Chris Coleman has admitted there is no chance of Joe Allen, Joe Ledley and Hal Robson-Kanu all starting in Wales’s opening Euro 2016 group game against Slovakia on Saturday. The three players have been carrying injuries and the Wales manager said that it would be “reckless” to name the trio in his first XI when they are in a race to prove their fitness.
It seems almost certain that Allen, who has had a knee problem, will line up against Slovakia, but Ledley and Robson-Kanu may have to start on the bench. Coleman admitted that Ledley, who has not played since breaking a leg on 7 May, would be unable to complete 90 minutes.
Robson-Kanu has been experiencing discomfort in an achilles tendon and did not feature in the 3-0 friendly defeat against Sweden on Sunday.
Coleman is placing huge emphasis on the opening match and is desperate for Wales to get off to a good start against a Slovakia side who are unbeaten in eight and have lost only two out of their past 20 matches.
Yet the Wales manager also knows that he cannot afford to gamble on a player. “I’m not giving anything away to say we can’t start with all three. It would be reckless really. And we don’t have to [do that],” Coleman said.
Although he is encouraged by the progress of all three, he accepts it is unrealistic to think that Ledley could get through a game. “Joe Ledley did the injury at the end of the season and we were all thinking the same thing – a broken leg is a broken leg. But he has done so well to get back to where he is. I think it is fair to say you can’t really see Joe playing 90 minutes. But can he play a part? Yes. He is integrated with the rest of the team and has done what they have in training. He could play a part, both Joes and Hal, unless there is a real bad reaction between now and the weekend.”
Allen’s inclusion seems vital, because he fulfils such an important role with the calming presence that he provides in front of the back four. “There is that and also between now and the end of the season he has had more football, albeit on the training pitch,” Coleman said. “He played a small part in the Europa League final [for Liverpool], so you would have to say Joe is further down the line in terms of being ready to start a game. And he is integral to how we want to play because he plays in that pivot role for us.”
This article was written by Stuart James in Dinard, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th June 2016 22.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010