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From the archive - the 'next Giggs' makes his debut

Sport | Published:

It's not often someone plays for their country before they've even made their senior domestic debut.

But Ryan Green's career path took a different trajectory to most.

Here was a player who became his country's youngster ever international, aged just 17 years and 225 days, when he lined up for Wales against Malta in May 1998, before getting anywhere near the Wolves first team.

Right-back Green beat the record of a certain Ryan Giggs and the comparisons with the Manchester United legend didn't end there - many touted Green to be Wales' next superstar.

Talk about pressure on young shoulders.

"I'm overjoyed," Green said ahead of the Malta game. "It's hard to take in considering I haven't played in Wolves' first team yet.

"I realise it's Giggs' record that I'm overhauling and that makes it an even greater honour for me."

Green also lined up against Tunisia that summer, with Wales boss Bobby Gould placing tremendous faith in the teenager.

Giggs, though, didn't share Gould's faith, later labelling the move 'a typical Gould stunt' in his autobiography.

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In fact the current United assistant boss took serious umbrage to his record being broken, saying in his book: "Bobby seemed to do a lot of things just for effect. It was typical of him (to pick Green.)

"Ryan, like me, came from Cardiff, but we didn't have much else in common.

"Last I heard, he was playing non-league football."

Things soon took a downward turn for Green, but back in the summer of 1998 he had the world at his feet.

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Wolves boss Mark McGhee was keen to take things a bit slower, and Green remained in the reserves when he returned from his Wales escapades.

Just a few months later, though, McGhee was sacked, and Colin Lee saw things a bit differently.

Three days after overseeing an incredible 6-1 victory at Bristol City in his first match in temporary charge, Lee had no hesitation in blooding Green when an injury to Kevin Muscat left a hole in the defence for the visit of Sheffield United on a Tuesday night in November.

Wolves won 2-1 thanks to goals from Carl Robinson and David Connolly, but the star of the show was Green, who made a tremendous impact on the right flank.

The match report in the Express & Star spoke of how the attacking defender 'tormented' United's back line all evening as he made an 'instant impression'.

It continued: "Lining up at right-wing-back, he was cool in defence and confident going forward

"Confidence, the appreciative crowd soon realised, is not a problem for the 18-year-old.

"Twice in the first half, he produced clever footwork to beat Wayne Quinn on his way to the byeline and defensively did all that could have been expected of him.

"The ovation he was given when he went off at the three-quarter stage following some over-zealous United tackling, underlined that the Molineux audience will always take a willing youngster to their hearts."

United had resorted to dubious tactics to quell Green's enthusiasm, leading him to be forced off with an injury that would keep him sidelined for several weeks.

Upon his return to fitness, however, Green found his progress blocked by Muscat and Darren Bazeley, and 18 months later he had yet to add to his solitary Wolves appearance.

Green became increasingly frustrated by his lack of game time, and a snub for a January 2000 FA Cup game against Sheffield Wednesday, when Muscat was suspended, was the final straw for the Welshman, who slapped in a transfer request.

Referee Clive Wilkes shows Green his marching orders during Wolves' 1-0 defeat to Albion in 2000.

"He gets good coaching here and we feel he has the makings of a good player. But I don't feel he's ready for the first team yet because I rate Kevin Muscat and Darren Bazeley ahead of him as right-backs."

The following season saw a change in fortunes. With Bazeley moved to right midfield and Muscat to left back, Green played six of the first 14 games of the season, and things were looking up for the young Welshman.

But then, in a tempestuous Black Country derby defeat to Albion at the Hawthorns, Green was foolishly sent off just before half time for two bookings in the space of just three minutes, both late fouls on Jason Roberts.

He would never start a game for Wolves again.

A year later, with Dave Jones now in charge, Green handed in another transfer request.

Ironically it was Lee who answered the call, snapping him up on loan at Torquay United where he was assistant manager.

A successful spell put him in the shop window and by October 2001 he finally had a new club, Millwall, managed by none other than McGhee.

So ended a hugely promising Wolves career that yielded just eight starts and four substitute appearances.

Featuring only sporadically for Milwall, Green would drop down the leagues and play for Cardiff City, Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol Rovers.

He recently signed for Hereford FC after leaving Merthyr Town.

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