National football in Wales has reached a low ebb. Currently ranked 112th behind the Faroe Islands Wales lie bottom of their European qualifying group with no points from their 4 games, and they are in the group of sixth seeds for the World Cup draw this weekend, meaning they have no hope in hell in qualifying for Brazil 2014. The slide has been rather dramatic over the last few years, but are they about to turn around this terminal decline?
Wales have a number of top class young players, in particular Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay, who could be capable of propelling the side to greater things. Alongside them are other talented youngsters such as Wolves goalie Wayne Hennessey, West Ham’s Jack Collison, and Swansea’s Joe Allen, Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor. With these players in the side, alongside the experience of players like Rob Earnshaw and James Collins, things can surely only improve for Wales. They have a good core of young players, and getting them together whilst they are still young is important, so they can become a cohesive unit and gain experience, which will certainly be beneficial, and hopefully improve their fortune over the next few years.
The problem with Wales is quality players have always been few and far between, there has never been the strength in depth, or a full side drawn from players of Premier League quality, still today they rely on a number of players from the lower leagues. There has always been limited resources available. Even now, if they lose their quality players, they come unstuck, who do they turn to if the likes of Bale or Ramsay are injured. What happens if the top players they rely upon pull a ‘Giggs’ and are unavailable for selection more often than not?
In terms of the development of the national side, the fact that Swansea are in the Premier League can only be a good thing, they have a number of good young players, and playing regularly at this higher level will only be beneficial to the Welsh team. It could also serve to inspire youngsters in Wales, and promote the game in a land that has traditionally favoured rugby. However, Swansea do need to be there for a long period to change anything, and it would be of benefit if Cardiff could also join them in the top flight.
Wales need to compete consistently on the world stage to improve, and the structure needs to be in place to ensure that happens. The Welsh Premiership just doesn’t serve any purpose, it’s a true mess, which relects internationally, as no players are drawn from the league to the national side. The game based on such weak foundations runs right upwards to the national team. There is simply no passion or interest in the league set up throughout Wales, there is no engagement with community’s and the game is going nowhere. The state of the grass roots and playing facilities in Wales is poor and this effects the potential growth of the game. The young stars are cherry picked at academy level by bigger English clubs, reflecting the poor standard in the Welsh leagues. Unfortunately, the men at the top of the game in Wales are stuck in their ways and unlikely to change the system. The FAW need to modernise as an organisation, and sort out the problems from the bottom by investing heavily in school and grassroots football, as it is where the problems stem from.
To be fair to Wales it is a small nation, with just under 4 million people, however, look at what Uruguay have achieved with a population of only 3.5 million. Wales have time now to build a side around Ramsay and Bale and improve on the international front and try to put an end to their slide downwards on an international level. There has long been an acceptance of mediocrity by the achievements of the Welsh national team, but that needs to change. There are a lot of improvements to be made and a long way to go, but hopefully some time in the not so distant future we will see a Wales who are able to compete on the international stage.
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