There are four uncapped players in Rob Page’s Cymru squad for the upcoming UEFA EURO 2024 qualifiers against Croatia and Latvia, and the manager explained at his squad announcement on Tuesday how excited he is by the potential in his new-look squad.
“We’ve reset and reframed,” explained Page on Tuesday. “We’ve brought in new additions to the backroom staff as well and they will add a lot of value. I knew we would have this evolution. There are no surprises with the lads I’ve brought in. In the past I’ve inherited teams and philosophies, but this is a fresh start. It’s the start of something special again for us and there’s a belief in the squad that we can have continued success. We’ve learnt from the experiences of the World Cup and we will take that into this campaign. We believe we can qualify for major tournaments.”
Gareth Bale headlined a list of retirements since the World Cup, and Page was keen to start by praising the contribution of his former captain along with Joe Allen, Chris Gunter and Jonny Williams. “We’ve got acknowledge what the lads who have retired have done for us over the years,” said Page. “They’ve been a massive part of the success that we have had. It will be strange but life goes on and we have to plan for the next Gareth Bale to come through. I believe he has made the right decision at the right time for him and his family, but it was a difficult decision for him.”
Striker Tom Bradshaw began his career in the JD Cymru Premier with Aberystwyth Town, and returns to the squad having been in superb form for Championship side Millwall this season. The 30-year old was named Championship Player of the Month for February and has scored 13 league goals this season. Meanwhile, Wes Burns is also included having played consistently well for Ipswich Town this season, and Page is more than aware of what he can offer following his impressive performance against Poland in the UEFA Nations League last year.
Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey has been reappointed as captain following the retirement of Gareth Bale. The midfielder was initially made captain by the late Gary Speed at the age of 20 in March 2011 before Ashley Williams inherited the armband. Now 32 and with 78 international appearances, Ramsey is one of the senior figures in the Cymru squad. A veteran of three major tournaments, he is a fitting figure to lead this new generation.
“Aaron was vice-captain behind Gareth [Bale] so it’s a natural progression,” Page added. “While we’ve still got someone of Aaron’s quality available to us its only natural. He has a responsibility with the younger players and showing them what it’s all about, and I don’t think there’s anyone better than Aaron to do that. All the experience he has since he was last made captain – and it would have hurt him to have the armband taken off him – he is already relishing it and embracing being captain again.”
Teenager Luke Harris will be hoping to make the right impression as the 17-year old from Premier League side Fulham is named in the senior squad while Oli Cooper and Nathan Broadhead have been rewarded for their performances for Swansea City and Ipswich Town respectively with their inclusions. Meanwhile, 18-year old Jordan James of Birmingham City has established himself as a Championship regular for his club this season and is one of a number of exciting young prospects headlining this latest squad announcement.
Having qualified for the finals of the last two UEFA EURO tournaments and the last World Cup, Cymru open their Group D campaign away to Croatia on Saturday, 25 March in Split before Latvia are the visitors to the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday, 28 March. Page’s side will also take on Turkey and Armenia with the top two places qualifying automatically for the finals that will take place in Germany in the summer of 2024. Tickets for the Latvia match are available on the FAW ticketing website.
UEFA EURO 2024 QUALIFIER
Cymru v Latvia
- 19:45 Tuesday 28 March
- Cardiff City Stadium
- Tickets available now