Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughFor Once Being Welsh Counts For Nothing - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough For Once Being Welsh Counts For Nothing - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

For Once Being Welsh Counts For Nothing

To be a supporter of Wales is always a challenge, no matter the sport. As a small nation we shouldn’t be able to compete, yet when we suddenly get a decent group of players the pressure heaped on them is so great that they inevitably crumble or just lose the passion to play for the nation. The Welsh football team seems to have a peak every 20 years, where we nearly qualify for something, then it all goes wrong for a while.  It was only 3 years between Paul Bodin missing that penalty and Moldova rolling us. 4 years separated beating Italy and getting spanked at home by Slovakia. It seems that the best Welsh players give it 3 or 4 years before losing interest. Or more likely they are given 3 or 4 years before top Premiership managers start saying “Aaron, we have a really big Champions League game coming up, are you sure you want to go to Macedonia and risk getting injured? I mean, Wales aren’t going to qualify are they?”

Gary Speed seemed to have hit on a philosophy that worked for Wales. A game based on quick passing football, on looking after the ball, of clever probing passes creating chances rather than hustle bustle and puff your chests out lads and get stuck into them. It works because it suits the 3 key players who play like this for their clubs. It also works because Swansea and to a slightly lesser extent Cardiff play the same way, so players from those clubs can easily fit International football when needed. In 1 year we have developed a definite style of play, supported by the 2 major  clubs and the 3 top quality players we have at our disposal. The decision of who to appoint as the next manager of Wales is now the most important decision in the last 50 years of Welsh football.

When watching Wales, I am always pessimistic. Expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised is my philosophy. Even with the last decent team, under Mark Hughes I felt like that. There was something about that team that suggested they were scamming it a bit. Giggs still didn’t play that much. Speedo was often at left back, but, through his ability to read the game he could get away with it. If Hartson was injured the back up was Nathan Blake. Savage and Davies were good top level players, but if they were injured there was no-one to come in. In truth, the Euro 2004 campaign only nearly worked because the team got out in front of the group. After the first 4 games I seem to remember they only beat Azerbaijan. 

It isn’t like that now. Our players aren’t the best players in the world. Only Bale and Rambo would get near the England squad, and only Bale would get near the England team. Our captain, our talisman, the man who everything revolves around would at best be on the bench for the English. Our players aren’t the best, but for the first time in my life I watch Wales and expect them to win games. I have faith that we can look after the ball and cause good teams problems, as proven by the first 60 minutes against Montenegro and the second half at Wembley.

Now we have to deal with a new manager coming in and all of the problems that may involve. There’s the potential  new manager / new ideas scenario? There is also the personal issue. Speedo was a legend to every member of that squad, is there someone out there with that same level of respect amongst the squad?  Gary Speed could tell Aaron Ramsey or Gareth Bale something and they would listen intently. Wales have to continue to play in the same way. We have no choice, it is the only way we can be competitive. Chris Coleman seems to be the favourite, but personally I hope he doesn’t get the job. I don’t remember Fulham playing stylish football when he was in charge at Craven Cottage. John Hartson has a passion for Wales that can’t be matched, but no experience of management and he would almost certainly say something that would annoy somebody if he was in charge on his own.  Ian Rush is an absolute legend in Wales, but his attempt at management wasn’t successful. So what to do?

For what it’s worth, I have a solution.  For various reasons it could never happen, but here’s what I would do.  I would keep the coaching staff as it is, find a full time role for John Hartson to be involved in and I would beg Swansea to allow Brendan Rodgers to be part time manager of Wales. Right now, being Welsh is not the most important qualification for this job. Having an understanding of how to set up a team to play passing football is the only thing that matters. Swansea do this. I’m pretty sure Rodgers is a Welsh name anyway……..

Dave Rogers @NoLeftFoot

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