Wales v Denmark: Pre-match press conference with Giggs and Williams

Ryan Giggs and Ashley Williams speak ahead of the vital Wales v Denmark clash on Friday night at the Cardiff City Stadium.

RYAN GIGGS

Facing Denmark:

“You prepare every game and you try to do it the right way.

“There’s a bit more edge, more pace, added concentration for this match. You want all the players to affect the game, whether that’s starting or coming from the bench.

“You recognise that Denmark have a good manager and a good set of players. But we want to concentrate on our strengths and not worry too much about the opposition.”

“I was more unhappy about the result last time because we were definitely in the game up until the penalty.

“Looking back, we caused them problems. Overall, I wasn’t too down about the performance, but we will need to play better tomorrow.”

“We’ve got across to the players what we want to get from the game.

“We gave them as much information as we could at the start of the week. These last couple of days it’s more relaxed and now we just want the players to go out there and express themselves.”

Christian Eriksen:

“He’s a fantastic player who was the difference over in Aarhus.

We are aware of his qualities, we have a plan to stop him but doing it will be key. He is the best player for Denmark without a shadow of a doubt.

“We have our qualities as well, but Eriksen is up there with the top Premier League performers.”

The possibility of winning the group:

“I think for everyone, the coaching staff, the players, fans – to be promoted to League A, you know next time we will be amongst the big boys in the draw. We want to test ourselves with the best.”

“There are lots of incentives for us to top the group. To finish first would be great because there’s a second bite of the cherry to qualify for EURO 2020 and our seeding overall gets pushed higher as well.

“It’s in our hands, but it’s not going to be easy because we’re up against a top class side.

“They are going to be tough to beat and they are undoubtedly a very good team.”

Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and any injuries:

“Gareth is good, he arrived a little bit later than the rest of the group, but he’s looking fine and ready this week.

“We had to give him a different program at the beginning of the week, but he is fine for tomorrow.”

“There aren’t any injury doubts, but it’s not ideal having withdrawals [Chris Mepham].

“George Thomas is not in the squad due to injury, and he will be 50/50 for Albania. Everyone else is fine.”

“Aaron is a quality player, he’s played enough this season, albeit in deeper roles.

“He has had enough games, just like Gareth Bale, he is fine.”

Being back at the Cardiff City Stadium:

“The players probably know more than me about the experiences here.

“We had a good result and performance last time against the Republic of Ireland, but it wasn’t full.

“With what’s at stake – we will need the crowd’s help to win the game.”

ASHLEY WILLIAMS

A “cup final” against Denmark:

“It feels a little bit like a final because we both want to win the group and we know what’s at stake if we do we win.

“We have a really good balance throughout the squad and the young players stand up like men.

“With the young players, they have valuable experience for the next set of games. We are in a good position now with one game left.”

“I think Eriksen is the obvious star of the Danish team, but they have a very good set of players throughout.

“It’ll be something that we will think about throughout the game for sure.”

“We need to play better than we did in the last game against them. Being at home gives us an extra bonus; we have a clear game plan with how to win this time.

“We’ve worked hard to get here and we want to finish it off properly and win the group.”

Playing at the Cardiff City Stadium:

“We are looking forward to it – a Friday night in Cardiff is always a special occasion under the lights. Hopefully, we can repay the fans with a win.

We have had a great relationship with the fans for years now and they have taken to the change of team and manager. Everyone seems to be enjoying it and long may it continue.”

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey:

“Gareth is sharp and ready to go. He’s had a good week, he’s happy around the camp and he doesn’t have any complaints.

“There will be two world-class players on show [Bale and Eriksen], we understand how good he is and Denmark will as well.”

“For us, Ramsey is one of the most important players for the team. He gives us something a little bit different, he is a leader and essential for us.

“We obviously want all of our most experienced players on the field at all times.

“A lot of big teams will be interested in him, I haven’t spoken to him about it [being linked with Bayern Munich], but it’s not surprising with the qualities he possesses.”

