by Kevin Henning

At a time when Welsh football has more going for it than ever before, the national team appear to be left out of the fun. The Premier League is host to two Welsh clubs who look able to more than hold their own, a number of Welsh players are either mainstays of their club sides or certainly sought after and Gareth Bale has recently become the World’s most expensive player.

When the qualifying groups for next year’s tournament in Brazil were announced, the Welsh nation held a genuine belief that this could be the one they’ve been waiting for. The late Gary Speed had a squad of young, promising players who were coming together to produce a brand of football that was both good on the eye and effective and results were beginning to come. The Welsh people understood the need for patience and accepted the odd hiccup for the benefit of the long term aim of having a team that could consistently hold their own.
Since the qualification group begun though, Wales have been increasingly like the inept team that have failed to qualify for a major tournament since the beginning of time (they were invited to play in the 1958 World Cup).

Two wins and six defeats from eight so far and the toughest fixture of the group still to play in Belgium is grim viewing for any Welsh supporter.

The six goal drubbing in Serbia, the fact that the only two victories so far have been against fellow Brits Scotland and the slide from vibrant, positive football to the turgid stuff being churned out currently have been worrying signs.

Over the last week though, things have reached a nadir. Chris Coleman has started to make a mockery of the very idea of International football. Last week, Cookie forgot to pack his passport for a trip to Macedonia. “No harm done” Cookie claimed, “we’ve sorted out our tactics and would only be working on fitness in Skopje”. One can only hope that Cookie would’ve been as nonplussed had one of his players dropped such a calamitous clanger. I suspect he’d have shown who was boss though and dropped the offender (unless it had been Bale, Bellamy, Williams or Ramsey – his big name players).

Then came the tactical masterstroke of naming Gareth Bale as a substitute, asking him to warm up at half time where the eighty-five million pound man was confronted by a lunatic and then sitting idly by whilst his team desperately needed a goal. Cookie claimed the idea was to scare Macedonia’s manager who would, I’m guessing, be so pre-occupied by the thought of Bale coming on, he’d forget to actually focus on the large part of the game in which Bale didn’t play. It didn’t work. Macedonia won 2-1 and put paid to any faint hopes of the play offs harboured by the Welsh.

When asked whether he would be prepared to apologise for the passport incident after the match, Cookie got all defensive and enquired who he should apologise to. Maybe you could start with your staff Chris, the people who were left to organise things that normally a manager would. You could maybe say sorry to the players who you demand professionalism from yet fail to travel with because you’ve forgotten the one thing that everyone heading to an airport checks and double checks. You could carry on and apologise to the Welsh FA who would have been embarrassed by the ineptitude of their manager. Finally the supporters could be begged for forgiveness. The very people whose hopes have been dashed again by a man who admitted days later, after a 3-0 thrashing in a home game that “A new contract has been agreed but not signed yet. I’m confident we can have a go at the next qualifying group with a good run up.” A large majority of the Welsh support will be hoping that their FA forget what they’ve promised to Cookie.