Is Welsh football ready to catch up with Gareth Bale?

With Wales international and Tottenham star Gareth Bale on the verge of a world record move, Robert Critchley looks at the state of the Welsh national team - As well as the recent strides made by Swansea City and Cardiff City.

The most talked about transfer of the summer revolves around a Welshman. There are two Welsh sides in the Premier League, and one of these will be competing in the Europa League. Surely, in this Rugby Union dominated country, football is now really taking a foothold.

A closer look at the playing staff of both the Swans and the Bluebirds paints quite a different picture however.

Swansea have Welsh internationals in Neil Taylor, Ben Davies and Ashley Williams and speculation has been linking Williams away from the Liberty Stadium for the entire transfer window.

Other than these three admittedly very competent players, there is precious little else in the squad with a Welsh accent, more Spanish dialect in fact. Jazz Richards has played a handful of games, but was out on loan at Crystal Palace last season, and more than likely will not be at the Liberty for the coming season.

The Cardiff squad paints an even grimmer picture for quality Welsh players Chris Coleman could choose from to represent the national side. Craig Bellamy is the only player who could, and has played for Wales, in the whole first team squad.

The Cardiff squad is dominated by Englishmen, with new signing Steven Caulker taking the total at present to 17!! That is more than most English Premier League sides can boast in their respective squads.

Where is the development of Welsh players and when they are developed, why are Cardiff and Swansea not keeping hold of them, or are they trying to bring them back to their roots now they have the cash available?

A quick look through the last squad which Coleman picked, and it is clear to see that the depth is still not there, and there is still only a handful of players anywhere near the peak of the game.

This has to be in the thinking of Bale. He, like Ryan Giggs did, knows it is unlikely he will be representing Wales at the biggest tournaments, and his club football needs to be at the highest level. Giggs had that for his entire career, but Bale has only seen brief glimpses. It was the Champions League game against Inter Milan which really put his name on the map, and now he must be craving that all the time.

For Coleman, he will pick Bale, as long as he is available to play, and as a proud Welshman, he will produce his best performances. But Wales will continue to struggle unless more players start coming through and Cardiff and Swansea in particular start producing more Welsh players of international standard.

The derby between the two sides, as a Premiership match will be a fantastic occasion, and something that more than three or four Welshmen should be involved in.

The likes of Joe Ledley, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and maybe Williams if he does leave Swansea, will look on with a tinge of regret to be missing out on such a game. Obviously, they will see the moves that they have made beneficial for their career, and will have played in some equally big games, but the South Wales derby in the Premiership will be extra special.

So where does Welsh football go from here, and the national side in particular? Hopefully having two teams in the top tier will have more people playing, and more Welsh players coming into their respective first team. Having the most expensive player in the world should be a motivation to other young players that it can be done.

At present though, the national team will continue to struggle, and the few genuine stars which do come out of the principality will continue looking for options in England, or the rest of Europe, despite having two clubs riding the crest of a wave right on their doorsteps.

image: © joncandy

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