Watching Ryan Giggs play in the Manchester derby reminded me of why I don't miss him in a Wales shirt.
Perhaps it's a fit of unreasonable optimism, fuelled by an impressive performance by Toshack's youngsters last week, but when I saw that Giggs was in the crowd at The Racecourse I couldn't help seeing the irony. He chose not to represent his country any more, and was hardly a reliable attender when he was available. At least he turns up now he's not needed!
The thing about Giggs against Man City was that he was his usual Man United self. Any decision that goes against him is followed by a stunned expression and a volley of dissent, no matter how clearly correct it was; every decision against a team mate when Giggs is in range is followed by the winger chasing an haranguing the ref.
I'm not saying he's the worst offender in football in this regard by any means, although his wounded expression does get under my skin a bit! What gets my goat is that he never seemed to do that when he was in a Wales shirt! I can't help feeling that his behaviour suggests he cared more about his club than his country; even if that's not fair, noticing his less committed demeanour in internationals made me wonder whether it was linked to his subdued performance for Wales compared to what he did for United.
Add in how rarely he turned up for friendlies in the past and the case builds furter momentum. How can he justify retiring from international football early to avoid burn-out? He saved himself countless hours on the pitch as a young man by not attending internationals-he should be fresh as a daisy!
It all made his stage-managed departure from his final international stick in my throat. He was given the privilege of an early substitution so he could enjoy a standing ovation, which shocked me. Quite apart from what I have just said, this was a competitive game. We were drawing at the time, there was still enough time to get a winner and at the time we still had a faint hope of qualifying for Euro 08 (Oh yes, did I neglect to mention he deserted his country aklf way through a qualifying campaign?) Even if our chances were slim, yoru final position in the group determines how tough your group for the next tournament will be, so there was plenty to play for. Maybe we shouldn't have turned what was a mediocre game into a sideshow for saying farewell to a mediocre international career.
To be fair to Giggs he didn't dump on the nation like the shameful Mark Hughes apparatchiks who deserted the scene when John Toshack, a gesture I genuinely admire him for. It's just that every time I see him snarl at a Premiership referee I feel a lot more proud to be Welsh than he is.