After the better part of a month together, Wales players, coaches and behind-the-scenes staff are finally having a break.
A week of hot-weather training in Portugal followed by five international matches will likely be the longest camp the team will ever have together outside of a real tournament. They may be tired, but the goal has been achieved.
Wales are therefore going to a World Cup. Finally.
It’s been a long wait since 1958 with some tough near misses which, after qualifying, perhaps increased the emotional element of Wales’ success.
Missing by a hair, I’m talking about the tournaments of 1978, 1986 and 1994, it hurts if it only happens once, but many times leaves its mark.
And that’s why Wales and its Red Wall backer will always be grateful and grateful for a cultural shift wrought by the late Gary Speed.
Speed took over as Wales manager in 2010. He made it his mission not only to manage the senior men’s team, but also to drive widespread change in Welsh football.
Every Wales game, at some point, someone in the crowd will start a song about Gary Speed and hearty applause will follow. He is now entrenched in the psyche of Wales.
So many supporters, players and ex-players are hoping that somewhere ‘up there’ Speed can look down on the green, green grass of the home where Wales have thrived for several years now.
For a nation of barely 3 million people, where football must compete with rugby and all other modern entertainments to gain and maintain levels of participation and interest, to qualify for the last two Euros and now the Qatar 2022 World Cup is a feat to be proud of, but it didn’t happen by chance.
Yes, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have formed the centerpiece of Welsh football success, but both are talented sportsmen. They could have been successful in any sport or probably any area of life.
The environment within the Wales setup has changed with Speed’s vision of a ‘Welsh way’, so players like Bale and Ramsey have become even better and helped those around them to become better.
The club and home environment backed by a professional behind-the-scenes setup that is quite something to behold are just some of the other ingredients that have seen Wales succeed.
No country, especially in the crowded and competitive space of European football, can qualify for three of the last four major international tournaments by chance or simply following in Gareth Bale’s footsteps. A long-term vision has paid off.
Dr. David Adams is the Technical Director of FAW. He strongly believes that an uncompromising professional organization – and by that, rather than players, I mean coaches, analysts, medical and physical staff – working in a ‘family’ atmosphere is the unique selling point. of Wales.
The players want to come to work, they want to play for Wales. Additionally, as Wales have a smaller pool of players to choose from compared to England, the possibility of a player who may have dual nationality choosing Wales should be maximized and this is where USP Wales comes in.
The family atmosphere is welcoming, reassuring and makes the “office” a pleasant place to work. It is also how potential future generations are educated on what it would be like to play football and who can even play football on an international scale one day.
The senior male and female teams interact, with managers Robert Page and Gemma Grainger regularly inviting each other to their meetings and sessions. This also happens with younger teams.
A 17-year-old won’t be kept away from Gareth Bale – a word here and there from Bale to a youngster making his way through the game is encouraged.
“We all saw the spirit that was captured in Wales, which started it all with Gary Speed,” Dr David Adams told Sky Sports. “The idea of a really intimate, tight-knit environment, I think we did really well in creating.
“The night Wales qualified for the World Cup captured the work of the last 10 years that has been put into the player’s journey. All the players have shown what it means to play for Wales. Wales and you saw it in the game and in the celebrations.
“The songs are so important to our Welsh culture and our language and they all bought into it.
“We launched the high performance strategy last weekend and one of our big vehicles is to use the legacy of Gary Speed and what he created. implemented, we want to capture them and use them as one of our assets.
“Rob Page, having been involved in this period and having helped our young players through the system, he is the perfect man to lead us to a World Cup and we are looking forward to that.”
Adams has several roles as a technical director, he helps Page and his coaches as needed, he initiates politics and he is rightly proud of the FAW coaching system which has provided professional licenses to the likes of Belgian manager Roberto Martinez, Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Crystal Palace’s Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry to name but a few.
Adams’ modesty is quick to point out that he had been in the job since 2019 and that others before him have been part of the ‘cultural evolution’ of Welsh football’s DNA – curiously one of them is Osian Roberts, now Vieira’s assistant manager at Palace. Roberts was the FAW’s technical director as well as Chris Coleman’s right-hand man at Euro 2016.
Wales’ qualification for Qatar 2022 is no fluke or short-term bonus, it is due to a decade of change, reinvention and the search for an identity that resonates with players and supporters.
In the three home matches Wales played in seven days in June, almost 85,000 people came to see Wales.
During a cost of living crisis where, due to an anomaly in match scheduling, three home games were played on a Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday, the Welsh public decided to spend money hard-earned money to watch Wales play football.
Many supporters have made long journeys, anyone with basic geographical knowledge will know that traveling from North Wales to Cardiff is not the easiest or cheapest journey, but there is a connection of respect between the red wall and the players. Welsh audiences want to watch and engage with the football team.
Bale and Ramsey will at some point, I’m sorry to say, retire from football.
Wales may not have ready-made replacements of their caliber, but thanks to a vision implemented by Speed, avenues exist for talent to be scouted and nurtured and Wales – small nation perhaps – will have a high level of talent available for their senior teams. so that Euro 2016, Euro 2020 and Qatar 2022 are not just brief moments of glorious history.
What’s next for Wales?
Rob Page’s side will resume the Nations League campaign in September when Wales travel to Belgium on Thursday 22 September before their final home game against Poland on Sunday 25 September; kick-off for both matches at 7:45 p.m.
Page will submit a long list of players to FIFA on Friday October 21, but the Wales manager is expected to announce his final 23-man squad for the World Cup on November 9-10. The FIFA deadline is Monday, November 14.
Wales will depart for Qatar on Tuesday November 15 before facing the United States in their World Cup opener on November 21 at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.