Tag Archives: Wales

Tyler Roberts – The next big thing in Welsh Football?

‘I think the biggest compliment I could give him is that you wouldn’t have known that he was so young; he fit straight in – a very talented lad.’

Those were the words of captain Ashley Williams following Wales’ unforgettable 1-0 win over Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium last week. ‘Who was he talking about?’, I hear you ask. West Bromwich Albion’s and Wales’ newest and most exciting strike prospect, Tyler Roberts.

Another thing you might be wondering right now is why I asked about a 16-year-old prospect after one of my country’s most memorable victories in recent times, without a doubt for at least 13 years. Well, that’s how highly I rate this guy.

I’ve not seen him play too often but, to paraphrase Al Pacino in (the abysmal) Ocean’s Thirteen, some people I take very seriously have told me that Tyler Roberts is a very serious football player.

My only live glimpse of Roberts’ talents came on a cold night in Bangor, North Wales (like a cold night in Stoke, but more difficult) late last year when Osian Roberts’ Wales Under-16s got their teeth stuck into what would be their first outright victorious Victory Shield Campaign since the 1948/49 season, beating England 1-0 in their first game of the tournament.

It was obvious almost immediately that this guy was something special – the whole team played well, don’t get me wrong. A real embodiment at times of the ‘Welsh Way’ of playing the game that Gary Speed, Chris Coleman and Osian Roberts had/have worked so hard to implement and develop over the last few years – quick passing and great movement combined with astute defensive work.

But Roberts stood out for me because he just did everything.

Captaining a side at that age, you don’t necessarily expect the kind of hands-on performance that you might see from the likes of Wayne Rooney in the Premier League or whoever when they get involved with everything but ‘TyRo’ did that. He took free-kicks, he dropped off and got involved with the build-up, he worked the goalkeeper and was involved in what would be the winning goal for Wales which was scored by Cardiff City defensive prospect, Liam Angel. A really great performance before being substituted after 73 minutes.

You can always put one great performance down to a fluke of course; I’m sure we’ve all had a game where we’ve felt like Lionel Messi or whoever, but this wasn’t that and Roberts had a great campaign overall, notching two assists and getting a goal himself in the remaining two games against Scotland and Northern Ireland. He’s quick, powerful, tall and looks an intelligent footballer!

Since then, his season has just gone from strength to strength. West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis, proud of his Welsh roots himself, clearly values him and has labelled Roberts a ‘very promising talent for the future’, evidenced by the fact that Roberts made the bench for West Brom’s final game of the season against Arsenal, and also made a trip to Old Trafford earlier on in the season, but was only involved in the warmup, as West Brom won 1-0 against Manchester United.

Invaluable experience for the youngster!

And now, he’s had a great training camp by all accounts with Wales’ senior team and there really should be a place for him in that team in the future. It’s probably the first time in 30 years or so that Wales haven’t had a really top-class number 9. Over the years Wales have had the likes of Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Craig Bellamy, John Toshack, John Hartson and Robert Earnshaw – all very good for Wales in their own right but an argument could be made that the current crop of forwards (not including Gareth Bale and Hal Robson-Kanu who are wingers, sometimes deployed as forwards) aren’t at that level.

It would be foolhardy of course to say that Roberts is at that level yet, because he isn’t, not yet. He could well be though in a few years’ time if he continues his current rate of development! Hopefully for Wales fans, we can see him making his Premier League debut next season.

Everyone and their dog in the Welsh media has been quite quick to enquire, in light of Wales’ recent success, about the Golden Generation – is this current crop the one? If they qualify for Euro 2016 then you’d be hard-pressed to argue against that! The next generation, however, led by the likes of Tyler Roberts could surpass that still!

Lots of Positives for Wales after Slovakia double-header.

Ahead of two friendlies against Slovakia this week, Wales Women’s team manager Jayne Ludlow said as she announced her squad that the games would be another opportunity to develop an identity and style of play that will bring success.

The Welsh won their first fixture on Monday 1-0 thanks to a 55th minute goal from Helen Ward, and were leading 1-0 in the second game on Wednesday but eventually lost 2-1.

Pessimists will say, given that Wales conceded a lead to lose the second game, the style of play needs more work. Looking at each game individually though, I disagree.

Wales fielded a full-strength team in the first game on Monday and, despite what the score suggests, they absolutely decimated Slovakia – particularly in the first half – and could have been 4-0 up at half-time.

