They share the same intense, dark-eyed gaze. The father’s raw athleticism has been handed down, refined and monetised by the son.
But the similarities between Welsh former rugby player Danny Wilson and his famous son, ex footballer Ryan Giggs, run far deeper than the merely physical.
Here’s Danny, 67, on sexual fidelity: ‘I’ve been faithful to my current partner Dawn, but before that, no. I wasn’t.
‘Not with any of my former partners. Aren’t most guys like that? We’ve all had a few girlfriends. Don’t put me on the spot about how many, but nowhere near as many as Ryan, God forbid!
‘And I’d settled down with Dawn by my 40s. Ryan should be surrounding himself with better people, getting a grip, calming down. Everything’s been given to him on a plate since he was 15.’
Danny Wilson (Ryan Giggs dad) photographed at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales. An interview for the end of the Ryan Giggs trial, with Danny talking about his childhood, what kind of father he was etc.Collect of Danny with Ryan and daughter Libby in 2007.Picture by Damien McFadden: 07968 308252
Danny Wilson (back right) photographed at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales
By this age, Giggs had recently joined Manchester United — and was already dating a 19-year-old; the ‘fittest girl’ from his school.
This was also the age at which his parents’ volatile relationship finally fractured for good.
Danny exited his sons’ lives (Ryan has a younger brother Rhodri, 46) in a maelstrom of cheating, lies and recrimination which, shamefully, culminated in a scuffle with the boys’ mother, Lynne.
All this has an uncanny, sordid resonance. Lynne, he says, had met someone else a couple of months earlier. ‘It was after I’d had an affair. Tit for tat. We had a big argument about it and I lost it for a moment. I regret it to this day,’ says Danny.
This week, the former Manchester United star and ex Wales manager, was cleared of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, PR executive Kate Greville, 38, following a row about his infidelity.
Greville, accused Giggs, 49, of causing her actually bodily harm and of controlling and coercing her during their relationship between August 2017 and November 2020; charges he has consistently denied.
He also pleaded not guilty to assaulting Greville’s sister Emma, 27, during a fracas at his home in Worsley, Greater Manchester, in November 2020.
And during a short hearing on Tuesday, Judge Hilary Manley directed Giggs was not guilty on all three counts.
A retrial had been due to start at Manchester Crown Court at the end of the month, after jurors failed to reach verdicts in August last year.
Such was the prurient appeal of the proceedings, Giggs’ spectacular sporting career has now been eclipsed by the sordid machinations of his personal life.
Among the most decorated footballers of all time — one of only 28 players to have made more than 1,000 career appearances — he is now, arguably, just as well known for being a self-confessed serial philanderer as he is for his sporting prowess.
This week Giggs’ father responded to his son’s acquittal: ‘He is a womaniser, no doubt about that, but it doesn’t make him guilty of assault. I’m pleased he’s been cleared of that,’ says Danny.
Ryan, Danny himself concedes, is something of a chip off the old block. Indeed, Giggs confessed in court that he had never been faithful either to his ex wife Stacey, with whom he has two children, Libby, 20, and Zach, 16, or to any of his other girlfriends.
Former Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs had a romantic night out with his now ex-partner Kate Greville in Italy in 2018
Ryan Giggs playing for Manchester United in 2011, the year the footballer’s romance with his brother’s wife was revealed
For eight years he’d even pursued a secret affair with his brother Rhodri’s wife Natasha Lever, while married to Stacey.
More sleazy disclosures ensued: Natasha claimed to have aborted Ryan’s baby two weeks before she married his brother.
Unsurprisingly, neither sibling has spoken to the other since.
How much of Ryan’s reprehensible behaviour can be attributed to the precedent his father set?
Danny concedes that in many ways there is an element of ‘like father like son’, but Ryan’s transgressions were exaggerated by the entitlement that comes with excessive wealth and fame.
