It’s the start of a new era for Welsh football. This morning’s squad announcement for the upcoming games against Ireland and Denmark included uncapped players and talented youngsters, which will generate a healthy mix of experience and youth.
The biggest surprise was the news of Hal Robson-Kanu‘s retirement. After 44 caps and 5 goals, including what many believe to be the best goal in Welsh history v Belgium, he has decided to concentrate solely on club football instead at the age of 29. Giggs said, “I had a chat with him and he wants to concentrate more on his family life and club football.” There is no doubt his goal against Belgium at EURO 2016 has inspired a generation of young Welsh talent and I for one can’t thank him enough for his contribution to the national team.
I was able to interview Ryan Giggs on a couple of matters this morning, here is the full breakdown with the Wales manager at St Fagan’s National Museum of Wales.
On Paul Dummett:
“He’s a boost to the squad, now he feels is the right time to become available for Wales again.”
On declining his China Cup call up: “He was coming back from injury and Newcastle were fighting relegation, he didn’t think it was the right time.”
Giggs most recently spoke to Dummett after the Chelsea match last weekend and said, “he’s excited and can’t wait to get back. It’s an honour for any Welsh player to put that red jersey on and I think the fans should support that.
“He wanted to come and play and he didn’t take a lot of convincing. He wants to be a part of this squad but there’s no guarantee to play.”
Giggs also went onto say that Neil Taylor wasn’t picked because of Ben Davies and Paul Dummett playing regular football at this time. “I last spoke to Neil at the end of last season in May… him not being picked is nothing to do with the history [red card v Ireland, March 2017] against Ireland.”
Swansea’s Declan John is also in the mix to play on the left side.
On Ashley Williams:
“I had no hesitation on the captaincy, he’s had a tough time but he will come through it. He always enjoys coming away with Wales and nothing has changed.
“Mentally now he has a clean slate with a new manager, under a different regime.”
On picking younger players for the upcoming games:
“I’m looking at the upcoming games and looking to future young players in the squad. They deserve it, many have had a good pre-season with their clubs. I watched the younger players at the training camp we had before Mexico; they have good attitudes and the quality to go with that.
“I’m happy with the squad and I’m excited. I look forward to the competition in training, I want it to be as competitive as a regular match.
“There were near misses and some were dependent on form. Not everyone is playing regularly at the moment, but I have picked who I think will do the best job at this time. Those younger players chosen will want to do their best and take the place of an older, experienced player in front of them.
“Tyler Roberts replaces Robson-Kanu this time around. I watched Leeds last night and thought he did well for them.”
On Gareth Bale:
“A brilliant person to have around the squad, he’s scoring goals and in a good place. He keeps getting better in his own game and we are lucky to have a player and person like that in the squad.
“The experience of being at a club like Real Madrid for a long time – every year is a big year and he’s continued to show his qualities.
“When Cristiano departs it leaves a void of course. I think as footballers you just get on with it, players come and go, but when a special player leaves it’s different. It becomes a challenge for yourself to be the best. He started this season on fire, there is never a time where he’s not playing well.
“I’ve spoke to him about playing week in week out. I was around 28 when I had to decide what was good for me as a player, how I would prepare for games. Sometimes I wouldn’t train much, other days I would train more. It’s about what’s best for him.
“It’s the same with Aaron Ramsey, he loves playing football and wants to get on the ball all the time. Footballers are happiest when on the pitch and at the moment it’s good to see that.”
On Gunter and Wilson being picked, despite being injured & Gwion Edwards missing out:
“I’ve been in conversation with Chris Gunter recently. He has been telling me that he will be fit (I hope!). He played on the weekend for the U23’s and could be involved tonight in Reading’s first team game against Watford.
“Connor Roberts is pushing for Gunter’s position in the starting 11 and that is great. You want that competition, it’s healthy because you don’t want to be left behind.
“Harry Wilson will be close to full fitness for the international games and it will be good to have him in the camp.
“I’ve been monitoring the situation at Ipswich with Edwards being there and of course Ellis Harrison and Emyr Huws coming back to fitness. The wingers we have available in Lawrence, Woodburn, Brooks and Wilson are ahead of him at the moment. Young George Thomas is also another name to not make it this time.
“Edwards has been in good form and he will push for a place if his Championship performances continue.”
On capping Brooks and Ampadu in a competitive game:
“We have seen the recent news with Declan Rice, but you can’t stop that from happening. I don’t feel any pressure to get them capped immediately.
“David Brooks is under a really good manager, working at a good club. I watched him against Cardiff at the start of the season and he played well.
“I’ve been speaking to Ethan Ampadu through the summer and he’s been updating me on his rehab. He had a great pre-season and is playing for the U23’s currently.”
On the Nations League:
“I’m still understanding how it works [laughs]. There are some really competitive groups and I’m positive about the prospect. I want to do my best with the new competition and it gives us a chance to qualify for the EURO’s.
“The Ireland game is not about revenge. Obviously with the recent history it’s a little bit different than playing another country, everyone is more familiar with their players. The lads can’t wait to start and get going.
“There’s more of a push to qualify and win the Nations League after watching a World Cup without Wales. The atmosphere here and around the camp is all about pushing to be there in future.”
On the new sponsorship with Conotoxia:
“It’s the start of a new chapter for Wales. We have to improve on and off the pitch and the FAW have felt that this is a way forward.
“It’s great that Wales are now getting involved in this new chapter. We want to be up there with the best – Spain, Portugal, Germany and this is a step off the pitch to get closer to that.”
Full Wales squad: