Wales’ all-time squad of legends features former Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham stars.
There’s an ongoing debate in Wales as to whether football or rugby union in the nations most popular sport. Certainly, the Welsh have been more successful in the latter, with their football team rarely qualifying for tournaments. Somewhat unusually though, when Wales do qualify, they tend to do rather well.
Wales have only qualified for the World Cup once, in 1958, when they reached the quarter-finals. Similarly, the 2016 Euros were the first European Championships the country has qualified for, and they managed to reach the semi-finals, losing to eventual champions Portugal. Below is Wales’ definite 15 man squad, plus their 8 reserves from which you choose which 3 join the initial 15 to create a final 18 man squad.
It’s an easy choice between the sticks for Wales. Whilst the country has had some good goalkeepers over the years, none compare to Neville Southall. The Everton legend is the most capped Welshman of all-time with 92 appearances for his country, and also holds the Toffees all-time appearance record. Southall won two league titles and two FA Cup’s at Goodison Park, and is still the most recent goalkeeper to have been named the FWA Footballer of the Year.
Swansea-born shot stopper Jack Kelsey would be a safe pair of hands and an able deputy for Southall. A one-club man, the former Wales international spent his entire career at Arsenal. Wales’ number one for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, their only World Cup appearance to date, Kelsey won 41 caps for Wales as well as once playing for London XI against Barcelona.
The full-back positions haven’t always been the strongest for Wales, but one man you could rely on was Alf Sherwood. A man who loved a slide tackle, the former Cardiff City and Newport County man was described by Stanley Matthews as the most difficult opponent he ever came up against. Higher praise for a full-back is scarcely possible.
A fine centre-half who had a great career with Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur, before heading over to the States and spending four years with Seattle Sounders in the NASL. Capped 44 times for Wales, England was until recently the nations youngest captain, and went on to manage Wales for eight years following retirement.
The inclusion of John Charles, Wales’ greatest ever player, was obvious. The dilemma was whether he was selected as a defender or as a forward. Equally brilliant at both, Wales’ superior strength in attacking areas to defensive ones prompted us to stick him at the back. Quite possibly the greatest centre-half to have ever lived, Charles was named as Juventus’ greatest ever foreign player, came third in the 1959 Ballon d’Or and won 38 caps for Wales.
A versatile defender equally capable or playing at left-back or centre-back, Kevin Ratcliffe is a very useful addition to this squad. Another former Everton great, Ratcliffe spent 12 years with the Toffees, captaining the team from the age of 23 to two league titles and an FA Cup. He won 59 caps for Wales.
An unusual inclusion in this squad, in that Moses Russell never played top flight football, but in terms of ability, he deserves his place. Russell spent most of his career at Plymouth Argyle, where on one trip to South America for an exhibition game, the Argentine press described him as “one of the most wonderful backs and one of the brainiest players ever seen on the football field”. He won 23 caps for Wales, scoring once with a penalty against Ireland.
From defence to midfield, we start with Gary Speed. A versatile midfielder with great leadership qualities, Speed had a long and illustrious career, playing for the likes of Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle, winning a league title, playing in FA Cup finals and winning 85 caps for Wales. He has the fifth most appearance in Premier League history, and became Wales manager, a position he still held when he tragically took his own life in November 2011.
One of the few men to have made more Premier League appearances than Speed is former Wales teammate Ryan Giggs. The most decorated footballer in the history of the British game, Giggs won 34 trophies in an incredible career spent solely with Manchester United spanning 24 years. A 13 time Premier League winner and two-time Champions League winner, Giggs won 64 caps for Wales and was named in the PFA Team of the Century.
Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale’s international careers overlapped by just a year, and whilst it is unlikely Bale will ever match Giggs’ trophy haul, he may exceed him in terms of ability, and has already surpassed him in terms of achievement with the national team. An explosive footballer who burst onto the scene with Tottenham Hotspur, Bale has scored 26 goals from 66 caps for Wales and is still only 27. The two-time Champions League winner currently plays for Real Madrid.
Whilst Giggs and Bale are probably the two most high-profile Welsh footballers of all-time, you could make a case for Billy Meredith being the greatest winger Wales have ever had. The star of the British game in his day, Meredith was a tough, quick and gifted winger who was direct and purposeful on the ball. A rare hero of both Manchester City and Manchester United, Meredith won FA Cups with both and two league titles with the Reds.
Nowhere have Wales had more talent than on the wings, with all four of Giggs, Bale, Meredith and Jones worthy of being called ‘world class’. Born in Swansea, Jones spent six years with the Swans, before making a move to Tottenham Hotspur, where he would spend a decade. He won three FA Cup’s with Spurs, including a historic league and cup double in 1960-61, reaching the European Cup semi-final a year later. Jones was regarded as one of the world’s finest left wingers in his prime and won 59 caps for Wales.
The greatest Swansea City payer of all-time and among the finest to ever turn out for Wales, Ivor Allchurch was a masterful inside-forward. The Swans spent years fending off offers from the First Division, before Allchurch eventually joined Newcastle United. He would later move to Cardiff City before returning to Swansea and retiring in 1968. Allchurch won 68 caps for Wales, and has a life-sized statue outside Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.
The first out-and-out forward in this squad, Mark Hughes was a tremendous footballer who was very popular at Old Trafford up until his switch to management. A determined winner and a gifted footballer, Hughes won 15 trophies with Manchester United, Chelsea and Blackburn, as well as winning the Player of the Year awards at both Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. He won 72 caps for Wales, scoring 16 goals.
Wales have had some really good forwards from the likes of John Hartson to Trevor Ford, but Ian Rush is the obvious choice to lead the line for the Dragons. Wales’ all-time leading goal scorer, Rush is best remembered for his 14 years – over two spells – at Liverpool, sandwiching a couple of seasons with Juventus. He won 18 trophies at Anfield, forming a famous strike partnership with Kenny Dalglish.
That’s it for Wales’ definite 15, now it’s over to you to pick which three reserve players get the nod and join the likes of Giggs and Rush in Wales’ final 18. The eight reserve players to choose from are as follows:
1. Gary Sprake – Former Leeds United goalkeeper – 37 caps
2. Ashley Williams – Former Swansea City and current Everton defender – 70 caps
3. Joey Jones – Former Wrexham, Liverpool and Chelsea full-back – 72 caps
4. Ron Burgess – Former Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea midfielder – 32 caps
5. Aaron Ramsey – Current Arsenal midfielder – 46 caps
6. Craig Bellamy – Former Norwich, Newcastle and Man City forward – 78 caps
7. John Toshack – Former Cardiff, Liverpool and Swansea forward – 40 caps
8. Trevor Ford – Former Aston Villa, Sunderland, Cardiff and PSV forward – 38 caps