Mitchell Clark “surprised” at not being named in the Wales U21 squad

Welsh full-back, Mitchell Clark was omitted from Robert Page’s Wales U21 squad. Clark is currently on loan at Port Vale from Aston Villa and playing regularly for the League Two club. 

In an exclusive interview with Behind the Goal, Clark speaks about his current career with Port Vale and his dissatisfaction with not being included in any Wales U21 squad.

19-year-old Clark played 90 minutes at right-back on Saturday in a 1-1 home draw with Exeter, a game that Rob Page watched from the stands.

“The game against Exeter on Saturday was one of my better matches this season. It’s my first loan from Villa and I think I’ve been performing very well,” explained Clark.

“I knew after the game that Rob Page was there, but I had no contact with him at the game or after it.

Clearly frustrated by the lack of chances, “I haven’t been picked for the U21’s again, so it’s obvious the manager doesn’t fancy me and I’m not in his [Page’s] plans.”

Rob Page named 3 full-backs in his 19-man squad to face Romania and Switzerland, including Rhys Norrington-Davies, 19 (Sheff Utd), Cameron Coxe, 19 (Cardiff) and Aaron Lewis, 20 (Swansea) – none of which are playing senior football at the moment.

“I’ve got Cameron Coxe, who is suspended [for the first match against Romania] and Aaron Lewis at Swansea, who is playing really well,” said Page.

“Clark is still a young one and he’s still developing. He can play at full-back on both sides and we’ve good competition in those areas.

“He will get his opportunity but it might be with the U19’s to start with.”

Clark was left confused by Page’s decision because he has already played 8 times for Wales U19’s between 2016-2017. He was named in the 2017 squad for the Toulon Tournament, but withdrew, along with David Brooks and Rhys Norrington-Davies.

He last played for Wales U19’s in the Euro Qualifier against Turkey, where Paul Bodin was in charge. He also captained Wales U19’s last year and really wants to kick on for the U21’s.

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“I was very surprised to not be named, but I’m not disappointed because it gives me more of a chance to concentrate on club football with Port Vale now.”

When asked about his aspirations to play for the senior squad: “I played with some of the lads who are in the senior squad – Ethan Ampadu, Tyler Roberts and those boys.

“They’ve obviously gone above and made the step up, so the pathway and the chances are there for the players.”

Clark has played 9 times in Port Vale’s 11 league matches this season, who are positioned in sixteenth place in League Two. Port Vale will play Grimsby Town away on Saturday 6th October.

He has a year left on his current deal with Aston Villa, with a 12-month extension option.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest news regarding Welsh football.

Read more:
• Ryan Giggs announces his squad for the fixtures against Spain and Rep. of Ireland
• Wales Watch: Tyler Roberts shines again for Leeds in midweek 
• What needs to be done to end Cardiff’s winless campaign? 
• Three Welsh players net their first club goals this season 
• Wales Watch: Harry Wilson shows his quality in the League Cup 
• Wales Watch: Ramsey and Wilson hit form 

Ryan Giggs announces his squad for the fixtures against Spain and Rep. of Ireland

Wales manager, Ryan Giggs named his 25-man squad ahead of the friendly v Spain and Nations League match v Republic of Ireland. This announcement didn’t draw too many surprises, other than Joe Rodon’s omission after his excellent form for Swansea.

The difficulty of picking players:

“It was straightforward this time because I was happy with the last camp. Tom Lockyer and Joe Ledley are injured at the moment, so they are the two players who are left out.”

“I feel as though Joe Rodon is best to go with Rob Page because I think Jazz Richards was a better fit to this squad. I have spoken to him in last few camps and he was unlucky to miss out on the last set of matches. Picking Jazz over Joe was the only real difficulty I had because Jazz isn’t getting regular games at Cardiff.”

Friendly with Spain at the Principality Stadium:

“Every player’s motivation will be high. Playing for your country, playing against a good team and a chance to test yourself at the Principality Stadium. It will be something different for the players, but they will be ready for the challenge.

“It will be getting the balance right for the competitive and more important game against Ireland, but also the players will be desperate to be involved against a top side in Spain.

“It’s my decision to analyse our players and make a decision on who is to play for both games. It’s possible that the team picked for the Ireland game could be a lot different to the Spain team.”

“We felt this game gave us a good opportunity to play in a bigger stadium. A lot of the players haven’t played there so it will be a fantastic occasion in a stadium where I have many happy memories – my favourite being the win against Italy and coming off the pitch in an unbelievable atmosphere.”