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Read more:
• Wales Watch: Gwion Edwards, Hal Robson-Kanu and Joel Lynch among the goals
• Ryan Giggs speaks at the squad announcement ahead of Denmark and Albania
• Wales Watch: James Chester’s heroics were the highlight of the weekend 

Wales Watch: James Chester’s heroics were the weekend’s highlight

James Chester put in an outstanding performance for Aston Villa on Friday night. He scored the second goal to seal a 2-0 win for the home side, but it was a phenomenal clearance off the line that wowed spectators everywhere.

Harry Wilson scored another free kick for Derby on the weekend. This time it wasn’t quite so impressive as it was heavily deflected, but they all count. Tom Lawrence played 90 mins in Derby’s 3-1 win.

Though Bournemouth lost 2-1 at home to Manchester United, David Brooks put in another strong 90 minutes for the Cherries from a no.10 position.

Gareth Bale went without a goal or assist in the 70 minutes he played for Real Madrid and Aaron Ramsey was only used as a second half substitute for Arsenal.

Paul Dummett played 90 minutes at left-back for Newcastle, as did Ben Davies for Spurs. Elsewhere in the Premier League, Sam Vokes played 72 minutes for Burnley, but they got beat 4-2 by West Ham.

There were clean sheets for Chris Mepham (Brentford), Ashley Williams (Stoke), Neil Taylor (Aston Villa) and Adam Davies (Barnsley).

It was a second assist in as many games for Dan James, but there was no clean sheet this time for Joe Rodon. Connor Roberts played for Swansea in the higher position on the right, Declan John still doesn’t make the match day 18.

George Thomas has become a regular for Scunthorpe since featuring for Wales last month and scored the second in a 3-3 draw, as well as setting up the first goal.

Chris Maxwell was sent off for the first time in his career after a second bookable offence for Preston. Wayne Hennessey was in goal for Crystal Palace’s 3-1 loss on Sunday and stopped Alvaro Morata getting his hat-trick in injury time.

Ben Woodburn returned to the Sheffield United side with a 10 minute substitute appearance. Chris Gunter came on for the last 5 minutes in Reading’s 3-2 win over Bristol City.

FC Twente’s Matt Smith was again on hand to put in another match winning performance in their 3-1 victory.

Read more:
• The Welsh Wingers are on fire
• Doidge opens his account for Bolton 

Match report: Rep. of Ireland 0 – 1 Wales

Wales recorded their second victory in as many months against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday night.

Wales have only won three competitive games without Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey in twelve years, however a magnificent free kick from Harry Wilson ensured that Wales’ footballing future is most definitely in good hands.

The first chance of the game fell to Ireland, when Matt Smith slipped on the edge of the 18-yard box, following Giggs’ instruction of passing from the back. Cyrus Christie pounced on Smith’s mistake guided the ball towards Hennessey’s bottom left corner, forcing him into a good save in the opening ten minutes.

Ben Davies and Connor Roberts started to push high in attack, with Matt Smith or Joe Allen dropping into back four in their absence. Despite forcing Ireland to press high, Wales could not force an opening to hurt Ireland.

The first 30 minutes saw both teams cancelling each other out. Wales and Ireland enjoyed spells of possession but struggled to find a way to break each other down.

Ben Davies was booked on 32 minutes for a rash challenge on Harry Arter, meaning he will miss Wales’ final Nations League match against Denmark in November.

David Brooks was by far Wales’ brightest player in the first half; his quick feet and guided movement caused Ireland problems down the right side.

A low ball from Brooks into Tyler Roberts looked dangerous, but the forward couldn’t get enough power in his strike to trouble Darren Randolph.

Matt Smith recovered well from his earlier mistake by throwing his body on the edge of the 18-yard box to block a powerful Irish shot. His passing was excellent and looked comfortable next to Joe Allen in midfield.

The first chance of the second half fell to Wales, when Arter brought down Connor Roberts on the edge of the box.

Harry Wilson, who scored a world-class free kick against Man Utd recently, stepped up and struck it straight into the top left corner, leaving Randolph no chance of a saving it.

