard of him? What kind of prawn sandwich-munching fan are you anyway?

The diminutive midfielder came through the ranks at Old Trafford, and broke into the first team in the 1988-89 season. A combination of poorly-timed injuries and the arrival/emergence of better players - among them Paul Ince, as well as Giggs himself - meant that he was a fringe squad member thereafter until he left the club in 1993. He racked up 56 appearances, and did at least collect one winners' medal thanks to an appearance on the bench in the 1991 European Super Cup win over Red Star Belgrade.

Larnell Cole

The 21-year-old graduated from the Manchester United academy and lined up alongside Giggs when he came on for the final 13 minutes of a Carling Cup match against Leeds three years ago. After failing to break into the squad again since then, he was offloaded to Fulham in January.

Lee Martin

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Lee Martin and Lee Martin: Proof that Giggs had so many team-mates that they had to start re-using names

We've a bit of sympathy for anyone who sees that name and shouts, "Hey! I remember Lee Martin! He scored the winning goal in the 1990 FA Cup final replay" - well, nice try, but no cigar. There have been two, you see: the original late 80s/early 90s model was a big cheese for a while, but was forced out of the team by Clayton Blackmore. In 2005, however, another Lee Martin came through the ranks: a winger/attacking midfielder who broke into the side in a League Cup match against Barnet. He played 75 minutes, got subbed off for Darron Gibson (making his debut), and never again pulled on the Red Devils' shirt.

William Prunier

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William Prunier might have looked in his late 40s on his United debut, but we're assured he was just 28

The French centre-back arrived to no particular fanfare in the winter of 1995, having bought out his contract at Bordeaux with the idea of finding a better club. Alex Ferguson offered him a trial at United, and he jumped at the chance despite being told it was on the strict understanding that he would only ever be part of the reserves.

An injury crisis changed all that, however: Denis Irwin, Steve Bruce, David May and Gary Pallister all copped it at the same time, and Prunier was drafted into the side over the festive period fixture log jam. He actually had a pretty good debut against QPR, but his second match was a disaster. Peter Schmeichel got injured in the warm-up but decided to play anyway, letting in four goals in a shambolic display that saw United lose 4-1.

It was Prunier, rather than the big Dane, who was made the scapegoat at the time - so much so that he was once voted United's sixth worst defender of all time in a fans' poll. Ferguson didn't share that view: he actually asked him to extend his trial (not least because of the injury crisis) but Prunier walked away. Classy. Stupid, but classy.

Felipe Ricardo

The Spanish goalkeeper arrived from Valladolid in 2002 as back-up for Fabien Barthez, but rarely got the chance to pull on the red jersey. He made a few Champions League appearances - four, in all - but appeared only once in the Premier League. And on that occasion, he gave away a penalty with his very first action of the match - boo! - but saved the resulting spot kick - hooray! Despite getting shunted out on loan and offloaded a few seasons later, he said that playing for United "was a lovely experience which was well worth it."

Lee Roche

Another youth team product from Old Trafford who never cut the mustard, the full-back made three appearances in United's first team: one in a League Cup match against Arsenal in 2001 which they lost 4-0; one as a sub in a 5-3 Premier League win over Newcastle in 2002; and one in a Champions League group stage match against Deportivo La Coruna in 2003. He was released later that year, ended up going to Burnley.

Simon Davies

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This almost unknown star actually shares a lot in common with Giggs: both are midfielders, both were born in the winter of 1973-74, both were part of United's "golden generation", and both are Welsh. Indeed, the two actually played together for Wales in 1996 (it was Davies' only cap). But while the other members of the 1992 FA Youth Cup winners went on to glory - among them David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville - Davies languished in the reserves for almost his entire spell at the club.

He clocked up 20 first team appearances (including 11 starts), and even scored a goal against Galatasaray in a Champions League match back in 1994. Moving on to teams such as Luton Town, Bangor City and Total Network Solutions (where he earned the title of Welsh Premier League Player of the Season 2002-03) ensured that nobody would ever hear of him again.

Scott Wootton

Alex Ferguson poached the young centre-back from Liverpool's youth system in 2007 when he was just 16, and had the distinction four years later of making his debut in Gary Neville's testimonial against Juventus. Wootton was the young player brought on in the dying moments to allow Neville his standing ovation - but far from being a passing of the baton, it turned out to be the kiss of death for Wootton's United career.

He played just four times for the first team - two as-good-as-dead-rubber Champions League matches against no-hopers Cluj, and two League Cup games - and was invariably shunted off on loan before being cut loose and heading to Leeds last summer. Liverpool to United to Leeds, eh? Good job he doesn't have a higher profile or he'd probably get death threats from all three groups of fans for making career moves like that!

Andy Goram

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A lot of football fans will still remember Andy Goram, who kept goal for Scotland 43 times - including at Euro '96 - and Rangers several hundred times. But how many of you remember that he once played for United? Okay, that's not quite true - it was twice, back in the 2000-01 season. And he was ignominiously subbed off after an hour on both occasions, having let a couple of goals in (against Coventry and Southampton).

Goram wasn't there long, but still made two priceless contributions to United folklore: he is possibly the only team-mate ever to tell Roy Keane to f*** off, and the only transfer target to hang up on Alex Ferguson and still get signed, as he revealed in his autobiography (you can read an unexpurgated extract here).

Ian Wilkinson

The English goalkeeper came through the youth system alongside Giggs, and both made their first team debuts in 1991. For Giggs it would be the first of 963 matches; for Wilkinson, the first of one. His sole appearance was a League Cup second round, second leg clash against Cambridge United - oh! The glamour! - where he conceded a goal in a 1-1 draw that saw United through on aggregate. They went on to win the cup that year, incidentally, so in a sense you could call him a trophy winner.


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What? You don't remember the legendary Angolan striker? No, nor did we. But that's hardly surprising considering that he was only ever on the pitch for 40 minutes in his three appearances as a sub - two of which came in the League Cup, and one in the Premier League in late 2008.

He was offloaded to Valladolid the next summer, where he rashly promised fans he would score 40 goals in his debut season. He came just 35 goals shy of that ambitious target, and has had a patchy career ever since, no matter what shirt he's been wearing - yet when he pulls on his Angola shirt, he's a man transformed and has a fantastic scoring record of 22 goals in 49 international matches.

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