Danny, who save for one meeting more than a decade ago, hasn’t seen Ryan for 33 years, believes if his oldest boy had not excluded him from his life, he would have taught him a sense of perspective.
‘No one has ever challenged him. If I’d been allowed to see him I wouldn’t have let him behave like this,’ he says. ‘Although I went to see him train and play after the split, he was always off-ish with me. He didn’t want me around.’
According to Danny — who is giving his first full interview exclusively to the Mail — his relationship with Lynne Giggs was doomed from the outset.
Danny’s family hailed from Sierra Leone, West Africa, and, growing up in a Cardiff council house — the son of a merchant seaman and nurse — he believes Lynne’s parents considered he wasn’t good enough for their pretty, blonde daughter.
They met in their local youth club in 1971: ‘Lynne was lovely but her parents were against me from day one. I only met them once and they made it clear I should stay away from their daughter.’
Lynne’s father was a policeman; her mother worked for Marks & Spencer. Allied to these solidly middle-class credentials, they lived in the respectable Cardiff suburb of Pentrebane while the Wilsons and their large, close-knit extended family lived in the less desirable district of Ely.
Despite her father’s warning, Danny, by then a promising young Cardiff rugby union player, and Lynne pursued their relationship and in 1973 Ryan was born to his unmarried teenage parents.
‘Ryan wasn’t planned but I was happy when he came along,’ recalls Danny. ‘But I was 18, still going out with my mates. I wasn’t ready for fatherhood.’
They moved from a rented flat to a council house in Ely, ‘and the arguments began,’ he recalls. ‘Lynne didn’t like it because it wasn’t a nice area, and I’d go out and have a skin-full on Saturday nights which she didn’t like either.’
In 1979, Danny’s chance to further his rugby career — and take the step up from amateur to professional player — took the family to Manchester when he was scouted for league side Swinton with a promise of £200 every time his team won — plus a nice house with ‘gardens front, back and side’.
He then got his first taste of what his son would experience a generation later. ‘I was in my 20s, with quite a profile as a rugby player and the girls threw themselves at me,’ he says.
Photos from the era show a lithe, handsome man with a handlebar moustache and Afro hair. He readily admits to two affairs.
His third, however, in 1985, was more serious and had a catastrophic effect on his relationship with Lynne. By then, Ryan was 12 and Rhodri was eight.
‘I was home in Cardiff for the summer and my sister Jennifer introduced me to an Australian girl, an architect called Helen. She was a stunner. She got a job in Manchester and that’s when we started a passionate relationship.
‘It lasted about six months. I told Lynne, there was a big row and I moved out to be with Helen.
Ryan Giggs (middle) pictured next to ex-teammate Nicky Butt (right) on Wednesday, one day after he was cleared off assaulting his ex-partner Kate Greville
Former Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs pictured leaving Manchester Crown Court last year where he was accused of controlling and coercive behaviour against ex-girlfriend Kate Greville between August 2017 and November 2020
Kate Greville, former girlfriend of football legend Ryan Giggs
Then she moved back to Australia. She wanted me to go with her —even offered to pay my airfare — but I didn’t want to leave the kids. So I told Lynne I’d got rid of Helen and she took me back in.’
That was terrible behaviour, I say. ‘Of course it was,’ he agrees. ‘And we started having regular, unbearable rows.’
During this tumultuous time Lynne met chef, Richard Johnson, whom she went on to marry. Johnson died, tragically young, in 1996 of liver cancer, aged just 36. (By then, Ryan was 22 and a Welsh international, who publicly credited his stepfather with encouraging his career).
Few would blame Lynne for forging a new life, but Danny — alerted by a friend — flew into a jealous rage and a huge row ensued. ‘We had a scuffle which became violent and I deeply regret it. I feel ashamed. It wouldn’t happen again in a million years.’
Inevitably, the relationship broke down completely and in 1988, when Ryan had reached the formative age of 15, his father left their home to return to Cardiff.