“I recognise that we have a great record at the Cardiff City Stadium. We’re not dismissing the Liberty or the Racecourse for future games either. For every game we need to have different options looking forward.”

Aaron Ramsey’s current situation:

“Ramsey won’t be affected when he comes with us. From what I saw from him last time when he met up, he was a fantastic player and a top professional.

“I don’t expect it [the contractual negotations] to impact his performances with Wales. All I’m concentrating on is a player who comes and gives his all with fantastic qualities.”

“He’s a good player so he’d be suitable to play in any league. But at the moment he’s an Arsenal player and he will be fully concentrating on that, it’s pure speculation at the moment.”

“I haven’t spoken to him yet about his wife having a baby. I don’t like to speak to players when they have games on the weekend, but in the next couple of days or so I will be in touch with Aaron about his personal situation.”

Gareth Bale’s minor injury and game time next week:

“Gareth had a groin strain on the weekend, but the scan was clear. He expects to play on Saturday evening for Real Madrid.

“You want a good relationship with all the clubs, especially with Gareth at Madrid. Every game is huge for a club of that size – how many minutes he plays, how often he trains etc. Ideally, I want him to play every minute, but that’s not possible.”

“Gareth Bale will be presented with an honour before the game against Spain next week for becoming Wales’ highest goalscorer. Make sure you get there early!”

The game against Rep. of Ireland in Dublin:

“It’s not easy for the quick turnaround, we should be fresh after our Spain match.

“I don’t think our game against Denmark was down to fatigue – we just didn’t have the length of time to prepare like we did for Ireland.”

“I respect Martin as a manager and I expect a backlash performance. When you get beat as a player, you want to rectify that so I expect a difficult game. If we play to the level that we did in the first game we’ll be fine.”

“The reception from the fans in Cardiff against Ireland was what dreams were made of. But our last game was against Denmark and we got beat and we need to improve on a lot of things. We have to get back to what we’re good at.”

When asked about Roy’s snub at the end of the game in Cardiff: “Roy, like me, is a winner so I expect him to have some reaction and there are no hard feelings.

“I was with him last week in Cork for Liam Miller’s memorial match. We were as normal as ever.”

Ethan Ampadu’s future:

“He is getting matches at U23 level, but it’s difficult as we’ve seen with Wilson and Woodburn [at Liverpool] to see where these players will get their games.

“I was more than pleased with how he turned up in the last camps. He’s only just turned 18 so he has plenty of time at a top club in Chelsea.

“Ethan can be anything he wants to be; what a player and character to have. A manager’s dream, but again, he’s only 18.”

Andy King picked despite not playing a game for Leicester:

“He’s frustrated with not playing at Leicester. It’s about seeing how the players turn up, of course, you want players playing regularly.

“He’s a good pro and looks after himself. Whether he plays 30 mins, an hour or not at all, we’ll assess that as good as we can do.”

Attacking quality in numbers:

He jokes: “I’m impressed with Tyler [Roberts] scoring but not with Harry [Wilson] scoring [against Manchester United last week].

“Sam Vokes scored for Burnley at the weekend. We want players coming into the camp scoring goals, it brings great competition to the camp.”

“I have no concerns regarding Ben Woodburn, he’s just not getting regular games at Sheffield United currently.

“Sometimes a loan works out sometimes it doesn’t, he can come through this and be a better player. It’s up to Ben now, he’s got the quality to perform.”

“David Brooks is another player I enjoy coaching, he can do things out of the ordinary. When you get your chance, you have to take it and he has at Bournemouth.”

A future Team GB:

“Without getting into the details, in my experience in 2012, it was fantastic. Whatever the FAW have with regards to the women is up to them.”


 

I also spoke with Wales U21 manager, Robert Page. You can view what he said on the blog’s Twitter feed – www.twitter.com/behindthegoal16

Read more:
• Mitchell Clark “surprised” at not being named in the Wales U21 squad
• Wales Watch: Tyler Roberts shines again for Leeds in midweek
• What needs to be done to end Cardiff’s winless campaign? 
• Three Welsh players net their first club goals this season 
• Wales Watch: Harry Wilson shows his quality in the League Cup 
• Wales Watch: Ramsey and Wilson hit form 

Tyler Roberts was the star player of the midweek games

It was a night to remember for Tyler Roberts on Tuesday night. Roberts ensured he marked his second introduction with two brilliant second-half goals, following his debut appearance for Leeds on the weekend. The first finish was a delightful chip over the keeper to go 2-0 ahead, and the second was a trademark striker’s header to finish 3-0.

