I promised I’d write about Wales today so here it is. What are they doing differently from the England set up? In a short answer, everything. Their rise started a few years ago. This bunch of Welsh players played together in the Welsh youth teams as they came up through the youth ranks and as a result they know each other very well. Some got their first start from the then manager John Toshack who knew he wouldn’t see the benefit and took criticism because they weren’t quite ready but needed the experience to develop. As a squad they’ve grown through adversity together. Dropping down through the FIFA rankings as far as 117. They lost a very popular manager, Gary Speed, to depression and the man who took his place, Chris Coleman, was not at times the most popular due to a string of defeats after he took over. Despite the fans wanting change the Welsh FA kept him in the job and the team believed in him. Now they’ve not only qualified for a major tournament for the first time since 1958 but they’re progressing better than anyone predicted. They face Portugal in a semi-final. Now you may ask how they have achieved this so called over achievement. I would like to remind you of Leicester City and their Premier League Championship win. This Welsh team are a really close band of young men who will work hard for each other. Unlike the England team they’re not kept away from anybody. They can leave their hotel and are often seen enjoying the sights of the local area. They’re trusted and they behave. They have visited war memorials remembering Welshmen who have paid the ultimate price for our country, such is their pride in being Welsh, even though they are not all actually Welsh. Some of the squad, such as Captain Ashley Williams are in fact English but can play for Wales due to parentage. Even though, these “English” players are as proud of their Welsh heritage as their full welsh counterparts. Every man in the team sings the Welsh national anthem loud and proud. Not like the English team who seem to mumble some of the words when they think they know a few lines or the TV cameras get close. Did the England team pay tribute to our fallen on the 100 year anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme? No they didn’t, they had to get back to the hotel away from the press and public. For some reason the press only want to interview one player, Gareth Bale. This is because he is such a high profile player, the star of the team if you will. This he rejects. His attitude is he is only one of 11 on the pitch, 1 of 24 in the squad and only 1 of a nation of just over 3000,000 people, nothing special, just one of the team. That of course is their strength. They are a team. They work hard for each other and they believe in each other’s abilities and commitment. Some have criticised the academies run by football clubs for turning out the overpaid, underachievers of the England squad. You can’t blame the academies when you realise these Welsh players came through academies too and unlike the England players, they don’t all play in the Premier League. It’s down to individual attitude and motivation and England have the wrong attitude and no motivation. The Welsh team have the right attitude and their motivation appears to be pride in representing Wales on the international stage. What it is exactly doesn’t matter, they have it and it works.
Even now nobody wants to proclaim that they’ll win it or even suggest that they could. Even now it’s a case of the pundits saying haven’t they done well up to now, but how far can they get? Well pundits, they can win it, there I’ve said it. They only have two games left to win and they lift the trophy. Admittedly not easy games but they believe and they’ll work hard so they have a chance of winning the tournament. With the other three teams left I the tournament being Portugal, Germany and France the Welsh will be seen as underdogs no matter who they play but that won’t phase them, they believe.