Wales boss Gary Speed could find himself on a collision course with a clutch of Premiership managers – City’s Paul Lambert included – as the Welsh FA plan a long-haul, friendly clash next month.
To Costa Rica and back, according to reports in Wales. For the weekend of November 12.
For Speed it will be a rare opportunity to get his young squad away together bonding in foreign climes; it will also – the theory goes – give the Dragons a taste of playing against non-European opponents ahead of their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
For Lambert, however, the prospect of his two emerging Welsh stars – Steve Morison and Andrew Crofts – jetting off such distances in the midst of City’s first season back in the top flight will be more of a concern.
The weekend has been set aside by FIFA for the Euro2012 play-offs. But with Wales long out of the running, Speed appears to be keen on making the very most of the ‘free’ weekend.
The proposed Costa Rica trip comes sandwiched between the away trip to Aston Villa on November 5 and the home clash with Arsenal on November 19.
It is the double-edged sword that comes with players earning international recognition.
On the one hand it rewards an individual player for their rise to Premiership prominence and, in these money-minded times, finds a club boasting ‘full and current internationals’ in their dressing room. All of which adds to their value in the transfer market place.
But on the other, what Lambert might have viewed as an ideal opportunity for his players to catch their breath in the midst of their top flight return is now threatened by a trip across the Atlantic for a game of little or no immediate meaning.
Whether Gareth Bale, for example, is allowed out of Harry Redknapp’s sight will be yet another occasion when the whole club versus country debate is given an airing.
It was Bale’s deflected effort on the stroke of half-time last night that gave Speed his third win in their last four, competitive outings with that 1-0 away win in Bulgaria.
It left Bulgaria to prop up Group G and Wales finishing fourth behind England, Switzerland and Macedonia.
Of more importance to City fans was the fact that Crofts played the full 90 minutes and Morison another 70 – the pair thereby demonstrating their key roles within Speed’s developing World Cup plans.
Afterwards and the Wales chief was laying out his ambitions for the future; he had his nation on a roll and, in Bale, had a player of genuine world class. One who could yet lead Wales to the World Cup finals in Brazil come 2014.
“I would have settled for a draw before the game,” admitted Speed, with Wales finding themselves in the rare position of winning back-to-back international fixtures with such elan.
Equally, however, Norwich find themselves in the rare position of having two players at the heart of such international success.
“I wanted a positive result of any kind because we need this experience to make us better in the future,” added Speed. “So to get a win, I did not expect it, but it was brilliant.”
Other Wales sides, he suggested, would have rolled over; qualifcation for Euro2012 having long been lost. But in common with the work ethic Lambert has installed in the Canaries, the Class of 2011 roll their sleeves up and dig – personified in Crofts’ efforts at the base of that midfield.
“All the excuses were there for us, the lack of crowd, the pitch was poor, the ball,” said Speed.
“Everything was there for us to look for excuses but the players did not use any excuses and got the job done really well, and I am very, very proud.”
Bale was the star-turn. Again.
But credit Speed; he recognised the need for genuine graft alongside the Spurs winger’s craft.
“He is a match-winner, but that said you have to give your match winners a platform to win games for you, and everyone else gave him a platform and he puts the hard work in too.
“That’s how we will achieve things and he works harder than anyone and that’s the situation we need if we are to keep improving.”
Keith B says
I normally have a lot of sympathy for the managers of our national sides who are often treated abysmally by club managers. However when they come up with ideas like this that sympathy evaporates rapidly.
It’s not just the travelling but the change of climate; playing a one-off game in their heat without acclimatisation is far more sapping than a fixture here, especially for Morrison if he is left to run till he drops all alone up front.
I would certainly be surprised if Gareth Bale or Craig Bellamy travel; but they won’t worry, their places are assurred. Morrison and Crofts might feel they have to go and Lambert equally keen to stop them. Yet without kep players what will Speed get out of it? Nothing much, surely.
There are approx. 30 European countries no longer involved with next summer’s tournament. They can’t all have games lined up for those dates. So why on earth it couldn’t be Belgium away, or whoever, I can not fathom.