Real Madrid comfortably beat Roma 3-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday evening and Gareth Bale was once again amongst the goals. He scored Madrid’s second of the night by running on to a world class pass from Luka Modric and finishing into the bottom corner.

Swansea lost their second game of the season, thanks to ex-Swansea graduate Joe Allen. It is rare that Allen scores for Stoke, but this was a vital win against his former club. Swansea only kept Connor Roberts in the team from Saturday, as Joe Rodon and Declan John were dropped to the bench. Welsh winger, Daniel James played 72 minutes for the Swans.

James Chester captained Aston Villa to successfully attaining their first clean sheet of the season. After playing 90 minutes against Blackburn on the weekend, Neil Taylor was dropped from the squad of 18 altogether. Chris Gunter got another 90 mins for Reading but failed to keep a clean sheet.

Ben Davies was back in the Tottenham side for their first Champions League game against Inter Milan on Tuesday. Spurs conceded two very late goals to lose the game 2-1 at the San Siro.

Chris Mepham got his usual 90 minutes for Brentford in their 1-1 draw against Ipswich. He came up against Ellis Harrison, who was brought off at half time and Gwion Edwards was brought on for the second 45.

Lee Evans bagged another assist for Wigan in their 2-1 win against Hull. Evans missed out on the Wales squad this month, but delivering balls into the box like this will ensure he stays in Giggs’ plans.

Harry Wilson returned from injury to play 20 minutes for Derby in their 0-0 result against Blackburn. Tom Lawrence was suspended and Joe Ledley wasn’t in the squad.

Welsh full-backs Ash Baker and Morgan Fox both got 90 minutes against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday in a 2-1 defeat at the City Ground.

Tom Bradshaw was replaced at half time by Steve Morison in Millwall’s 2-0 loss against QPR. Millwall have only scored 7 goals in 8 games this season and sit 21st in the Championship table.

It has been a tough start to the season for young Welshman Ben Woodburn, who was unable to impact the scoreline again in Sheffield Utd’s goalless draw on Wednesday night. Sheff Utd face 23rd placed Preston on Saturday afternoon, which will hopefully provide a great opportunity for Ben to make his mark at Bramall Lane.

Aaron Ramsey and Ethan Ampadu were both left out of the Arsenal and Chelsea squads for their Europa League ties on Thursday evening.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive all of the latest updates.

Read more:
• Cardiff suffer defeat for the third time this season: Video analysis
• Club football restarts: Welsh player updates 
• Denmark 2-0 Wales: Video analysis 
• Wales 4-1 Rep. of Ireland: Video analysis of the four Welsh goals 
• Are we witnessing the birth of another ‘golden generation’? 

Are we witnessing the birth of another ‘golden generation’?

Wales kicked off their Nations League campaign under Ryan Giggs with an emphatic 4-1 win over the Republic of Ireland on Thursday night.
Chris Gunter (29), James Chester (29), Joe Ledley (31) and Sam Vokes (28) were all left out of the starting eleven in favour of Connor Roberts (22), Chris Mepham (20), Ethan Ampadu (17) and David Brooks (21). Is this the start of something incredibly special for Wales?

Continue reading “Are we witnessing the birth of another ‘golden generation’?”

Tactical predictions for Wales v Rep. of Ireland

International football is back this week, in the new form of the Nations League. If you are unaware of what the Nations League is, feel free to read this explanation article I posted last month. In one simple sentence – they are competitive games and not friendlies.

Continue reading “Tactical predictions for Wales v Rep. of Ireland”

The break down of everything Ryan Giggs said at the Wales squad announcement

It’s the start of a new era for Welsh football. This morning’s squad announcement for the upcoming games against Ireland and Denmark included uncapped players and talented youngsters, which will generate a healthy mix of experience and youth.

Continue reading “The break down of everything Ryan Giggs said at the Wales squad announcement”

Assessment of the last qualifying campaign and the dawn of a new era

Statistics are not everything in sport, but they give a good indication as to who performs at the highest levels. Gareth Bale is undoubtedly the best player Wales have available and the stats back that up on just about every occasion.
There are many players in football that don’t often have the “glory stats”; players like Joe Allen or James Chester – they do the small things that go unnoticed but are vital in the team.

