After the incredibly difficult start Chris Coleman had to his Wales managerial career, especially after losing 6-1 to Serbia, many supporters would have raised eyebrows if you’d said to them after that game that in three years’ time the Wales team would be on the verge of qualifying for their first tournament since 1958, and also that Chris Coleman was to be offered a new contract.
Nonetheless, that is exactly the situation the Wales faithful finds themselves at this very minute. Leading their Euro 2016 qualifying group, undefeated after six games and having only conceded two goals, Wales are flying, and Chris Coleman is the man to thank for that!
After such an incredible turn of results that has seen the side go on an undefeated streak in competitive matches stretching almost two years, fans and those in the media have inevitably started talking about the small matter of Chris Coleman’s expiring contact and what the future might hold for Wales’ leader.
When asked about his contract situation at the latest Wales squad announcement for the games against Cyprus and Israel, Coleman admitted that brief informal discussions took place after the recent World Cup qualifying draw in Moscow:
‘Yeah, we all went out for food after the draw in Russia, myself, and the delegation that came over to Russia such as the FAW President, the CEO and so on, and we had an informal chat. My reason for not really getting into all of this though is simple: we haven’t got the job done yet and we need to get to France.
‘If we achieve that target – and I’ve believed for a long time that we will do it in this campaign because of the depth, talent and experience we have in the squad – then fine, we’ll sit down and have that discussion about a new contract or an extension, but until then we’re not going into it.’
Pride in his work
Chris Coleman has constantly been praised, whether performances are going well or not, for his passion for Welsh football. It is obvious he loves his country and wants to see them succeed. So much so that, if he wasn’t on the touchline as a manager shouting instructions to his players, you’d be pretty safe in betting that he’d be there in the stands doing exactly the same thing from there instead.
Coleman offered somewhat of an explanation of just how much the job means to him as he announced the squad for the games against Cyprus and Israel yesterday, as well as an insight into what Wales’ future might look like following this current qualifying campaign:
‘Even throughout the last campaign where we all had such a horrible time following Gary’s passing, managing my country was then, and still is, the biggest job there is in football to me, and the biggest honour that could possibly be bestowed upon me in my career – regardless of whether it is a successful tenure or not.
‘I don’t want that honour to be taken away from me, of course I don’t, but I still want to finish this current campaign on a successful note by reaching France and we can only do that by concentrating on each game in turn. The next campaign will be here soon enough but this campaign is obviously the priority at the moment.’
Succinctly, Coleman summarised exactly what this current period of his career meant to him:
‘The pressure is enormous, but this time in my career right now stands out as the biggest challenge and honour that I have ever had in my life.’
Excitement engulfing the country
Don’t ever underestimate the marketing influence of Football Association of Wales CEO Jonathon Ford. Having thrown all of his experience and expertise behind the FAW’s Together Stronger marketing campaign, the support the national teams have received as a result has done through the roof; something Coleman says he feels as he travels around the country for his work:
‘You can feel the excitement about the city, about Cardiff, around the entire country even. People are starting to believe, people are excited, therefore the pressure is immense but this is what we’ve always wanted, to be in this position, so we can’t complain!’
Going into such a crunch set of fixtures, Coleman also offered his players some small crumb of friendly advice going into this crucial international window:
‘It is pointless to live up to the fact that we are Wales and that we are a small nation of just three million people. We are making an impression, we should strut about a bit more, show our confidence, because that is what required for us to reach our targets.’