Cymru WU19 will be in action at Dragon Park in Newport between 24-30 October as Nic Anderson’s side look to retain their place in League A with UEFA qualifying fixtures against Czechia, England and Greece in Group A2.
“I think playing at home is always a privilege and an honour and us as staff and the players thoroughly enjoy it,” explained Anderson to FAW.cymru. “We haven’t played in South Wales for a long time, and there’s a lot of players from the south so that will be good for them. It also allows us to get a lot of support behind us, which isn’t something we’ve really been exposed to.”
Cymru gained promotion from League B back in April with convincing victories over Kazakhstan and Estonia, scoring nine goals in their respective 5-2 and 4-0 wins. However, a much tougher test is expected this month. “The games themselves will be extremely challenging,” Anderson added. “We’ve played England at this level before so we’re fully-aware of their capabilities, while Czechia and Greece will offer different problems.
“I like the format. I think it gives players a real focus and an opportunity as a smaller nation as before it used to be two games and you were out. Now we play more games and that gives players the opportunity to apply themselves against the best teams in Europe. Every team will offer a different sort of challenge, but our main focus is on ourselves and applying our own performance in each of those games and that’s the mindset we will take into it. In League A we have to show more physicality and catch-up that way.”
With promotion and relegation at stake, results are obviously important in this campaign, but the development and progression of players within the pathway system is the primary remit. “We all work to the Welsh way in our principles of play, that’s something we’re all recognised for and strive to work hard on that,” said Anderson. “Gemma (Grainger – senior team manager) is very supportive of the Under-19’s, we’re in regular contact in terms of what she’s looking for and where the next one’s are going to come from.
“She was on camp with us in August so it was great that she and some of her staff could observe our training sessions and get to know the players a little bit better, so I think we’re quite tight as a national team staff on the women’s side, and that’s a real plus point for us. But the biggest plus-point is that we put the player at the centre of everything and help make that transition through the pathway as seamless as possible, and then we can maximise the performance of whatever age group they’re in.”
But development and progression is not restricted to the players, and Anderson herself has been selected as one of just ten up and coming coaches in Europe to join the UEFA coach mentor programme. The initiative pairs elite female coaches with experienced figures in the women’s game to offer advice and insight. Anderson has been paired with England manager Sarina Wiegman, who was recently named as the UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year for 2023.
“I had to apply and then go through an interview process, and once that process was complete I was matched with the mentor most likely to give you what you want to take from the programme,” explained Anderson. “They look at your journey as a coach and try to match you up with the mentor they feel will be able to develop you in the best way.
“I went to the UWCL Final and met up with Sarina there for the first time to discuss what I want from the programme and how she can help with that. Obviously she’s the most-wanted women in the world right now, so hopefully I can touch base with her very soon and then get to work on building our relationship and her supporting me in the goals that I want to achieve. She’s a fantastic human being first and foremost and that really shines through.”