Welsh Class Embarrasses England’s Over-Paid Skulkers
I woke up this morning in Paris and went for my now routine Pain au Raisin, double espresso and leaf through the English and French morning papers near the Champs Elysees.
Never, ever did I expect to open L’Equipe and see a team at the quarter finals with Bale, Ramsey, Gunter and Robson Kanu in it, but that’s what I saw, and what a beautiful sight it was!
Credit Where Its Due
I’ve mostly avoided English papers and over analysis of England this week while giving back handed compliments to the Welsh, because England are out. Most of the over analysis and wisdom after the event is nauseating, patronising and part of the problem at best, and Wales deserve better, much better.
I thought the performance against Belgium was simply incredible. 7 years ago, on air with Danny Kelly, a Wales U-21 game was panning out on the studio monitor, with many of the senior stars of today playing. I have gone on record since on air and in print several times to say the following…
That U-21 performance was the best British Isles technical performance I have seen live since England in Euro ’96. That’s how good it was, and the fact that everything that we saw from Wales v Belgium; aggression, organisation, belief, technique and individual responsibility on the ball was evident, shouldn’t really surprise anyone who has watched this group grow.
But us in the media will call it lucky, or a fluke or the padded out tournament rather than looking a little bit deeper under the surface as to what they beat – a highly ranked team with relative comfort having gone a goal down.
Firstly the captain. Never been a huge fan of Williams as a defender but that’s not what I’m going to talk about. It’s the fact that Wales picked a leader as captain rather than the absolute nonsense that is giving the most famous player or the biggest baby who’ll throw his toys out the pram if he doesn’t get the armband.
Williams is captain material, he leads like one, and one of the world’s best players in Bale follows him.
Contrast that to Ronaldo, Hazard, and Zlatan. Three more unstable men to lead anything or anyone you couldn’t find.
Not a slight on their ability, but in a normal football environment with normal football practices upheld, those three men would be last pick to be anyone’s leader, at any time.
Add three midfielders who compliment each other with steel (Ledley), ability to run beyond forwards (Ramsey) and unflustered technical passing (Allen),
give them belief and a dragon on their shirt – it’s called national pride England players, national pride,
and you have a unit which has been on par with any unit in any department of the field in the tournament, even up there with the Juve back 3, that’s how good they have been.
Undoubtedly the late Gary Speed and his sad, untimely death became the glue, the bond, the extra focus and desire for this group but with Speedo in charge I believe they would have still been as good, as bold and as brave because they believe in one another without airs or graces. They just look like a team and everything that term truly means.
I guess the most telling thing about the mentality and humility in the Wales camp can be described in a message I received from Hal Robson Kanu after the Belgium game.
I sent him a Twitter DM congratulating him and received a prompt response back saying how much it meant to him to get a message from a fellow pro who he’d watched play growing up.
Wales To Win
Contrast that with virtually every England player when on duty who can barely hide quickly enough from the media, never mind a humble response to a genuine message of delight from a fellow pro.
Wales have the very best elements of British football that I wish desperately was England, and I hope beyond hope that they go all the way, win it, not only to put the round ball ahead of the oval one for the next generation in Wales, but to embarrass the over hyped, over paid skulkers that parade as a team wearing the Three Lions.
Cymru Am Byth!