Chris Coleman has challenged the Wales players to raise their standards to match Gareth Bale’s winning mentality and also stressed the importance of erasing the “little bit of complacency” that has crept into his squad since qualifying for the European Championship finals.
Bale joins up with Wales on Wednesday, fresh from his Champions League triumph with Real Madrid on Saturday, and Coleman could not help but smile when he listened to the 25-year-old say shortly after the final whistle in Milan that his next target is to win Euro 2016. “I thought cheers for that, a semi-final just will not do,” Coleman said, laughing.
“But in all seriousness that is the mentality we want. When you have someone like that in your group we have to raise ourselves to his level, not the other way around. Whoever your best players are, you have to get up to their level and that is what the best teams do.
“It is not just about his ability. Players like Gareth are never afraid of a challenge. They think they are going to win; they always think they are going to do well. That is the mentality of achievement. They are never happy, there always has to be something else. That is good for me and everyone else because we want to go as far as we can. We are not there to enjoy the moment. Once the tournament is done we can pick the bones out of it but right now we are fighting, climbing and scratching to make sure we have a successful and elongated tournament.”
Although Wales were hugely impressive during their qualification campaign, they have not tasted victory since reaching the finals. Wales lost 3-2 at home against Holland in November, drew with Northern Ireland in Cardiff in March and four days later lost away to Ukraine in another friendly. Bale did not feature in any of those matches and other key players have also been missing but Coleman senses that there has been another factor behind their poor form, linked in with the elation that accompanied reaching a major tournament for the first time since 1958.
“Since we qualified, if you look at our results, it is nothing to shout about,” the Wales manager said. “We went through a run of results where we were almost unbeatable but since then we have tailed off a bit. I’m not making any excuses, ‘We haven’t had this one, we haven’t had that one,’ it’s international football, you get on with it. Sometimes with success comes a little bit of complacency. Subconsciously sometimes.
“We are at our best when we are right on it. Forget Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Even with those two in the team we need to be maxing out in any game to get a good result. When the pressure is on, we have got to bring it. Everybody wants to talk about the [qualification] campaign, 1958 is a long time ago. But it is done. I’m extremely proud but it is not going to help us win the next game of football.”
Explaining his point further, Coleman added: “When I say complacency, it’s not because of the group of people we’ve got, or the players; it is subconsciously a bit like: ‘Phew, we’ve done that.’ But the problem is that it is also gone. It is about what’s next. How do we cope with the challenge in front of us, the attention? I’m not saying our players are intentionally walking around giving it the big one. They are not doing that. But it is human nature. You think about what you’ve done but you’re living in the past too much. You are not thinking about right now. That’s what we have to do.”
Coleman was speaking on the day when he announced his 23-man squad for France, with the inclusion of Joe Ledley a clear sign that Wales believe the 29-year-old can play a significant role in the tournament, despite breaking a leg less than four weeks ago. Ledley has resumed light training and Coleman said that the Crystal Palace midfielder has a “real good chance” of playing against Slovakia in the opening group game on Saturday week.
Wales squad for Euro 2016
Goalkeepers Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Owain Fon Williams (Inverness)
Defenders Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), James Chester (West Bromwich Albion), James Collins (West Ham), Chris Gunter (Reading), Ashley Richards (Fulham), Neil Taylor, Ashley Williams (both Swansea)
Midfielders Joe Allen (Liverpool), David Cotterill (Birmingham City), David Edwards (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Andy King (Leicester City), Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), David Vaughan (Crystal Palace), Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace), George Williams (Fulham),
Forwards Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Simon Church (MK Dons), Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading), Sam Vokes (Burnley).
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