Danny says he made frequent trips to watch Ryan playing for Manchester United youth side. ‘He’d look nervous and say, “Mum’s over there,” so I got the feeling I wasn’t wanted.’
Aged 16, Ryan decided to change his surname from Wilson to Giggs — his mother’s maiden name.
‘When he played his first game against Everton — he was 17 or 18 — I went to watch. He’d no idea I was there.
‘I should have tried harder to keep in contact, but I know I unsettled him because he was so terrified of his mum’s reaction.’
Ever present, too, was the sense that the Giggs family felt the Wilsons were social inferiors. Danny — believing his son could learn a lesson from it — tells a salutary story of how he was brought down to earth when he cold-shouldered a cousin.
‘When I was 18 I went out to a pub wearing my Cardiff rugby blazer with a group of players including the great Welsh internationals Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies. I thought, “I’m with the big boys now” and I ignored my cousin.
‘So he smacked me in the mouth and I ended up in hospital. My father got to hear about it and he grabbed me by the throat and said, “If you ever disrespect your family again, you’ll never play rugby again.”
‘And that’s the treatment Ryan needed a long time ago. He’s got above his station. He’s been acting the big’un and he’s never been put in his place.’
He returns to Ryan’s sense of invincibility, his belief that the morals and consequences that applied to others did not concern him, and says his eldest son’s worst transgression was his affair with his brother’s fiancée.
‘The rat. I can’t understand how anyone could do that to his brother. I read about it in a Sunday paper, jumped in my car and zoomed up the M4 towards Manchester. God knows what I’d have done to him but it wouldn’t have been nice.
‘I was pulled over for speeding twice and the second time I said to the copper, “I’m Ryan Giggs’ dad” and he could see that I was mad with him. He said, “I won’t give you a ticket, but just take five minutes’ break then turn round and go back home,” which I did.’
It was a rare moment of temperance from a man who was raised to settle arguments with his fists.
Moreover, the scandal led to a reconciliation between Danny and Rhodri, now single and a father to three children. ‘We’re friends now. We play golf together. I whip him every time,’ smiles Danny.
Giggs had a brief spell in charge of Manchester United’s first team in 2014
Ryan, meanwhile, has remained resolutely loyal to his mother, and vice versa. ‘A lot of my friends have said, “Stay on the right side of him. He may look after you.” But I’ve never been afraid to call him out. His money doesn’t bother me one iota,’ says his dad.
But what if he offered to buy you a new house? ‘I’d snatch his hand off!’ He laughs richly.
He remains a physically imposing man — he works as a security guard — and I’d say he hasn’t lost his eye for the ladies: when a strikingly attractive blonde walks past his head swivels.
But he insists he is faithful to Dawn, 52, a hairdresser. They have an adored son, Beau, 11, a promising rugby player.
He shows me a photo, too, of Hannah, his daughter from a brief liaison 30-odd years back, on her graduation day. Ryan has met neither of them.
He also tells a touching story of how he rushed to Stacey’s bedside to take her flowers when she gave birth to Ryan’s son Zach in 2006.
‘I thought, “I’ll do the right thing” and I went to the hospital. Zach was in an incubator. I didn’t get to see him.
‘Stacey thanked me. She was quite drowsy so I only stayed five minutes, then I drove back to Cardiff.’
We talk in a sprawling hotel outside his home city; coincidentally the scene of that one meeting between Danny, Ryan and his daughter Libby.
Danny shows me a treasured photo of the three of them; his only image of his granddaughter — then four or five — and the one time he met his son as an adult.
‘I don’t think he’ll listen to me after all these years, but I hope he becomes more humble. I hope he learns some lessons. He must be unhappy to do what he’s doing. I hope he apologises to his brother and makes up with him. Life is too short.’
There is a tone of conciliation in his voice, a sense that for all his errant son’s scandalous misdemeanours there is still room for restitution.
‘I feel sorry for him. He’s still my kid,’ he says. ‘And whatever they do, you don’t stop loving them.’