Hands off my superstars! Coleman stays with Wales to nurture Bale and Ramsey

By Neil Moxley

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Chris Coleman agreed to remain as head coach of Wales because he didn’t want a successor to  profit from the skills of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

That was the explanation offered by the former Fulham boss, who ended speculation over his future by signing a two-year contract to manage Wales in the 2016 European Championship qualifiers.

Despite a fifth-placed finish in World Cup qualifying Group A last month, there is quiet confidence that Coleman, with the twin talents of Bale and Ramsey, can mount a successful bid.

Optimistic: After penning a new deal, Chris Coleman is confident about Wales' future

Optimistic: After penning a new deal, Chris Coleman is confident about Wales' future

UEFA have increased the finals to 24 places, eight more than in 2012. Depending on the size of the group, third-placed teams can qualify via a play-off — giving Wales the chance to reach their first major tournament since 1958.

Coleman has been able to employ the combined talents of Bale, Ramsey and Liverpool’s 15m midfielder Joe Allen just three times in 15 games as Wales boss  and says that their continued fitness will be crucial. ‘The Wales job is bigger than any other job I’ll do,’ he said. ‘I’ve had two hard years. At times they’ve been really hard.

‘Sometimes it’s exciting — and when you win it’s brilliant. But if I’m honest with you, I didn’t want to hand it over to someone that I don’t think will do the same job I did. I wanted to finish what I started. These players are a good bunch. I think we have a good chance of doing something.

‘And looking at what I have to work with, I thought, “Yeah, I don’t want to give this job up”. You mention some of the players like Gareth and Aaron. I want to work with them. We need those two. Simple as that. If we are to mount a challenge we need them for most, if not all, the games.

Superstar: At 86million, Gareth Bale is the most expensive player in the world

Superstar: At 86million, Gareth Bale is the most expensive player in the world

‘We have other top-class players. The lads who came in for the last camp were brave, they raised the bar. But for us to get any result we have to be at our maximum and we need Gareth and Aaron to be at their best.

‘When I was playing, we had Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Ryan Giggs and Neville Southall. We all knew they were world class. Stand-out players. If we had them, we had half a chance. And we have got two here now. There’s a responsibility on them to continue their club form with us. They always have given their best.

‘We have a good chance. With those two players on the pitch, we have a good chance. And who knows?’

The news has been given a lukewarm response by fans in Wales. Coleman didn’t help himself with the fiasco over his passport before the international two months ago in Skopje against Macedonia.

Man of the moment: The midfielder Aaron Ramsey is in the form of his life

Man of the moment: The midfielder Aaron Ramsey is in the form of his life

He asked for expectations to be realistic and took a swipe at those who believed that the inclusion of the two superstars should result in automatic qualification.

‘People say, “Right, you’ve got Bale and Ramsey — you should qualify with them two playing”. You don’t do it with two players. We need to be strong in every position,’ he added.

‘I look back at the recent campaign when we were smashed up twice against Serbia. But apart from that we were in it. We cannot affect people outside our camp being unrealistic. People on websites who haven’t got an ounce of footballing intelligence. Some of them haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. So whatever they are saying about me, I’m not bothered. This is a huge responsibility and honour: to be the manager of my national team.

‘If you are easily offended by insults, then this isn’t the job for you. All I ask is that if we are not winning games I want people to be realistic.’ 

Underrated? Liverpool's 15million midfielder Joe Allen is another fine Welsh talent

Underrated? Liverpool's 15million midfielder Joe Allen is another fine Welsh talent

Ryan Giggs
Ian Rush

World class: But Wales have in the past failed to make the most of talents like Ryan Giggs (left) and Ian Rush

Coleman had also been linked with the vacant manager’s job at Crystal Palace but claimed he was never tempted to apply for the position and was not approached by the Selhurst Park club.

His position was not helped after he verbally agreed to extend his stay before the ill-fated trip to the Balkans where he lost his passport. That, and the disruption caused by Bale’s 86million transfer to Real Madrid had upset the Wales camp.

‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing,’ said chief executive Jonathan Ford. ‘We had planned to do something sooner but then the (Gareth) Bale circus came to town.

‘The timing after that wasn’t quite right. We had a couple of matches that didn’t go our way. In my mind, we had made the right decision then, we’ve made the right decision now.

Big responsibility: Coleman hopes to lead Wales to qualification for the 2016 European Championships

Big responsibility: Coleman hopes to lead Wales to qualification for the 2016 European Championships

‘Yes, we should have signed earlier. But Euro 2016 is what we are looking towards now. Let’s finish what we have started.’

It has perhaps been overlooked that Coleman started out in the saddest of circumstances following the death of former team-mate Gary Speed.

The six-goal thumping in Serbia proved something of a turning point. Coleman was determined to put his own stamp on his squad and, particularly when they were hit by injury during last month’s double-header, the players have clearly responded.

‘I will be a better manager for the time I’ve spent in the job so far,’ he said, ‘I’m looking forward to it.’

 

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