The main criticism of Wales in that game is that they didn’t finish their chances as Ward in particular could have had a hat-trick and a few others could have got their names on the score-sheet too.

They created an abundance of chances though, something Ludlow told FAW TV she was very happy about, and with Helen Ward returning from recently having given birth, surely it won’t be long before she is back on top form and building on her record total of 33 goals for Wales.

The former Reading Women’s manager also told FAW TV that, having taken the national team job in November, she thinks her tactical ideas and the identity she is trying to develop, is being taken on board by the players:

‘I’d like to think my messages are coming across to the girls, they’re working extremely hard and we’re testing them in every training session – there’s changes to how they’ve played in the past as a group and as individuals but they’re responding really well and performing really well.’

Wales were as good as Slovakia were poor though; Slovakia’s coach was seen at times striking the dugout to express his anger, such was the lack of quality in his team’s performance.

Wednesday’s game was always going to be a slightly different story, not least because one of the team’s star players – Jess Fishlock – had returned to her club, Seattle Reign, following her appearance in Monday’s game.

Furthermore, Slovakia had clearly learnt a lot of lessons from the manner of defeat in the first game as they pressed Wales vigorously right from the offset – something they hadn’t managed previously.

Wales, whilst still dominant in possession and way clear of their opponents in terms of chance creation, hadn’t learnt their lessons as they didn’t finish off the great chances they had.

That being said, the attacking play was excellent. Natasha Harding and Angharad James stood out in what was an excellent all-round midfield performance by Wales in both games.

The two Slovakia goals were fairly soft though, which will have disappointed the Wales camp.

The first saw Skorvankova pick the ball up in the centre circle before running through the entire Wales defence and slotting past goalkeeper Alice Evans. An excellent run, but a tackle probably should have been made.

The second came from an excellent corner by Feckova, which wasn’t dealt with by Wales’ goalkeeper and eventually met by Klechova who scored a bullet header. A great finish again, but appeared to get away from her marker too easily.

Defeat in the second game obviously didn’t go down well as some players expressed their disappointment on Twitter afterwards but all things considered, I don’t think Wales are too far away from where they want to be.

When Ward finds her best form again, Wales will be a different animal. For all of Slovakia’s improvements in the second game, Wales still had enough chances to win comfortably.

Also, with Fishlock not playing and Helen Bleazard not starting, as well as playing a very demanding formation twice in three days, the level of performance may understandably have dipped a few notches.

FAW President Trefor Lloyd Hughes, however, is a strong supporter of Ludlow, praising her work in his programme notes prior to these fixtures, but told me how he felt Wales missed Fishlock:

‘I think with (Jess) Fishlock missing tonight it makes a hell of a difference to the team, she is a top class player and would have made the difference tonight, I think.

‘Natasha (Harding) played well, and played better when she moved out wide. She’s really improved over the last eight months and understands the game very well – she’s a key player too.

Hughes was also optimistic about Wales’ chances in Euro 2017 qualifying, as the draw for qualification takes place on Monday in Nyon:

‘As long as they realise they have a good chance, they’ll be alright in qualifying. This was a good opportunity for them to test themselves in front of a good crowd. I think they have a good chance.’

All in all, a very impressive couple of performances for Wales over the last few days though. Yes, they could have done a couple of things a bit better but there are a lot of positives that will be taken from these two games, and rightly so as Wales were excellent for the most-part.

The draw for the qualifying rounds of Euro 2017 takes place on Monday the 13th of April in Nyon, Switzerland. Wales are ranked 19th among the 40 entrants – of course, I wish them the best of luck going into qualification!

Do the hopes of two nations hinge on Haifa clash?

Following tremendous starts that have seen both sides go unbeaten in Euro 2016 qualifying so far, Israel welcome Wales to Haifa on Saturday in what is rightly being labelled the biggest game of the group to date.

Wales manager Chris Coleman labelled this game as Wales’ biggest since their Euro 2004 playoff with Russia, which the Welsh lost 1-0 on aggregate over two legs.

At the squad announcement last week, Coleman said: ‘This next game will be the biggest game in Welsh football for years, since Russia. It is an absolutely huge game for us.

‘Top against second! The next two games are going to dictate whether we finish in the top two or whether we’re fighting for third.’

The History

Anyone who knows the history of the Welsh national side knows not to get ahead of themselves too much because, like against Russia, or against Romania or Scotland in years gone by, it can all go so wrong so quickly.

Confidence in Welsh football right now is at it’s highest since that 2004 campaign and some have argued that there are striking similarities between now and then.