Wales looked much brighter after going 1-0 up, but Ireland almost found a reply when Jeff Hendrick edged through the Wales defence and shot straight at Hennessey.

On 73 minutes, Smith started a Welsh counter attack by playing a through ball to Lawrence, and the Derby winger was able to force a corner.

From that same set piece, James Chester almost scored his first goal in a Wales shirt from Wilson’s perfectly drilled cross, but he headed wide.

Wales continued the pressure, this time with Tyler Roberts, who was slightly off balance when he hit the ball wide.

Ireland’s counter attacks were few and far between. A break in the 81st minute only led to a comfortable save for Hennessey, even though Ireland were throwing players forward into the Welsh half.

Giggs enforced a more defensive shape for Wales with three new introductions late in the second half. George Thomas played in an unfamiliar central midfield role, Chris Gunter came on at right-back and Andy King came on to make a three in midfield.

The result looked confirmed as the game headed into the 90th minute, but McClean almost changed that with a powerful strike. Hennessey’s solid performance between the sticks continued when he saved the shot and followed this up by collecting a cross with ease.

The final Welsh chance of the match fell to youngster, George Thomas. Tyler Roberts played him into a one-on-one with Randolph, but he squandered this golden opportunity to secure the game with a second goal for Wales.

Ireland had one more opportunity and sent Randolph up for a corner in a desperate attempt to equalise. However, this came too late for the Irish and Wales secured their second win over Ireland in a matter of weeks, taking them to first in the group with one game remaining.

Player ratings:
Wayne Hennessey (7), Connor Roberts (6), Ashley Williams (7), James Chester (6), Ben Davies (6), Joe Allen (6), Matt Smith (7), David Brooks (7), Harry Wilson MOTM (7), Tom Lawrence (6), Tyler Roberts (7).

Subs: George Thomas (6), Chris Gunter & Andy King (not enough time on the pitch).

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

Read more:
• Chris Mepham is “loving” his season with Wales and Brentford
• Giggs and Williams speak ahead of clash with Spain 
• Harry Wilson eager to fulfil childhood dream 
• Everything you need to know about Joe Rodon – the latest Wales call-up 

Everything you need to know about Joe Rodon – the latest Wales call-up

Joe Rodon has become a common name on the lips of Welsh football supporters in the past year, but even more so in the past three months, since cementing a first-team place for Swansea at centre-back. He was deservedly called up to the Wales senior squad for the first time for the matches against Spain and Rep. of Ireland this week, replacing Paul Dummett because of injury.

Standing at 6ft4 and great with the ball at his feet, Rodon has the attributes that every top manager wants from a modern-day centre-back. He is not shy of a strong tackle or a hard header and is a very assured passer of the ball – qualities that are in demand for today’s game.

Background

Joe has been surrounded by football from a very young age. Unofficially, he has been amongst Swansea City FC circles from the age of five or six, where his older brother Sam was playing at the time. He was formally signed to the club in 2005, at the age of eight and has been there ever since.

Young-Joe-Rodon
Joe Rodon (back row, centre), playing for Llangyfelach primary school.

He comes from a footballing family; his grandfather and uncle were both professional footballers. Grandfather Peter Rodon, who passed away when Joe was very young, started his career with Swansea Town in the 1960s. After a fall out with the first team manager, he ended up joining Bradford City and played for them as a centre-forward/inside-left between 1964-1967 in Division 4 (now League Two).

His uncle Chris Rodon started his professional career with Brighton and Hove Albion in the 1982/83 season, the same season Brighton played Manchester United in the 1983 FA Cup Final and lost after two legs. Chris was homesick and told the manager at the time, Jimmy Melia he wanted to return to Wales and ended up joining Cardiff City on loan for six months in 1983.

His brother Sam Rodon (25) currently plays for Penybont in Welsh Division 1 as a centre-back too. He’s also had Welsh Premier League spells with Haverfordwest and Aberystwyth, as well as playing for West End in the year they won the Welsh Division 1 title.

