Jon Grey privileged to lead Cymru at the start of a new era

Cymru start their preparations for EURO 2025 qualification on Tuesday, 27 February with a match against the Republic of Ireland in Tallaght, Dublin, and interim manager Jon Grey believes his side are ready to move on from the surprise departure of manager Gemma Grainger.

“It was a little bit of shock obviously,” explained Grey at the recent squad announcement. “But good coaches and good people will get opportunities. It’s a surprise that I’m sitting here, but it is an honour and a privilege for not only myself but for my family as well to be given the opportunity to lead this camp. We wish Gemma all the best.” 

Grainger brought her tenure to a close last month when she accepted an offer to take charge of the Norwegian women’s national team, while the process to appoint a permanent successor is now underway ahead of the next campaign when Cymru will look to qualify for UEFA Women’s EURO 2025. The qualification draw takes place on 5 March with a new competition format which mirrors the UEFA Women’s Nations League, with the finals taking place in Switzerland in the summer of 2025. 

“Gemma did some brilliant work for Wales,” added Grey. “The profile has risen, but things like this happen in football. She’s decided to move on and now we have to move on as a group and follow the process that we’re already in to qualify for the Euros. We’re really excited, we’ve got this camp coming up and another game that will help us and take us that step closer to qualification. It’s a good opportunity for us to get together and we’re fully-focused on this next game. 

“Ireland are a fantastic team and have just come back from the World Cup. It will be a real tough game for us, but one that we’re looking forward to. It’s one that we want to try new things in and look to implement a few little ideas that we’ve got. We’re coming through a spell where we just learnt so much from that last campaign that we can now put things into action and take it forward into the next campaign.” 

Grey has been able to name a strong squad for this friendly international with captain Sophie Ingle and Seattle Reign duo Jess Fishlock and Angharad James all included. All three centurions are desperate to finally reach the finals of a major tournament having given so much to Cymru over the years, and will understand the importance of this match in preparing for the next qualification campaign, while also building on the performance in the impressive 0-0 draw with Germany back in December. 

“Nothing was broken so I’m not here to fix anything,” said Grey. “There will be some continuity, but there will also be some tweaks to the playing style. Every coach has their own way of playing, but there won’t be massive changes. We’ve brought a couple of new players in, it’s a good opportunity for them to come in and to make sure that we have a clear pathway right through to the 1st team. There’s no better time to do it to get them ready for the senior environment.” 

Coach Lee Skyrme is amongst those who have followed Grainger to Norway, and Grey will be assisted in Ireland by all-time leading Cymru goalscorer Helen Ward, who retired a year ago, and former Newport County Head Coach James Rowberry. Meanwhile, there will be a Welsh connection on the Ireland bench following the recent appointment of Rhys Carr to Eileen Gleeson’s backroom staff as assistant coach. Ireland will also play Italy in Florence during the international window on Friday, 23 February. 

“Having spoken to Helen and James they’re excited to come in and help with this camp,” Grey added. “Obviously, James has a lot of experience in the men’s game having managed in the Football League and worked at 1st team level, as well as working with the younger age-groups of the national team. Helen’s got a vast amount of experience playing at this level. She knows what it takes and what’s needed on a daily basis, but also then she has that perspective of a player which makes it a real good blend of staff for this camp.” 

There are five uncapped players in the squad for this friendly international. Lois Joel and Tegan McGowan will join up with the squad from the start of the camp while Tianna Teisar, Olivia Francis and Mayzee Davies will meet up with the team following their two games for the Cymru WU19 side against Scotland. In addition, Soffia Kelly, Mared Griffiths and Elena Cole from the WU17 squad will attend the senior camp. There will also be a familiar face with an unfamiliar name as Kayleigh Barton, formerly Kayleigh Green, has recently changed her surname through marriage. 

“I’ve been out and spoken to a few of the players,” explained Grey. “They were surprised obviously that Gemma has left, but for us it’s business as usual. They know that things like this happen in football all the time, so we have to move on and look forward. To lead this team will be a real privilege for me and a real honour, and something that nobody will ever be able to take away from me. I’ll be forever proud of that. It would be flattering to be linked with such a prestigious role, but my focus is on this next game, and that’s the focus of the staff and the players around me. We want to take each game as it comes. There’s a process going on to put a new manager in place, but that’s with the FAW.”

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Jon Grey on leading Cymru

Watch the squad announcement press conference

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