Chris Coleman’s resignation is the climax to one of the most successful eras in recent memory for Welsh football, but it shouldn’t be seen as its death knell.
It should be viewed for what it is, a chance to carry on the great work predecessor Gary Speed began, which he progressed.
And that starts by nurturing an exciting crop of new, young talent that could provide an even more exciting future. In order to do that, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) must make the right appointment.
Chris Coleman was Wales greatest ever football manager. Good luck in whatever you do. Thanks for the best summer of my life. ⚽️🏴
— Jonny Owen (@JonnyOwenFilm) November 17, 2017
And the right man is Osian Roberts – Coleman’s number two and a key figure in Wales’ rise to a FIFA world ranking of 13th. They were as high as eighth in 2015, heady progress indeed from the 117th place out of the world’s 204 teams they occupied in August 2011.
That nadir was reached under Speed himself – although by the former Newcastle and Leeds United midfielder’s death in November 2011, Wales had vaulted into the top 50.
Of his 10 games at the helm, Speed won five and lost five. But it was the effort exerted and finances invested at youth level and drastic improvements made to the nutritional and fitness infrastructure in the Welsh set-up that would serve as his legacy.
It has been carried on brilliantly by Coleman, although it was a rough transition – five of his first six games ended in defeat, including a humiliating 6-1 defeat in Serbia.
Since then, Coleman has breathed new life into Welsh football – culminating in qualifying for a first major tournament in 58 years, Euro 2016, where the Dragons defied all the odds to reach the semi-finals, beaten by eventual champions Portugal.
North Walian Roberts has been Coleman’s assistant from the start but has been involved in the national team set-up since the mid-1990s.
He has been key in developing the likes of Gareth Bale, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Wayne Hennessey – who form the current spine of the team.
Once described as “the most influential man in Welsh football”, Roberts himself, on Saturday, threw his backing behind former Manchester United star and 64-times capped Ryan Giggs.
Giggs is seen by many as raw, though Speed had only four months of managerial experience at Sheffield United before his country came calling in December 2010.
WalesOnline have instilled Giggs as the favourite to replace Coleman, although some of the names on the list – Thierry Henry and Craig Bellamy – seem far-fetched.
Their head of sport, Delme Parfitt, even suggested former England coach Glenn Hoddle – a man who hasn’t held a managerial appointment in over a decade.
Giggs would be a sound appointment in many ways, as would West Brom boss Tony Pulis, but having been at the core of Welsh football for so long and so often the man in the background, many believe Roberts would both relish the role and maintain the standards that have seen Wales rise both on and off the field.
To many, Coleman’s departure is not a surprise. His contract was up after the World Cup. The peculiar thing is he is set to leave to take over at Sunderland – a club bottom of England’s second tier.
Of more pressing concern now is safeguarding Wales’ stars of the future – many of whom are beginning to stir.
The sight of Ben Woodburn (18), already a match-winner twice for Wales during their unsuccessful World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign, David Brooks (20) and Ethan Ampadu (17) simultaneously introduced from the bench in their recent 2-0 friendly defeat to France had Dragons fans dreaming of a bright future. Just because Coleman has gone, does not mean those dreams are dashed.
He has gone, and he leaves with the grateful thanks of a nation. It is now time to turn the page. And if their recent storybook success is to continue, Roberts has to be the man to pen the next tale.
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