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Sam (left) in action for Aberystwyth

The family grew up in a small village just a few miles north of Swansea called Llangyfelach. He was a Swansea season ticket holder with his dad by default and played for Swansea City through every age grade. Joe often played ahead of his year group and became a regular for Swansea U21s (now 23s) at the age of just 16.

In April 2015 he began training with the Swansea first team when they were a Premier League club with Garry Monk in charge. Welsh internationals, including Ashley Williams & Neil Taylor were at the club and around the same time, he was captaining Wales at U17 and U19 level. His potential has been known quietly for a number of years and is now on full display for everyone to watch.

Playing senior club football

Rodon got his first taste of senior football with League Two club Cheltenham Town at the beginning of 2018 under manager Gary Johnson. If there was one thing Joe’s game lacked before his loan move to Cheltenham, it was the rough-and-ready physicality needed to play men’s football.

In lots of ways, this short six-month spell in League Two became the making of him – he lived away from home for the first time, he learned what three points meant on a Saturday and what it meant to fellow professionals playing at that level. A relegation from League Two could mean playing non-league football, leaving grown men with families and mortgages forced to take huge salary cuts and as a result, struggling to make ends meet.

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The pitches in League Two are often poorly maintained due to lack of funds, especially in winter. The training facilities and club operations at Cheltenham are nowhere near to the standard of a Premier League or Championship club.

The quick passing and delicate football he had been playing at U23 level would be a far cry from the long ball games, hard-hitting tackles and smashing headers in League Two. But learning this side of the game has enhanced his overall ability and shown him the tough side of football that young players in the modern game often miss out on.

It was during this season that Rodon made his senior debut for Swansea. He is playing Championship football for Swansea City every week and has formed a strong partnership with Mike van der Hoorn, keeping six clean sheets together at the back so far.

There was a worry at the end of the summer transfer window when Federico Fernández left the club to join Newcastle, leaving Swansea with just one senior centre back until January. However, Rodon stepped up to the mark and his excellent performances have seen him linked with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, drawing a comparison with centre-back John Stones because of his excellent ability with the ball at his feet and natural pace.

Rodon is out of contract in June 2019 and Swansea desperately need to sign him on a long-term deal. He will undoubtedly have Premier League clubs interested in him and he’ll be able to formally talk with clubs from January, should Swansea hold off negotiations for much longer.

Swansea City v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship

His Welsh international career

A captain of Wales at U17, U19, U20 and U21 level, including the Toulon Tournament in 2017, Rodon has shown maturity and leadership as a teenager that is far beyond his years. He has been Rob Page’s U21 captain for the last 18 months, which demonstrates the faith Wales have put in him.

Continued good performances at youth level earned him a preliminary call-up to the Wales squad in May this year, ahead of the Mexico friendly in Los Angeles. It was disappointing that he didn’t make the final cut of players, but he clearly made an impression on Ryan Giggs – enough to get his full call-up when he replaced injured Paul Dummett for the October fixtures against Spain and Rep. of Ireland.

Rodon found out he was being called up to the Wales squad on Friday afternoon, a day before the official announcement. But he actually heard the news from his mother and not from the FAW directly, because they had sent the message to her on WhatsApp by mistake!

Despite first thinking that it might not have been a genuine text, Rodon and his family were elated when Swansea assistant manager Billy Reid called Joe to congratulate him. Obviously bursting with pride, they had to keep things under wraps for 26 hours until it was officially announced by the FAW, following Swansea’s match on Saturday evening.

Whether Rodon gets his first cap in either game remains to be seen, but Giggs has shown that he has huge faith in his youngsters, just like Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrated to him in the 1990’s.

The likes of David Brooks, Tyler Roberts, Chris Mepham, Harry Wilson, Matthew Smith and George Thomas have played for the U21’s in the last 12 months and are now all involved with the senior squad – most are playing frequently at good levels. Joe Rodon is the latest name of the age group to be called up to the seniors.

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Rodon (back row, right), captain of Wales U21 v Liechtenstein in October 2017.

