MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: I'm beginning to believe in bright football future for Wales
Updated 12:31pm Tuesday 10th June 2014 in Sport
I HAVE to confess, I'm beginning to buy into the notion that Wales is undergoing a football revolution.
Long time readers will know that even cautious optimism doesn't sit well with this writer, a perennially pessimistic and some might even contend cynical sort, I take pride in an ability notice the negative and highlight hysteria.
A case in point would've been last season, when I opined in this column that the legacy of Cardiff and Swansea both being in the Premier League, wouldn't end up being nearly as significant as many assumed/desired.
My contention back then was that with football being such a tribal sport, only Cardiff fans would benefit from Cardiff's promotion and their disastrous and embarrassing campaign in the top flight means that arguably, not even Bluebird fans reaped any benefit from life in the elite.
Similarly, the Swans being in Europe or the County back in the Football League. Great for this paper, the Evening Post and for fans of both clubs, but nothing that directly benefits football fans elsewhere, like in North Wales or west of Neath.
For Wales to become an important football nation, or even a significant one, individual club honours mean very little.
So what that this was a barren season for Wales after a recent slew of Wembley appearances for County, Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham? In the grand scheme of things, that means nothing.
If you tell a North Wales football fan that 2013 was a brilliant year for Welsh football because Swansea won the Capital One Cup, Cardiff were promoted and so were Newport County, they'll quite rightly laugh in your face.
No, for a true football revolution to be occurring this side of the Severn Bridge, it must be felt at a national level and that means the dividends must occur in international games, not domestic ones.
The only way anyone will buy into Wales as an emerging football nation is if they emerge on a major stage and qualify for a tournament.
And I know that I am not going to be able to convince you all that Wales really are on the brink, that this isn't going to be another false dawn, because you've seen a lifetime of them already.
Many of you don't believe that Wales have a manager capable of presiding over a successful side, with Chris Coleman still only moderately more popular than John Toshack with the public.
There also remains scepticism that Wales have an excellent chance just by virtue of having two world class talents in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Because, let's be fair, Wales have had smatterings of world class talent throughout the past three decades.
From Kevin Ratcliffe, Ian Rush, Neville Southall and Dean Saunders to Gary Speed, Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs, the Dragons have not been short on individual brilliance
However, that's not entirely fair on Coleman and it definitely isn't fair on Bale.
While Coleman might not have total respect on the terraces, he is at least popular with his players and that's important. We feared after the tragic passing of Speed that the enthusiasm that had been fostered for representing Wales would diminish, but that hasn't proved to be the case.
That is a point typified by Newport's Chris Gunter, who contacted Coleman after being left out of the squad who went to Holland because of a presumed injury, to state that he was, indeed, fit. And the 24-year old incredibly made his 53rd appearance for his country.
Coleman has a decent enough track record, especially at Fulham and he does seem to understand entirely the key strengths and weaknesses at his disposal and the recent inclusion of James Chester for the friendly in Holland shows a pro-active attitude in addressing the weaknesses.
As for Bale, he's a level beyond any player Wales have had since John Charles.
Bale is a player who can win a match on his own and he will play in front of Wales' best collection of midfielders in a couple of decades.
Add in the fact that this campaign must surely be more competitive - simply by virtue of three teams per group being in with a chance of qualifying into an expanded Euro 2016 - and that's enough to guarantee at least more intrigue, more interest and some momentum for Wales, even if qualification alludes them again.
However, it's with a clear philosophy for the future, with a strategy already in place and working, that Wales have finally managed to show they are preparing for a brighter future.
I spent an afternoon at Dragon Park last week and it's a superb facility, but more importantly, it's already proving extremely successful.
Over-subscribed and endorsed by the likes of Roberto Martinez, the FAW Trust in putting in place a system that is allowing Wales to become a hotbed for progressive coaching and we saw glimpses in Holland of the next crop of young players coming through.
The youth movement started out of necessity by Toshack and embraced by Speed is continuing under the watchful eye of Osian Roberts and his team.
Wales really are building for a brighter future and for once, they have sound foundations in place.
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