by Daisy Cutter
At the risk of sounding like some brainwashed Yank patriot perhaps I should begin by stating that I love my country. Like Cerys Matthews I thank the lord I’m Welsh every day when I wake up and I’d lay my life on the line to preserve its identity or honour (though admittedly every other avenue would be explored first mainly because, patriotic or not, I’m also a coward).
Yet even with this in mind I will be watching my national team take on Croatia at the Stadion Maksimir on Tuesday evening and hope to buggery they get absolutely battered. 5-0, 6-0, 7-0, a Jelavic hat-trick or numerous own goals deflecting off Ashley Williams’ generous rump, I’m really not fussed on the manner of the defeat, just so long as they return in shame to howls of derision from media and public alike. And it is not simply an embarrassing scoreline I wish for. I hope they are comprehensively outclassed, dominated in possession, and their predictable supply line to their solitary saviour Gareth Bale is cut at the source exposing them for the one-dimensional weak force they presently are.
Now before I’m hung, drawn and quartered, with my traitorous limbs scattered to each corner of the British Isles, let me clarify that I would take absolutely no pleasure from such an event, nor would I feel anything but pain at seeing eleven Welshmen slump from a pitch. The consequences of this occurring however is something I would derive great satisfaction from. Because it would result in our utterly incompetent clusterf*** of a manager Chris Coleman coming under renewed pressure and face premature – at this stage at least – calls for his resignation.
The sooner this happens – and Coleman failing miserably and leaving Wales unqualified in every sense is as predestined as the next X-Factor winner – the sooner we can attempt to reclaim the blueprints laid out by Gary Speed. That of an exciting vision set around exciting youth playing open, attractive football. That of a team full of fluid adventure – a wannabe Cymru Barcelona – whose high-tempo possession-play was orchestrated from our 20 year old maestro-in-the-making Ramsey. Where intelligence and trust was implanted into our young charges. Where Bale was one of our better players and not the B-ale and end-all.
That was where we were heading under Speed until that awful November day last year when an entire country jolted to a sudden stop. The Welsh footballing public are used to waiting for the other foot to come down. If things are bleak along comes humiliation. If hope shines on the horizon along comes the rain. But nobody could have anticipated such a terrible, tragic pause to our nascent dreams.
Right now the dream is in the hands of a Swiss Tony poseur, a tactically inept charlatan indulging in adult play-pretend. Coleman is Betamax in a digital world. His sum total as a man and manager is the occasional banal soundbite and good teeth and expecting him to tactically out-manoeuvre a Tonka truck would be a stretch nevermind out-foxing his rival international coaches.
Witnessing him pitchside, the pungent smell of expensive aftershave and failure emanating from the dug-out, as he oversees his elementary plans being obediently enacted by young players capable of so much more, more achieved with verve and style, is as depressing as it gets.
I might be accused here of over-romanticising the all-too-brief spell where Speed inherited a foundering Welsh set-up and immediately sacrificed the remaining qualifying campaign to fully implement his ideals. But the progress being made was there for all to see against Norway. The rapid improvement was there to see against England. Suddenly optimism swept through the valleys and it became quite apparent something rather special was being constructed and foundations put in place.
Now the precise opposite holds true. Coleman is a man without vision. He hauled Coventry City down to their lowest league position in nearly fifty years. He has coached in three different countries and bombed miserably in every one of them. True to form the FAW brought in a cheap and easy solution, at an optimistic time when we thought settling for such compromises was a thing of the past, and installed a joke without a punchline. So the sacrifice this time falls upon us, the supporters. We must rule out yet another qualifying campaign – and postpone our lifelong dream of seeing the red and green in a major tournament – for at least another two years in order to dispense with an individual who offers us only further disappointments.
The 6-1 trouncing by Serbia brought the inevitable conclusion ever closer until destiny decided to throw a curveball on Friday against the Scots. Coleman’s ‘give it to Baley’ remit worked late-on – as such over-reliance on our best individual has worked occasionally in the past – but ultimately it gets us nowhere. Ultimately it roots us in mediocrity.
Bale’s double may have given the preening fraud additional time but his days are numbered. I should know; I’m counting them. Come on Croatia!