On both occasions, Wales went undefeated in the opening four games as well as securing perhaps unlikely results both home and away in both campaigns, in this campaign’s case perhaps the two 0-0 draws and in 2004’s case the Italy/Finland wins.

Perhaps what is fuelling Wales’ fans pessimism, or will at least be at the back of their minds, is what happened after the opening four games of Euro 2004 qualifying (Wales didn’t win another game in that campaign).

Old habits die hard

Two problems Wales have had over the years, both interlinked in previous campaigns, are an abundance of injuries and a lack of commitment.

For the first time this campaign, Wales have a (more or less) full strength squad to choose from as they go into this international clash against Israel.

Earlier in the campaign, Wales were rocked by over a dozen injuries as they faced Bosnia and Cyprus in a double header at the Cardiff City Stadium.

This time there is just a handful of injuries to worry about, something that leaves Chris Coleman with a nice selection headache for once in midfield.

Despite the fact that Jonny Williams is still out, Chris Coleman has to decide if he plays all three of Aaron Ramsey, Joe Ledley and Joe Allen in midfield, and in what system if so.

Wales have played a 3-5-2 and a 4-2-3-1 this campaign. No-one is expecting to see the former again as that was a system catered for Bosnia so if the three are to play in a 4-2-3-1 do we see Ramsey at number 10 with the other two sitting deep, and if so can he fulfil that role?

I think he can. Former FAW Head of Youth Development Chris Whitley described Ramsey to me as someone who ‘wants to take the corners and head them in’ so his commitment is beyond question.

He has the creativity to play in that role and, whilst some have said his performances for Wales recently haven’t been up to scratch, shifting him to 10 could change that.

On the commitment front, Ashley Williams is the perfect example of why those issues are now a thing firmly in Welsh national football’s past.

He will earn his fiftieth cap on Saturday, in only the 57th Wales fixture since his debut, so an amazing show of commitment from the Swansea City skipper.

Joe Allen, who knows the centre-back very well from their time playing alongside each other at Swansea City, said that Williams’ commitment is his most impressive trait:

‘Ash has been a fantastic influence on me, at club and international level. I think the commitment and the drive he has to succeed is brilliant and rubs off on the entire squad.’

James Chester won’t partner him at the back as Coleman left him out of the squad due to Chester’s longstanding shoulder injury but a Williams-Collins combination is a good alternative.

Coleman said: ‘Shoulder injuries take longer to recover than doctors say – it is a shame because he’s been magnificent for us and has struck a great partnership with Ashley.’

Bale Bother

For all of the criticism being levied at Gareth Bale in Spain at the moment, whether you think it is justified or not, his commitment for Wales cannot be questioned.

Chris Coleman commented in this regard: ‘Gareth comes here, he wants to be involved, he’s incredibly motivated – he is the last person I am worried about honestly.

‘We’re almost half way and we’ve got a really good chance. The pressure is on and he loves that pressure, he can handle that, that environment where everything is on the line.’

Wales left-back Neil Taylor reaffirmed the views of his manager and added that, despite the criticism, Bale isn’t taking any notice of it and is just enjoying his football:

‘I don’t know if playing here is a release for him, you’d have to ask him, but all I know is that he looks like he is enjoying his football.

‘He’s fit and ready, like everyone, he turns up for every trip and always gives his best so you can see how much he wants it as a Welshman.’

Whatever is being said, his talent is undeniable. The criticism and the car-bashing in Spain is too far. Sure he can improve but who can’t? If he scores the winner against Israel but has an awful game otherwise, which of those two facts would people remember more?

Israel’s Monsterous midfield

A bit if research will tell you that, although they aren’t doing it in the English Premier League or in La Liga, Israel’s midfield are more than competent goal-scorers!

Biharis Nacho, Eran Zahavi and Lios Refaelov have all scored tonnes of goals domestically this season – Zahavi has managed to get 25 on his own – and Damari up front is joint-top-scorer with Danny Welbeck in qualifying so far on five goals.

Israeli journalist Raphael Gellar told me of his confidence going into these fixtures: ‘It is a very good time for Israel. I expect us to beat Wales and hopefully get a point from Belgium.

However Gellar was realistic regarding the run Israel have had to get to this point in the group: ‘If we can get 3-4 points from the next two matches, I will be impressed.

‘I am not surprised we are doing well but at the same the only tough team we played is Bosnia (and arguably Cyprus) but Bosnia had several injured players and they didn’t support their manager.’

