In this volatile football world of eternal change, it is a relief that some things remain the same. One such example is John Giles and Eamon Dunphy's sage delineation of footballers between 'great' and not so. It's a kind of ancient footballing order, and Irish football would be poorer without it.
It also has the commercial benefit of occasionally being really controversial. (See Platini, Michel in the case of Dunphy).
And as if to reinforce this ancient order, Giles began his Irish Independent column this week with the eternal line:
Gareth Bale has a bit to go before I would call him a great player.
Giles explained this stance: that he needs to get away from the domineering spectre of C. Ronaldo at Madrid, with Giles making the interesting observation that Ronaldo was not necessarily the ideal team player to accept Bale into the team, like Messi has done with Neymar and Luis Suarez up the road. (A cynic may point to the fact that Neymar and Suarez do seem obliged to end every interview with 'Messi is the greatest player of all time' to keep him on side, but we digress).
He may not be what Giles calls great just yet, but the Irish legend is a fan nonetheless:
I really like Gareth Bale, first as a player and secondly as a human being.
I don’t know him but everything I’ve seen leads me to think he’s a good lad with very few airs and graces and remains rooted in his family and friends back in Wales. While Ronaldo, with all his money and medals, still feels the need to show off, still stands on the tips of his toes to make himself big in team photos, Bale gets on with his work and plays for the team.
Wales has been a great outlet for Bale and we have seen by the way he leads the team that he has a genuine passion and delight in playing for his country.
Giles also rubbished the idea that Wales are any good in his absence, taking a pop at Aaron Ramsey in the process:
I don’t buy the idea that Wales are a decent team without him. They have Aaron Ramsey who thinks he’s a great player but isn’t. Without Bale, they would be very average.
Giles expanded on his Ramsey critique on Off the Ball, adding that he is a decent player and a decent goalscorer, but is a bit "overrated" and not a typical midfield player, adding he is not better than anyone we have.
Giles' comments have been picked up/taken out of context in the Welsh media, and haven't gone down particularly well. Here's the front cover of today's Telegraph sports section:
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) March 23, 2017
Chris Coleman was asked about Giles' comments in his pre-game presser, and he responded in turn:
If this is an average team I must be a hell of a manager – I'm happy with him saying that because it makes me look good!
Coleman then lurched into cliche mode:
Look, this said, that said – it happened last time we had a derby – but me and Martin both know full well that when that whistle blows and we lock horns, it doesn't matter what is said, who is a good player, who is not a good player.
Giles said that it's a good reply by a "good, honest individual". He is very optimistic, by the way, telling Newstalk that Ireland have been in better form than Wales, and he wouldn't be one for building them up too much. Giles also reckons that the midfield will be Whelan, McClean, Hendrick, and McGeady, owing to James McCarthy's lack of match sharpness, adding that "James McCarthy has never been a great player for Ireland".
Not unlike Bale.