Cymru manager Rob Page returned home to the Rhondda on Wednesday evening to announce his 26-man squad for the FIFA World Cup.
The Tylorstown Welfare Hall provided the setting as Page named the players that will head to Qatar next week in preparation for the opening match against the United States. that will take place at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan on Monday, 21 November (7pm).
“I don’t think there are any surprises in there,” said Page. “We’re giving Joe [Allen] every opportunity to be fit for that first game and I was never not going to name him in the squad. He’s progressing as we want him to and he’s fully-focused on his recovery and getting fit.
“If he is fit then he’s playing. He’s massive for how we play and the success that we’ve had. He’s a senior lad with vast amounts of experience and he knows the game inside-out. That’s invaluable.”
“I’ve got an idea of what the team is going to be,” explained Page. “I went over to Alicante to watch the USA play, to see how they setup, so I have an idea of what we’re going to do. Gareth Bale scored an important goal for LA and showed what he can do.
“He’s proven time and time again that when he pulls the Welsh jersey on, irrespective of how many minutes he has played domestically, he has always produced. On the big occasions he turns up and he thrives on it.”
Cymru head to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 when Jimmy Murphy guided a team inspired by the great John Charles to the quarter-final stage before they were eliminated by eventual winners Brazil.
Just like Page, Murphy was born and raised in the Rhondda, and the hard-working characteristics of both managers were shaped by their upbringings. Proud of his background, for Page to return to Tylorstown to make Wednesday’s announcement was a special moment for the manager who has finally ended the 64-year wait to take Cymru back to the world stage.
“Jimmy Murphy had a typical valley mentality,” said Page. “In adversity we will find strength and make a bad situation good. To be here is really special for me. To come back to Tylorstown where I grew up, this was my snooker hall when I was 14 or 15.
“I haven’t been back here for a few years, so to come back and share it with the family is really, really special and I can’t thank the people at the FAW enough. This means the world to me and the people of the Rhondda as well.”
The Tylorstown Welfare Hall and Institute was built in 1933 and is the last remaining Miners’ Welfare Hall in the area. Today it plays a crucial role in the local community, providing activities and events for people of all ages.
The togetherness and community spirit of the area is comparable to the togetherness within the Cymru squad, and there will be plenty of support for Page and his players in Qatar from the village that raised him, just as Murphy and his team received in 1958.