Wales have no points and are bottom of their Euro 2012 qualifying group, after being comprehensively beaten by England.
But Craig Bellamy left the Millennium Stadium with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. The Cardiff City striker believes that the off-field changes that have been introduced by the new Wales manager, Gary Speed, have revitalised a set-up that used to be run in an "amateur" way, and thus provided renewed hope.
Although Bellamy, who at 31 has been beset by injury problems, doubts whether he will be around to see the fruits of Speed's labour, he is convinced that Welsh football finally has some direction. That might not have been evident in the first half against England, when Wales struggled to move the ball with any purpose and turned the volume down on their own supporters by conceding two poor goals in the first 15 minutes, but Bellamy sees a bigger picture.
The former Wales captain said: "You've seen me going away from defeats in the past very downhearted, because I felt there wasn't going to be much improvement next time. But I'm bubbly, and with this group of youngsters the team will improve in the next few years. It's been a great week – the best week I've been involved in with Welsh football, to be honest. I've spent all my career involved in really highly professionally run clubs, and when I used to come to Wales it was amateur. This year I've come to Wales and it has been exceptional.
"All my career I've been fortunate because I've had my individual success, but for the first time I really see a future and I really see the national team being able to do something. We have to look to a new era with Wales. Good teams are very rarely seen but we have to be patient. I've seen them train and some of the boys who weren't playing, like [Swansea midfielder] Joe Allen, have exceptional talent."
The short-term view, however, is nothing like as attractive. Wales are stuck in a rut in terms of results, and although Speed was keen to praise his players for their performance in the second half against England, he also said there was "a lot of work to be done". He could be forgiven for harbouring concerns about James Collins's form. The Aston Villa defender, who conceded the penalty that Frank Lampard converted, has been at fault for a goal in all four Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Speed was unhappy with the playing surface at the Millennium Stadium, complaining that it "looked like a park pitch at the start of the week", because of the amount of rugby played on it. He said Wales would seek assurances that it would be in a "playable state" in future, although it could be some time before they use the venue again. Asked whether he felt the performance was good enough to bring 70,000 people back, Speed replied: "Not at the moment, probably not. But in time, I think we can."
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