They’re no slouches on the defensive end either; when Israel played Portugal in the last campaign, they completely shut down Cristiano Ronaldo, so could they do the same with Bale?

What is clear is that this is a huge game for both teams – if Wales lose, does the memory of previous campaigns come back to haunt them? Will it be too big a task to pick the players up for the next game, which is at home to Belgium in June?

For Israel, this game is the first of a double-header that will decide what they’re fighting for in the group. If they lose to Wales, can the manager pick them up for a game three days later against Belgium,  one of the best international teams in football?

So much is on the line in this one for both sides – as a Welshman I will obviously be backing Coleman and the guys but Wales are absolutely going to be up against it in this one.

‘Gareth should stay where he is’, says Coleman

Chris Coleman has given his thoughts on the current criticism surrounding Wales talisman Gareth Bale saying he thinks the Real Madrid star should stay put, amidst speculation of a move back to England.

Bale has been labelled as lazy and a ball hog this season, but speaking after Wales’ squad announcement yesterday for their upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel in, Coleman said:

“He’s the most expensive player in the world, I think he’s been caught up in a bit of a storm but knowing Gareth I’d be really surprised if he turned around and said he’d had enough and wanted to leave.

“He’s good enough to win the big trophies and play on the biggest stage with one of the biggest clubs and Real Madrid fit that bill,” He added.

It is well known that winning isn’t enough at Real Madrid as fans, board members and the media always expect them to not only win, but to do it convincingly and entertain in the process.

Coleman acknowledges this: ‘They’re different to Chelsea because although the pressure is on to perform every game, it is almost like a show when watching Madrid, there has to be entertainment.

‘Although they lost to Schalke they still got through but that isn’t good enough at Madrid. You can’t just win one or two nil, you have to win by more than that and entertain at the same time.’

After a 22-match winning streak that saw Madrid trail-blaze their way to the top of La Liga, their momentum has taken a serious hit recently and they’ve been criticised a lot as a result.

The Wales manager said: ‘Because it is Real Madrid and they are who they are if you’re not top of the league and banging in the goals every game then the fans aren’t going to be happy.

‘If you look at what has been said it is quite a personal attack on Bale – you can’t say they’ve not done as well in two or three games because of Gareth Bale’s performance, that just isn’t correct.’

The ex-Fulham manager feels that the criticism being levied at Bale is a bit too personal, and unfair given the tempo of the league and the work-rate of some of his Madrid teammates:

‘It is getting personal but lazy is the one word I wouldn’t use for Gareth Bale. He’s always up there far up beyond anyone else in his sprinting. I hope his tenure at Madrid doesn’t become untenable.

‘La Liga is different to the Premier League, the tempo is different, England is much less forgiving but he’s in better shape for us now as a result of him being there, playing twice, three times a week.

‘He does a lot of work Gareth, a lot of running and that’s his game when he gets the ball he’s off. I watch every Madrid game and you don’t often see Ronaldo, Benzema or Isco running back.’

Despite the criticism being thrown his way, Bale isn’t having any issues according to Coleman: ‘I spoke to his agent a few days ago and there’s absolutely no issues with him, he’s fine’

Bale has been praised this season whilst donning the Wales shirt for developing leadership qualities that have benefitted the Wales squad; Coleman says Bale loves the group ethic that has developed:

‘When he comes with us, it’s us, it’s a group thing and that’s our strength – he likes it. When he goes to Haifa next week he could have a bad game, but he could score a goal that wins us the match.

‘What he does do is he works hard for us and he fits into the system, whether we play him down the middle, out wide, at 9 or at 10, he knows wherever he plays it is to get to where we need to go.’

In spite of all the criticism, Coleman is adamant that Bale will have his mind firmly focussed on the task at hand when he joins up with the Wales squad next week and that reaching Euro 2016 is his aim.

‘The goal is to get enough points to go to France and that’s where he wants to be, that’s where he belongs at a tournament as one of the best players in football so I’m not worried when he joins us.’

‘We’re almost half way and we’ve got a chance, a really good chance. The pressure is on and he loves that pressure, he can handle that, that environment where everything is on the line.’

 

Vokes returns to squad for Wales’ ‘biggest game in 12 years’

Following a terrific start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, Chris Coleman this morning announced his Wales squad for what he is calling Wales’ biggest game since 2003.

Back then, Wales faced a two-legged Euro 2004 playoff against Russia to uplift for the final tournament but lost out, losing 1-0 on aggregate.