It’s a slight shame in one way that all of these youngsters didn’t play together in the latest U21 EURO 2019 qualification campaign; there is no doubt Wales would have qualified for the first time in history.

But the encouraging format Giggs seems to have adopted in giving young players a chance at senior level is only good news for future Welsh teams. There is potential in every area of the pitch – Tyler Roberts becoming the first choice striker, Mepham and Rodon a future partnership at the back, Brooks, Wilson and Woodburn on the wings; it’s only a possibility at the moment, but the action won’t hopefully be far away.

Rodon could make his debut on Thursday, on the same pitch as his idol Sergio Ramos – a dream debut for many players across the world. If he plays for any length of time in either fixture, his performances for Swansea this season have confirmed he has the quality to succeed and the talent to go to the very top for club and country.

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

Read more:
• Ramsey and Brooks hit form at the perfect time
• Mitchell Clark “surprised” at not being named in the Wales U21 squad 
• Ryan Giggs announces his squad for the fixtures against Spain and Rep. of Ireland 
• Wales Watch: Tyler Roberts shines again for Leeds in midweek 

Wales Watch: Tyler Roberts shines again for Leeds in midweek

Tyler Roberts scored the only goal in Leeds’ 1-0 win over Hull to take them to the top of the Championship. After not featuring for the majority of the opening fixtures, he is definitely adjusting to life in the Championship . A stunning right-footed strike from 25 yards into the bottom corner showed why he is keeping his place in the side. Roberts has netted 3 times and managed 1 assist in 5 games this season.

It was a sixth clean sheet of the season for Swansea on Tuesday night. Yet again, Joe Rodon was at the heart of defence and has become steadily accustomed to the gruelling demands of the Championship. Connor Roberts played in an advanced midfield role on the right for Swansea instead of at right-back, but couldn’t impact the scoreline. Lee Evans played the 90 mins for Wigan in the 0-0 draw and Daniel James was an unused sub for Swansea.

James Chester had a bad evening for Aston Villa and was sent off on 54 minutes for a last ditch tackle against Preston. Chris Maxwell and Andrew Hughes started together again for the away side in a game that finished 3-3 – Maxwell won the point for Preston by saving a penalty in the 96th minute!

There was Champions League action on Wednesday for Ben Davies as Spurs lost 2-4 against Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. Davies played 90 minutes at left-back in a defensive four, but couldn’t stop Lionel Messi thriving on the night.

Harry Wilson started for Derby in their 1-1 result against Norwich. Tom Lawrence and Louis Thompson came on in the second half for the home and away teams. Joe Ledley again missed the squad of 18.

Tom Bradshaw and Steve Morison were both introduced on 75 minutes to salvage a result for Millwall. The game with Nottingham Forest ended up finishing 2-2, but no goals or assists for either striker.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Chris Gunter and Chris Mepham played 90 mins for Reading and Brentford in two draws, respectively. Ashley Williams and Joe Allen played 90 mins in Stoke’s 2-0 win against Bolton and Christian Doidge made a 20 minute appearance for the away team towards the end of the match.

Gwion Edwards came on as a half-time substitute for Ipswich in their 0-2 loss against Middlesbrough and Marley Watkins was a second half introduction in Bristol City’s 0-0 draw with Rotherham.

In League One, Adam Matthews and George Thomas both got an assist each for their clubs. Barnsley’s Adam Davies and Ryan Hedges played 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Plymouth.

There are only five unbeaten teams left in the football league this season – Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Portsmouth and Forest Green Rovers. Liam Shephard captained FGR on Tuesday evening in their fourth win of the season over Cambridge. Seven times capped international, George Williams was an unused substitute.

Finally, a late mention for David Brooks – who missed the weekend update, but he scored a cracker against Wayne Hennessey on Monday night for Bournemouth.

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

Read more:
• 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 

All of the summer transfer moves for Welsh players

Here is a comprehensive list of all of the notable moves for Welsh players in the 2018 summer transfer window. Bold players are those who have won senior caps for Wales.

Continue reading “All of the summer transfer moves for Welsh players”

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”

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