Ryan Giggs: Portrait of a family man and role model

Ryan Giggs with son Zach, and below with wife Stacey
Ryan Giggs with son Zach, and below with wife Stacey
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RYAN Giggs is widely seen as one of the finest modern-day role models for his sport.

In a career lasting more than two decades, he has won countless admirers with the skill and attacking ability he has shown while playing for Manchester United and Wales.

Ryan Giggs with his wife Stacey

Ryan Giggs with his wife Stacey

The 37-year-old has been consistently admired for the way he has handled fame and the pressures of top-flight football with professionalism and dignity.

He is also a family man, marrying his long-time partner Stacey Cooke in September 2007 in a ceremony attended by close relatives and friends. The couple’s children, Liberty and Zach, were part of the congregation.

Giggs made his United debut in March 1991 and picked up his 12th Premier League winners’ medal this month.

Along the way he has become the most decorated player in the history of the English game - and also picked up 64 caps for Wales.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is credited with persuading Giggs to sign schoolboy forms with United rather than join Manchester City.

He made his debut aged 17 as a substitute against Everton, and two months later scored the winner against Manchester City at Old Trafford on his full debut.

Since then winners’ medals have flowed into his collection, and he is still going strong - signing a one-year extension to his contract with United in February, and expected to continue his career into another season at Old Trafford later this year.

He continues to defy time, with pundits saying he looks as fit now as he did two decades ago, testament to the dedication with which he has looked after his body.

Early this year he launched his contribution to the world of workout DVDs, releasing his Giggs Fitness: Power & Strength Through Yoga DVD.

In 2007 he was awarded the OBE and it was commented then that the award would no doubt have taken into account his charity work, aiding the campaign to rid football of racism, plus his role as a Unicef representative working to eliminate the use of land mines.

He was crowned PFA Player of the Year and BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009.

There have been calls from politicians for him to receive a knighthood, and Sir Alex wrote in his foreword to Giggs’s autobiography Ryan Giggs: My Life, My Story, published last year: “How I would love to adorn my team sheet with the words ‘Sir Ryan Giggs’.”

It is thought that he has set his sights on managing Manchester United or Wales when he finally ends his playing career.

He was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying: “Football is such a massive part of my life and to just stop in your late 30s and do nothing is tough.”

In a magazine interview last year, he said he could not get away with the things he did in his early 20s, such as going out drinking and eating fast food.

“I hardly drink any alcohol these days. I have taken up yoga, which is great. I just lead a more boring life.”

Early last year he collected the freedom of his adopted home city of Salford, previous recipients of which include Nelson Mandela, LS Lowry and fellow Welshman David Lloyd George.

Although massively proud of his Welsh roots, Giggs had little say in the matter when he headed north from Cardiff aged just seven after his rugby-playing father accepted an offer to switch from union to league and join Swinton.