Coleman said: ‘This next game will be the biggest game in Welsh football for years, since Russia. It is an absolutely huge game for us.

‘Top against second! The next two games are going to dictate whether we finish in the top two or whether we’re fighting for third.’

No Chester

The squad contained all of the usual names, as well as the returning Sam Vokes and Simon Church but there was no place for James Chester who has missed a lot of time with a shoulder injury.

There had been speculation as to whether or not Chester would be included as he is expected to make a return this weekend against Chelsea but Coleman was very dismissive of the possibility.

‘I don’t think he’ll play this weekend. You never know but speaking to James last week I can’t see him playing, and even so he’s been out a long time.

‘Shoulder injuries take longer to recover than doctors usually say – it is a shame because he’s been magnificent for us and has struck a great partnership with Ashley (Williams).’

Big 50th

Ashley Williams is expected to win his 50th cap for Wales in the game against Israel and Coleman was full of praise for his skipper.

’50 caps – it was inevitable really for him – he’s a great captain and great leader and what better game to get his 50th in?

‘Ashley’s been in the real world; he didn’t start at a top Premier League academy or anything – he saw what life is really like.

‘He respects and cherishes every game he plays – that’s why he doesn’t miss games – he loves his job.’

The Wales manager also noted how he expects many more players to break the 50 and, hopefully, 100 cap barriers for Wales in the coming years.

‘We don’t have any players with over 100 caps. Of course we don’t get regular tournament football but still.

‘Ash could do it and get 100 but so could Chris Gunter – 57 caps is a very impressive return but we’re trying to push them to as many caps as we can.’

Vokes Return

Coleman thinks Sam Vokes, who has made a comeback from injury in recent weeks, adds something to the squad that they haven’t had before.

‘A few times we’ve created scenarios in the games where we’re getting balls into the box that would’ve been ideal for Sam so it is great to have him back.

‘Watching him come back into the fray, it is clear he isn’t 100% but he’s two or three weeks away and, most importantly, back playing football.’

The former Fulham manager also praised Burnley for the way they have handled Vokes in his return from the long injury layoff.

‘Dyche has managed it in the correct way. Some managers might’ve pushed Sam back into the team quicker if they were in the position Burnley were in earlier in the season but he’s handled Sam really well.’

Bale Criticism

Israel’s manager recently made comments  saying Bale was saving himself for Wales amidst criticism of his form for Real Madrid. Coleman jokingly responded: ‘If he is then it is great for me!’

He added ‘When you play for Real Madrid, winning is not enough – you have to entertain too! Gareth’s a big boy and he’ll come through this no problem.’

Reporters asked Coleman whether or not the comments were mind games designed to unsettle Bale further. Coleman simply responded saying it showed Bale is on their minds:

‘I think they’ll be thinking about him – I would be! Most teams would be looking at him – whether he’s on form or not he can turn a game on its head.

‘Gareth comes here, he wants to be involved, he’s incredibly motivated – he is the last person I am worried about honestly.

‘I’ve never been one for mind games. I’d rather get down to business when the whistle blows and see what we can do.’

The Wales squad fly out to Tel Aviv late next week ahead of their qualifier in Haifa on Saturday the 28th; the game kicks off at 5pm on Sky Sports 5.

‘Wylfa development is not a black and white issue’, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Following the People Against Wylfa B (PAWB) protest conducted on the Menai Bridge yesterday, Rhun ap Iorwerth says he ‘completely understands the concerns about the Wylfa Development’.

Four years on from the Fukushima disaster in Japan, peaceful protesters gathered on the Menai Bridge to voice their concerns about the oft-criticised development proposal.

Protesters gathered during rush hour traffic, some dressed in anti-radiation suits, to voice their concerns regarding the potential development and the dangers of nuclear energy in general.

Rhun ap Iorwerth said: ‘I have always said that it is not a black and white issue, it is not all bad, it is not all good – it is somewhere in the middle where people have genuine concerns.

‘On balance I think people support the economic potential of Wylfa but I think it is vitally important that people who have deep concerns are allowed to voice those concerns and are listened to.’

The proposed development came under more scrutiny recently after the current plant shut down its reactor to investigate a fault. Mr ap Iorwerth said the development could happen, but barriers need to be overcome.

‘It seems at this point in time that it could well happen but there are lots of barriers in terms of funding that need to be overcome in order to make it happen.

‘The fact that there will always be risks whether it happens or not means that we have to keep on driving other elements of the local economy and continue to look at opportunities through renewables.’