I’m not going to get overly involved in stats in this article, but I have compiled some that I think are interesting to look at. The following tables include the players’ goals and assists from the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign, listed in order of the ‘average per game ratio’ (zoom for larger view):

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Bale had a poor second half of the campaign for Wales by his standards and in fairness to him, it looked like he was carrying an injury in most games he played. However, he still managed to top the goalscoring charts with 3 goals, Ramsey and Allen coming second with 2 each.

We saw Tom Lawrence come alive and really step up to the mark when Gareth Bale was unavailable against Georgia. He hit a stunning strike from 20 yards to score his first goal for Wales and earn his country a vital 3 points in Tblisi.

The feature of the campaign was the introduction of the “Starman“, Ben Woodburn, who managed a 25% goal & assist ratio without even starting a game.

His goal against Austria, well what can you say? I don’t think I’ve seen a more perfect debut goal in football. The stunning rendition of “Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” ending at the exact moment where Woodburn can compose himself before unleashing a strike that won the game for Wales.

Incredibly, Woodburn only played 76 minutes of football for his country in the World Cup qualifiers and topped the assists per game ratio, above the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. He also scored the same amount of goals as Vokes, who played in every game (7 starts, 3 sub) and Robson-Kanu, who played in 9 (4 starts, 5 sub).

In the four games Wales won – Moldova home and away, Austria home & Georgia away, at least two of “the key three” Bale, Ramsey and Allen were on the pitch together:

4-0 v Moldova – Bale & Allen
1-0 v Austria – Bale & Ramsey
2-0 v Moldova – Bale, Ramsey & Allen
1-0 v Georgia – Ramsey & Allen

In the two games where only one of the three were available, Wales drew against Georgia and lost against Ireland (Joe Allen brought off injured after half hour).

Fans and pundits have said the 1-1 draw against Georgia at home was the missed opportunity, but I think a lot of people forget we were lucky to not lose that game. Georgia dominated periods of the second half after they equalised and Wales were rattled, especially defensively. Okriashvili was pulling the strings from midfield, they hit the woodwork, forced Hennessey into a couple of good saves and looked by far the likelier side to take all 3 points.

For me, it was the two games in the middle of the campaign that were costly – against Serbia in Cardiff and Ireland in Dublin. Bale, Ramsey and Allen were on the pitch together for 90 minutes in both games and we were only able to win 2 points out of a possible 6 (though the Serbia game was Ramsey’s first 90 minutes of the season in November). These two teams were our main qualification rivals in Group D; winning a total of 3/12 points from your closest competition is not going to get you to the World Cup.

What severely lacked throughout was the ruthless attacking edge in the final third. We only managed 5 goals in the last 6 games, which is simply not good enough to qualify for a major tournament. Here’s hoping the new influx of young talent we have coming through will add an exciting dimension to future teams.

World Cup 2018 stats for the 21 players that made an appearance for Wales:Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 17.42.52

A New Era

The squads for the Nations League and EURO 2020 games will be a contrast to what Chris Coleman’s were. James Collins, David Cotterill, Simon Church and Dave Edwards have been replaced with the likes of Chris Mepham, David Brooks, Harry Wilson and Ethan Ampadu. Not to mention many of the other new boys who will be fighting for a place in the coming seasons – Lee Evans, Declan John, Connor Roberts, Tom Lockyer, Matt Smith, Tyler Roberts, Joe Rodon and Gwion Edwards to name a few. We may see Danny Ward become a regular for Wales if he manages to stake a place in the current Leicester side.

The bonus that comes with a lot of the new players is their versatility; Ampadu can play in central midfield or central defence, Brooks, Woodburn, Lawrence and Wilson can play on either wing or as no.10’s.

Ryan Giggs will be thinking long and hard about moulding a system that is best to fit some of these players in. With a surplus of attacking options available, you would predict that at some point he will opt for an out-and-out offensive front three. You can read more about potential formations in this previous article.

What’s uncertain is whether we will see the natural no.9 phased out of the system. Players like Sam Vokes and Hal Robson-Kanu could be dropped in favour of more pace on the counter. Will we continue to see Ashley Williams as captain at the heart of defence as Chris Mepham continues to be highly impressive for Brentford? Joe Ledley and Andy King could find their future Welsh caps numbered as Lee Evans and Ethan Ampadu are certain to be knocking on the door for a place in the starting XI.

Whatever the case, this is an extremely exciting period of transition. We have stronger squad options now than I can ever remember in my lifetime. Let’s hope this is matched with some memorable results and regular qualification for major tournaments.

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