Aston Villa captain and Wales defender, James Chester spoke with me this week ahead of the clashes with Rep. of Ireland and Denmark.
He talks about the previous Ireland encounter, the new era under Ryan Giggs and his defensive partner, Ashley Williams. He also mentions the impromptus return of Paul Dummett.
Returning to competitive international fixtures:
“I saw a few of the World Cup games in the summer. I had a couple of club mates who were playing in it, so I took an interest in their games and text them beforehand to wish them well and to let them know how envious I was!
“The couple of weeks after the Ireland game were quite tough because we’d experienced tournament football before and what it was all about. Having the success that we had, it only leaves you hungry to do it again.
“We’ve got a great opportunity on Thursday to start well and get ourselves there again in two years.”
Ryan Giggs and the new era:
On Chester’s time at Manchester United as a youth player: “I was a YT and a young pro at the time [when Giggs was there], it was nice to know he still remembered me when we all met up for the first time.
“Being there as a young lad and seeing Ryan Giggs was great for me to see how he prepared and how he reacted to certain situations.”
“You can still see how hungry he is. The will to win he had through his career, and brought him all the success hasn’t disappeared.
“Being his first job as a manager in football, you can see how important it is to him and how successful he wants to be.
“He’s pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, but he’s made it quite clear that it’s not enough and he only wants us to get better and keep improving.”
“The success we had with Cookie and how well we all got on with him; we were all sad to see him go and we didn’t know what the future would bring.
“Now it’s an exciting time with the new manager. A lot of the young players and talented players have joined up with the squad.
“There’s a lot of competition all across the pitch now. Hopefully my time isn’t done just yet! I want us [senior players] to help them through into the next phase of their careers and be really successful together.
“I think this is a time that’s only going to be exciting and something to really look forward to.”
On Ashley Williams:
“I’ve really enjoyed my time playing with Ash. He had a very serious injury in the summer and I was quite surprised to see him back as soon as he was.
“It’s obviously going to take a while to get back to where he wants to be, but speaking to him this week, he felt he’s getting closer to it.”
Coming head to head with Villa teammate Conor Hourihane:
“We’ve not quite had any banter this week because I don’t think it was the time for it [Villa losing 4-1 on the weekend]. There was certainly some leading up to the game a year ago.
“I think any game with Ireland throws up that scenario with knowing a great deal of their players.”
Facing Denmark’s potentially weakened team:
“It’s not too much I know about to be honest. We’ll be in Denmark regardless on Sunday, we’ll have to face whatever team is there and we’ll be looking to win the game.”
Paul Dummett’s return:
James finishes the interview with a cheeky smile when asked about Paul Dummett.
“He’s been fine, yes… it’s nice to see him.”
• Rep. of Ireland pre-match press conference with Ryan Giggs & Ashley Williams
• Tactical predictions for Wales v Rep. of Ireland
• Ben Davies on the Nations League matches & Dummett’s welcome back
• David Brooks: “I won’t be putting on an England shirt again”
• The UEFA Nations League explained