A lot of preparation work will need to be done between now and when the development takes place, if it is to go ahead at all, but Mr ap Iorwerth is sure he is up to the task of doing so.

‘I will keep on pushing in the meantime to ensure that as preparations are made for Wylfa we ensure that job opportunities for local young people are maximised.

‘We will look after our communities at the time of the development if it goes ahead. The Wylfa project brings opportunities and threats; it is my job to ensure that we look at it in its entirety and look after the benefits of Anglesey.’

Mr ap Iorwerth admitted that one of the ideas on the table with regards to renewables is a proposal for a third bridge across the Menai Strait, combined with a turbine to harness power.

Although the former journalist was keen to outline that this is nothing more than an idea on the table at the moment, he said he believes a third bridge would be necessary eventually.

‘The idea certainly hasn’t been progressed in any way but we need to look at opportunities, not so much if, but when a third bridge comes because we will need another bridge at some point in time.’

‘It is a matter I have discussed myself but it is very much just an idea at this stage, an idea that is on the table. If we can be innovative in the use of the bridge then we should do it.’

You can follow Rhun ap Iorwerth on Twitter here and find his comments on the Team GB proposal here.

 

Anglesey Assembly Member strongly opposes Team GB Proposal

Rhun ap Iorwerth today criticised the English FA’s attempts to form a Team GB football team for the 2016 Olympics as something that ‘threatens the independence of our FAs’.

The GB football team at the 2012 Olympics was pitched as a one off, but still caused outrage as Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland saw the move as a threat to their independent status.

The emergence of a possible team for 2016 has seen the FA come under fire for organising the proposal with the British Olympic Association without the consent of the other three nations.

Rhun ap Iorweth expressed his disappointment with The FA’s actions: ‘I am disappointed the English FA would do this. We were told at the 2012 Olympics that a Team GB football team was a one off.

‘The FAW and SFA made it quite clear in 2012 that they were opposed to it but here the English FA are now going into 2016 and surprise, surprise they want a Team GB again.’

FAW President Trefor Lloyd Hughes added: ‘The BOA should be more open and transparent. It’s supposed to be the British Olympic Association not the English Olympic Association.

‘I am absolutely gutted with the English FA. If they want to work with us they have to be more open with us and they don’t seem to be keeping to agreements. I’m livid about it.’

Mr ap Iorwerth noted that although assurances have been given by FIFA that joining forces for the Olympics wouldn’t threaten each country’s status, the implications of a GB Team are huge.

‘This taps into a much bigger debate about national identity. We have a great, longstanding tradition of our teams playing independently of each other and against each other. ‘Frankly I think we should make sure we aren’t in a position where we undermine in anyway the integrity or the independence of our own football associations,’ He added.

The ex-journalist said that as well as the discussions that are known to be on-going between the home nations now on this matter, the public and politicians have a role to play in proceedings.

‘Politicians have a role because at the end of the day some of us are football fans and if we can use our platform to bring attention to the issue and help in any way then we have a responsibility to do so.’

The reaction to this issue in Wales particularly has been very anti-Team-GB, as many high-profile figures have criticised the proposal, but some have used the British and Irish Lions as an example of how this could work.

Mr ap Iorweth acknowledges that point but outlines the key differences: ‘I support the British and Irish Lions but the situation is totally different as there is a lot more respect to each country.

‘You only have to look at the badge to see that – each country is fairly represented. As well as that, it is a specialised tournament that is played every four years and selects players from each nation.’

The Plaid Cymru AM also referred to home nation cricket teams as an example of the disrespect that Wales could receive if it were to become part of a Team GB.

Having noted on his Twitter feed that he felt Wales could’ve qualified for the group stages of the Cricket World Cup, Mr ap Iorwerth said to me: ‘The situation regarding cricket is quite disrespectful to Wales I think.

‘What is officially abbreviated to ECB is actually the Wales and England Cricket board, and when the team plays they are only referred to as England which is totally disrespectful to Wales.’ He added.

This morning saw rumours emerge in the Daily Telegraph that the FA’s proposal was in tatters as Wales and Northern Ireland have again taken a strong stance on the issue.

It is unclear whether or not the rumours have any substance but, given Trefor Lloyd Hughes’ insistence that it would be difficult to block the FA, expect this debate to develop in the coming months.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Women’s Football the focus of Next Policy; Confidence in Team Ginola Growing

FIFA Presidential Candidate David Ginola this morning announced that his second of nine policies designed to change the way FIFA is run will be based on bringing equality to the women’s game.

