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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Coleman: Wales need to be like Big Jack's Ireland

Wales skipper Ashley Williams says tomorrow evening’s Celtic clash won’t be very friendly.

Image: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

IRELAND’S CHARLTON ERA is the blueprint that Wales need to follow for international success, according to manager Chris Coleman.

The Celtic neighbours meet for a friendly in Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow evening, just three weeks before a crucial round of qualifiers that will shape both nations’ World Cup chances.

Wales, who haven’t played at a major tournament since 1976, need a miracle if they are to bridge the gap between themselves and Croatia who currently lie second in Group A.

But with four games and 12 points still on offer, Coleman insisted that they need to aim for a breakthrough like Ireland at Euro 88 and build from there.

“Until they qualified under Jack, they were in the wilderness,” Coleman said at today’s pre-match press conference. “Then they did it, they got over that hurdle, broke that barrier and they’ve been there or thereabouts consistently. They’ve kept that momentum.

“We’re behind them. We need to break that psychological barrier and qualify for a major tournament and then build on that. That’s what Ireland did, that’s what they have been doing since they qualified that first time with Jack.”

Wales are without a host of their biggest names tomorrow night, not least Gareth Bale who withdrew citing a foot injury but is equally preoccupied with the ongoing negotiations between Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid regarding his future.

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and West Ham’s James Collins are also unavailable and Coleman pointed enviously to the strength of the squad at Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni’s disposal.

What I like about the Irish is that you look at the players, whether it’s a friendly or not, from what we can see they’ve always got a strong team available, players are always willing to turn up. It’s a feather in their cap.

They’re difficult to break down. Tactically they’re very well organised; you’d expect that of an Italian coach. They press high, they try to nullify whatever strengths you’ve got and stop you, and they’re good at that.

In transition, they’re very strong and quick on the counter. Whoever plays up front will be full of running. They put a lot of crosses into the box, they play a lot of second ball, so they’re very, very difficult to play against.

Captain Ashley Williams played up the significance of tomorrow’s clash, billing it as a local “derby”.

“I think first and foremost, every game you play for your country is a massive game. Everyone’s watching, especially playing against a team where it’s going to be a derby. You face most of these players week in, week out and there’s a little bit more to the game.”

He added: “There isn’t really any friendlies and especially tomorrow’s game, I’m sure it’s not going to be very friendly.”

Asked how Wales will cope without Bale, Williams backed the squad’s other members to step up and fill the void.

He’s an important player for us but I believe we’re not a one-man team. It’s not like that’s going to be hanging over our heads, everyone trying to prove that we don’t need him, because we do need him. We need him if we’re going to qualify for a tournament and if we’re playing our best football, we do need him.

We have other pieces in the team going forward. Craig Bellamy’s here. I know he’s not going to play for much longer but in the immediate games, he’s still a top player for me.

Audio courtesy of 98FM.

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Niall Kelly

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