Giggs set to equal Steve's
Told his record for making the most appearances
for one club
in the top flight was about to go, Steve Perryman lets out a
chuckle. "Really? I know about most of my records but not that
one. Ah well, I suppose it is about time I got beaten by a
Now 59, settled in the south-west and enjoying his role as
director of football at Exeter, Perryman requires no prompting
to offer a more fulsome tribute to Ryan Giggs. Although
selecting one of Sir Alex Ferguson's teams is fraught with
danger, as a point is still required to clinch a record 19th
league title, the chances are Giggs will make an appearance
in one of Manchester United's final two games of the season
against Blackburn and Blackpool.
And when he does, the veteran Welshman will match the 613
top-flight league appearances Perryman made for Tottenham
in the 1970s and early 80s, yet another milestone in Giggs'
"If it was going to be anyone, I would want it to be Ryan Giggs," reflected Perryman. "If you were
going to use anyone as an example of how to conduct yourself in terms of being a footballer, he would be it. "More stuff is known now about exercise and the regimes you need to prolong your career now. Even so, not everyone sticks by that. But with all the yoga and dietry stuff, he obviously lives in the right way. You have to give Ryan credit for that."
There are other advantages for a modern-day professional too, thinks Perryman, not least the bowling-green type surfaces Premier League matches tend to be played on. "These guys all play
on top of the ground, rather than have to go through it, as I spent most of my career doing. "That
was tough. There are also have bigger squads now, so you have a lot of rotation. "But I am sure
Ryan has played plenty of games when his body has not felt right." And, unlike Perryman, who
made an art form of blending in, selflessly doing his job in defence before letting the more cultured players strut their stuff, Giggs has operated right in the spotlight, the man United still turn to when things are not going so well. "He clearly has the talent to match the desire and professionalism,"
said Perryman. "He is the type of player who always gets the crowd on their edge of their seats,
which obviously wasn't my game. "He is a danger to any opponent and although I don't know him, looking at it from the outside, he must be a manager's dream."
Should Giggs help United to the championship, it would be his 12th, an extension of a record he already holds. Perryman didn't get any. But he did win two FA Cups, two League Cups and two
UEFA Cups. In the process he became only the third man to skipper winning teams in back-to-back FA Cups. The second of those triumphs came in 1982, the year of his only England cap, a chronic return for a player of such consistency.
"The time when I really felt I should have got my foot in the door was after the 1982 World Cup,"
said Perryman. "But for a couple of little reasons, rather than anything major, I ended up being the only person who didn't see eye-to-eye with Bobby Robson and it just didn't happen." The same
could not be said of Bill Nicholson, the man Perryman regards as his mentor. "I trusted him absolutely," he said.
"Bill was a hard man and didn't take any prisoners. But we shared the same philosophy about how football should be played. "People have this theory that I grew up around Tottenham. But I was a
west London lad and it was quite a trip to the club every day. "I could also have earned more money elsewhere. I did it because I wanted to work for Bill." Within a half hour chat, Perryman observes
that one of his major attributes was that he played without an ego. Maybe that reluctance to push
his name forward is one of the reasons why his astonishing overall tally of 854 Tottenham appearances has never been acknowledged with an induction into football's Hall of Fame. "It would
be nice," he shrugged. "A little bit of recognition at least."
Perryman left for Oxford in 1986, still believing he had more to offer but concerned about the
direction Tottenham were heading. "If you are not wanted, there is no point hanging on," he said.
"I certainly was not as good as I had been at 25. But I did feel I could have still made a
contribution, within the dressing room as much as anything else. "How do you quantify that. I am
sure that is what Sir Alex takes into account when he is thinking about the best way of using Ryan."
Interview by Simon Stone