Speaking exclusively to me before his TV appearances this morning, David Ginola said ‘We have some great policies – the first one being the tax equality and the next one is regarding equality with women’s football’.

Having committed to announcing a policy a day until the January 29th nomination deadline, Ginola yesterday announced a proposal to scrap benefits that FIFA use to avoid paying full tax in countries where World Cup tournaments are hosted.

Today the ex-Spurs winger is expected to announce a proposal that will bring the stature of the women’s game in line with that of the men’s by bringing the Olympic structure into football and combining men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments into one event.

Publicity Stunt:

Following criticism of his campaign from some circles who argue that being sponsored by Bookmakers, Paddy Power, is a gimmick, Ginola was keen to reiterate the integrity of his cause.

‘It is important to know where we are going and important to let people know where we stand on these key issues. We are absolutely for real – it is not a stunt at all’ He said.

Ginola faces a tough task to qualify for the election given the risks attached to supporting his cause and the support that other candidates are known to have for their campaigns; he is struggling at this early stage to meet any of the criteria that would make him an eligible candidate.

Reason for Optimism:

  • The Frenchman, however detailed that there have been some developments recently in gaining the crucial support from the five Football Associations he needs for his campaign to be eligible to progress to the final election in May.
  • ‘We have spoken to a few Associations actually. A few have contacted us and we’ve contacted a few ourselves. We need their support and we will have some definite answers on that in the coming days’ He said.
  • ‘The confidence is coming along as our policies come out. We need to carry on unveiling our great ideas and assure people that if I become president of FIFA those ideas will be implemented’ He added.

Welsh Backing?

Ginola was campaigning in Cardiff yesterday evening in a FA Wales tracksuit – a move that sources say has angered the FAW who insist that, beyond allowing him to take his coaching courses in the country, they have no plans to support him.

‘Just to have their support would be nice but to have that support you need to believe in something and I hope they’re going to believe in me, in what we’re saying, what we want to change but I am very realistic’ Ginola said of the Welsh FA.

With the Welsh FA’s support or without it, the Frenchman has just over a week to win over the financial and political support he needs but is confident that it will come.

‘Once the first one joins the cause then the others might feel more confident in joining us too. We only need five to carry on the campaign and that is what is important because this campaign needs to go forward’.

‘This is the people’s campaign and if we’re going to be successful at the end it is going to be because the people decided that David Ginola is going to be their candidate and I hope I can make the people proud’ Ginola added.

You can follow David Ginola’s campaign on Twitter via @TeamGinola or pledge support, donate or keep up to date via teamginola.com

Victory Shield win shows Wales’ Golden Generation Still to Come

The Chair of The Football Association of Wales’ Senior Technical Group, Chris Whitley tonight insisted that Welsh Football’s bright future is soon going to get even brighter.

Speaking to me exclusively after coaching a youth football session in Colwyn Bay, Mr Whitley expressed his immense happiness regarding the Welsh National side’s current success before promising more was to come in the very near future.

‘Chris [Coleman] and all of them speak about this current Welsh National squad being the Golden Generation but I think differently if I’m honest’.

‘The Golden Generation will be the next one. We have half a dozen players at least now waiting to come through to the senior squad that are going to be great players very soon. Make no mistake!’

Mr Whitley, who is also the Head of Youth Development at Conwy Borough Football Club, has been responsible for pushing through the youth development of a number of Welsh football greats such as Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Gareth Bale, Ryan Giggs, Aaron Ramsey and so on.

However Mr Whitley thinks that the current group of youth players, such as the under-16s who won the Victory Shield recently coached by FAW Technical Director Osian Roberts, could make for Wales’ most talented squad to date when they join the seniors in the near future.

‘When we bolt these youngsters on to the existing lot, who in a few years’ time will still be young enough, we will have an exceptionally talented squad of players without a doubt’.

Whitley spoke of a number of Welsh Youth players who he believed had the potential to go to the top but picked out three in particular as his standout stars for the future.

‘There are so many talented youngsters coming through but Joe Murrell, Harry Wilson and Tyler Roberts really stand out for me’.

‘Tyler is absolutely outstanding in my opinion. I’ve seen so many youth players coming through but Tyler is the best number 9 I have seen in a Wales shirt since Mark Hughes without a doubt’.

