Nicola Anderson and her Cymru WU19 squad are in action at Colliers Park this week with two friendly internationals against the Republic of Ireland (20 and 22 September) in preparation for their return to League A in UEFA qualifying next month.
“There’s quite a lot that we want to get out of these two games really,” said Anderson to FAW.cymru recently. “We selected the Republic of Ireland as we feel they will give us a combination of the different qualities that the three teams we play in October will have. They’re certainly going to give us the football challenge and the physical challenge, which is what League A is hugely renowned for.”
Cymru will take on Czechia, England and Greece in Group A2 between the 24 and 30 October, with the mini-tournament taking place in South Wales. Cymru were promoted back to League A in April following comprehensive victories over Kazakhstan and Estonia, and Anderson was full of praise for the way her squad applied themselves in the competition. “I think there were loads of positives to take out of it,” she added. “We went into that camp with the mindset of what we wanted to do and what we wanted to achieve which was to get back into League A.
“We feel that we belong there but we had to get the job done first. The girls applied themselves excellently across the two games, especially as we were drawn in a group of three so it was a long 10 days as we were playing at the beginning and at the end of the tournament, so there was a lot of time between games. But we really utilised that time well to make sure that we made an impact with our performances. We didn’t just want to win the games, we wanted to really perform well, to the capabilities that we know we can, and to the capabilities that we’re going to need going into League A.”
The side scored nine goals over the course of their two games in League B as they registered 5-2 and 4-0 victories over Kazakhstan and Estonia in North Wales. However, the focus now is very much on utilising the fixtures against the Republic of Ireland this week to ensure they are ready for the next challenge.
“We’re going to try a number of different things. It’s the first time this group have come together to play and there’s a few new faces we want to see perform and to see where our standards are, so we know if we need to tweak or change anything to be fully-prepared for the October camp that will shortly follow. I think we’re in a really good place right now, and we want to build on that.”
But while performances and results are key to their success, putting players first as they make their journey through the intermediate pathway is the cornerstone of what Cymru are achieving, and the relationship between WU17 manager Nia Davies and Anderson is crucial to this. “Last season Nia was my assistant at the U19’s as well,” she explained. “We’re in constant contact and that supports the transition of the players.
“We’re a very player-centred association, so with Nia having a full understanding of them as players as well as people and being able to pass that information on is hugely important, while I also go in on camp with the U17’s when possible to make some direct connections. The more comfortable we can make players coming through the pathway the better they will perform, and we’ve prided ourselves on that over the last two seasons.”
Cymru WU19: Cerys PHILLIPS (London City Lionesses), Grace PILLING (Blackburn Rovers – dual signed with AFC Fylde), Cadi DORAN (Liverpool), Mayzee DAVIES (Manchester United), Olivia OWEN (West Brom – dual signed with Sporting Khalsa), Maisie MILLER (Durham), Evie HUGHES (FAW South Girls Academy), Rebecca GUY (Everton – dual signed Liverpool Feds), Lauren DAVIES (FAW South Girls Academy), Lily BILLINGHAM (Cheltenham Town), Charlotte LEE (Aston Villa), Zynia DELGLYN (Loughborough Lightning), Faye KNOX (AFC Fylde), Olivia FRANCIS (Manchester United), Chloe MCMHAON (FAW South Girls Academy), Tianna TEISAR (Bristol City), Manon PEARCE (Bristol City), Amy RICHARDSON (Everton – dual signed Liverpool Feds), Megan BOWEN (Cardiff City), Jessica COLLYER (Loughborough Lightning).