I attended the pre-match press conference this afternoon ahead of the game against the Rep of Ireland. Ryan Giggs and Ashley Williams answered questions on tomorrow evening’s match, the upcoming Denmark game on Sunday, playing in Cardiff again and more.
His first home game:
“It’s a proud moment for me, I’m very excited. The lads have trained well this week, everyone is fit so I look forward to it.
“We’ve not beaten Ireland in the last few competitive games so it’ll be a difficult test, but I can’t wait for it to come.
“I’m more nervous as a manager than a player, without a shadow of a doubt. There is more going through your mind all the time, but our preparations have been good.”
“It started against China, this is a competitive game but we still put ourselves under the same pressure.
“I want us to be hard to beat and play attractive football. I want our players to go out and express themselves. If a player is good at taking someone on I want him to go out and do that. I don’t want to overly frustrate them with too much of a defensive strategy.
“Football is all about getting the balance right, and you have to earn the right to play good attacking football. Defending starts from the front, but when you’ve got good players it makes it a bit easier.”
Younger players getting their chance:
When asked if any youngsters will play tomorrow: “Yes, but I can’t tell you right now. I was a player who got a chance when I was younger so age doesn’t matter to me.
“I want our camps to be competitive. That’s what young players do, they make the older players look over their shoulder and give them a push. You can’t underestimate the older players’ experience, they bring a lot to the team.
“I don’t know if the team needs freshening up, but I want that competitive edge in training. Those younger players have got to take the shirts off of these older players in front of them and earn the right to do that.
“Everyone is ready to start, youngsters and senior players, including Ashley Williams. Whether he plays or not tomorrow is to be seen.”
Replacing Chris Coleman:
“I’m following a fantastic manager and we go back a long way. We played as youngsters in the U21’s together and really enjoyed it.
“What he did for Wales was fantastic. Maybe there’s an added bit of pressure [for me] but you can look at it the other way – where we’ve had a taste of success and we want more.
“I put pressure on myself all the time so there’s no difference to me.”
Roy Keane and Ireland’s missing players:
“He enjoys it as an assistant manager under Martin O’Neill, he’s a football man. He wants to get back into club management in future, but I know he loves his job at the moment.
“I don’t know anything on the situation [about the fallout with Harry Arter], all I know for me is that Roy Keane was a brilliant teammate and I enjoyed watching the World Cup with both him and Martin. I’m looking forward to seeing them tomorrow.
On James McClean’s withdrawal: “James McClean is a very good player but it doesn’t matter for me that he’s missing. I don’t need to change our preparations.
“Whatever team they put out is going to fight for a result, and they’ve got quality anyway. They haven’t lost the last six competitive away games, which isn’t a fluke.”
Facing a potentially weakened Denmark side:
“I don’t know which team we’re facing. All my concentration is on Ireland tomorrow. We’re keeping an eye on the Denmark situation but my focus is on Ireland.
“I don’t know the details or the in’s and out’s; it’s hard for me to comment because it’s very unusual.
“They are a top 10 team who were in the World Cup and gave brilliant performances. As a footballer you just want to play, you would think it would have been sorted it out by now but it’s not.
“It’s not ideal obviously, but the problem the Danish FA has is they have to put out a team.
“What do they do? It’s a unique dilemma so it’s hard to concentrate on.”
Bale’s Champions League goal not winning UEFA goal of the year:
“In any other game it would have been special but to do it in a Champions League final; it’s an incredible goal and there’s only one winner.
“We all watched it in LA together and there was that noise you make when you see something unbelievable.
“He’s a fantastic player and produces magic moments like that.”
“The hurt lasted a while from the last Ireland game. If we won tomorrow it wouldn’t be because we missed the World Cup. We want to win this for many other reasons.
“A lot of people want to impress the manager, we love playing in night games, it’s the first competitive game for a while.”
“They are physical but that’s something that we’re used to, by playing in the Premier League and the Championship every week.
“As I’ve said before, we have try to stop Ireland with the qualities they’ve got.”
“I think there’s probably 2 players in every position that can start, there’s pressure on everyone.
“If the gaffer thinks I should miss a game out, that’s his decision and I have to respect that.”
The horrific injury v Mexico:
“It was quite serious but at the time I didn’t see it like that, probably to do with the morphine.
“I was in the most pain I’ve ever been in and it was all new to me. We were in a different country and I had to stay there for a little while.
“It was my time because I’ve been really lucky throughout my career not to have many serious injuries.
“The medics part of our staff and the one’s in LA were excellent and I never felt like I wasn’t in good hands.”
Giggs v Coleman
“They are different personalities, Giggs is more reserved where as Chris Coleman was a lot louder and made himself known.
“They are similar in the way of the day-to-day runnings and the lads have adapted well to the changes.
“The atmosphere is still quite relaxed but he’s put his own stamp on it.”
“We won a mini game in training today: the senior players against the younger players.
“On our side it was me, Wayne Hennessey, Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Ledley, Chris Gunter and two of the younger lads, Chris Mepham and Ben Woodburn because we needed to make up the numbers.”
New life with Stoke and adaptation as an older player:
“I’m really enjoying it at Stoke, I’m getting that good feeling back to go into work every day.
“I’m trying to get myself into the team. The sending off a few weeks ago wasn’t a good night but I’m over that now and I’m ready to go again.”
“I’ve adapted to new methods but that’s been the past few years.
“I’ve been questioning the gaffer on what he did to play on for a long time in his career. Sleep, nutrition and everything you do to normally to prepare for the game is essential.”
Facing a potentially weakened Denmark:
“We just concentrate on ourselves and work on what we want to work on.
“It’s the same as any game, we will focus more on ourselves rather than the opponent.
“We try and get on with it and possibly use the game as an opportunity to use more younger players or whatever the gaffer wants to do.”
• Tactical predictions for Wales v Rep. of Ireland
• Ben Davies on the Nations League matches & Dummett’s welcome back
• David Brooks: “I won’t be putting on an England shirt again”
• Final Welsh player roundup before the first set of Nations League matches
• The UEFA Nations League explained