Gareth Bale is the greatest Welsh sportsman of all time, says Dean Saunders, who explains how the groundwork for World Cup qualification was laid by former manager John Toshack over a decade ago.


Gareth Bale has been called the greatest Welsh sportsman of all time, while being hailed for putting the national team ‘on the map single-handedly’ after qualifying for the World Cup.

For the first time since 1958, Wales will enter a World Cup by getting the better of Ukraine, winning 1-0 in a nerve-wracking play-off.

You can guarantee the celebrations will go on long into the night and beyond
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Of course, Bale played a role in the decisive moment when his free-kick was deflected into the Ukraine net by Andriy Yarmolenko.

It was given as an own goal to Yarmolenko and the win was a superb Wales team performance – Wayne Hennessey made a number of saves to keep the Dragons ahead.

But talkSPORT’s Dean Saunders has praised the star man for Wales.

An emotional Saunders said moments after Wales’ place in Qatar was sealed: “75 times I’ve sung that national anthem, 75 times. We never qualified for anything but the fans followed us everywhere. They were in Poland for a friendly match knowing that we were releasing a B team…

“Our fans, it’s getting bigger and bigger, girls and boys playing football…

“Honestly, Gareth Bale, I know he is part of a team, but he single-handedly put our football team on the map.”


Gareth Bale is the greatest Welsh sportsman of all time, says Dean Saunders, who explains how the groundwork for World Cup qualification was laid by former manager John Toshack over a decade ago.
Bale’s goal was a bit lucky, but there’s no doubt he was a hero for his nation
AFP

When asked if Bale was Wales’ greatest sportsman, Saunders replied: “Yes, without a shadow of a doubt.

“We’ve had great players like Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush and Mark Hughes, but Bale has won five Champions Leagues – every game we play he has an impact.

“The best story ever is when I was an assistant and John Toshack was a manager, he’s watching Bale take free kicks and he’s hitting the free kicks on the moving walls and Toshack says ‘Dean, Dean! “Go in, he’ll break his foot. He can’t kick the ball like that.

“Gareth and I laughed and Toshack came up to me afterwards, ‘What is he doing kicking a ball like that? He’s got his foot off, he’s going to break his ankle.

“We will never have a player like him again.”

Gareth Bale is the greatest Welsh sportsman of all time, says Dean Saunders, who explains how the groundwork for World Cup qualification was laid by former manager John Toshack over a decade ago.
Toshack couldn’t take Wales to a major in his six years as manager but laid the foundations for Bale and co to succeed now

Welsh fans will no doubt descend on Qatar in droves along with generations of Welsh football fans who have yet to experience a World Cup final.

Rob Page will be in charge when the tournament takes place in November, but it’s something that’s been in the works for over a decade by Wales managers.

Saunders added: “He played a great role, John Toshack. He gave all those players 50 caps before they were 25. That was his plan – Brian Flynn took the Under-17s, Under-19s and Under-21s, he managed all three teams and Tosh told him to keep sending his best players to him.

“There were no arguments, Tosh was putting them in the squad and he said, ‘These players will be beaten in Germany but they will learn…we keep stumbling from tournament to tournament failing, the only chance we have is if we collect all these guys and they all get 50 caps.

“John Toshack is a really smart man, Brian Flynn was brilliant, and then Gary Speed ​​took over and pushed them again with his new ideas.

“That’s what happened now, it’s all up to them.”


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