Whitley’s career within the FAW has spanned over 40 years but he believes there are a number of key changes that have been made in recent years, most notably during Gary Speed’s tenure, that have put the current senior and youth squads in such a strong position.

‘This all started towards the end of Gary Speed’s era in charge where we said one of our objectives is to make our squads one of the best prepared squads in the world and they are without a doubt!’

Key changes have been made also in the way the FAW recruits its youth talent:

‘Our recruitment and retention of players now compared to years gone by has improved so much! To be honest, 75% of our team now are English-based players’.

‘Years ago we wouldn’t have discovered them because we didn’t go out there and look for them – we used to stumble upon them by accident sometimes’.

The National Coaching Conference took place in Newport at the Welsh Football Trust earlier in the week and, with a record number of coaches in attendance, Whitley believes the Welsh coach development is another key piece in what is currently a very successful Welsh Football structure.

‘The coaching education in Wales is first class, absolutely first class. We had a record number of coaches at our recent national conference – 350 coaches! Unbelievable!’

‘Our coach education programme is second to none. The Welsh Football Trust is doing a tremendous job in terms of coaching education and player development’.

Welsh football is currently going through a tremendous period of success and, having spoken to Mr Whitley about his experiences within the side and where we are making changes and trying to develop, I for one fully believe that the future for football in our country is very bright indeed and I hope we can continue to be rewarded for the amazing support that we fans have always given!

“So Much More To Come” – Chris Coleman on Wales’ Progress.

Chris Coleman last night fired a warning shot to Wales’ Euro 2016 qualification rivals by insisting that there is so much more to come from his young, high-flying national side.

Following an event at Conwy Borough Football Club which saw the Welsh Men’s National Side manager open a new clubhouse, Coleman was happy to speak to me briefly about Wales’ progress.

Following on from Wales’ relatively straightforward fixture against Belgium, the ex-Fulham manager is keen to outline how much the side had learnt and benefitted from the adversity they’d faced in previous fixtures.

“In every game so far we’ve had a bit of adversity and we’ve handled it really well, no matter what the conditions have been whether it be the pitch in Andorra or the amount of injuries against Bosnia and Cyprus. We’ve got over every bump in the road really well and that speaks to the character of these players.

It is fine having the ability in football but you have to have the mentality as well and the last few months have proved that these players have both.” He said.

The Welsh National side is a very young one; the starting XI against Belgium had an average age of just over 25-years-old and with youngsters such as George Williams (19), Jonathan Williams (21) and Harry Wilson (17) coming through, the manager believes the future is bright for Wales.

“They’re so young so we have a lot of years left to work with this squad and that’s great because we’re going to have a lot of players who have experienced a lot of adversity together and know how to deal with it and that can only be good for Welsh Football.” He said.

Adversity and character are two words that pop up frequently in our brief conversation as Coleman argues that one leads to another and can only serve to bring the best out of his side.

“There’s a lot more to come from this side. All of the experience they’re getting now coming through the adversity that they’ve come through is great because it shapes them and their character.”

Although he initially struggled to get things right after taking the Wales job in incredibly unfortunate and difficult circumstances, the former Wales defender believes he has found the secret to success.

“The secret to success here is getting players who don’t regularly play together, some who don’t even play at all, outside of the national side to play like a strong cohesive unit for 90 minutes.

Wayne Hennessey has been absolutely wonderful – Chris Gunter, Robson-Kanu, Joe Ledley, Joe Allen, George Williams, Dave Cotterill and so on – it is definitely a collective effort.” He said.

Sensing that, after going four games undefeated in qualification and losing only one of the last nine at home, momentum is with his side, Coleman is chomping at the bit for Wales to get going again.

“If I had my way we’d have gone to Israel five days after the Belgium game to keep the momentum going but the fixtures are the way they are and we have to wait until March.

We’re taking everything on a game-by-game basis. My target now is obviously to win against Israel then it’ll be to win the next one and the next one to put ourselves in the best position to get to France in 2016.” The ex-Sociedad manager added.

Whilst coming to the conclusion of the interview, news filters through of Wales’ triumph in the Victory Shield Competition – the first time the Welsh have secured an outright win of the competition since 1948/49 – Coleman is elated that Wales’ focus on their youth is paying off.

“The win is a strong indicator that all of the FAW’s hard work down in the lower levels of Welsh Football is paying off – developing the youth is the name of the game.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re coaching them right, treating them right and making sure they develop correctly.”

One thing is for sure – if the youth follow the example that the senior national side is setting right now then future is very, very bright for Welsh football!