Wales’ 2-0 defeat by England in the Euro 2012 qualifier at Cardiff last weekend was as predictable as it was depressing. That’s two losses in two games for Gary Speed, leaving Wales marooned at the bottom of the group with no points and no chance of qualifying – a distinction shared with other bottom-feeders Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino and Kazakhstan. The 3rd oldest footballing nation has now sunk to the whipping-boy level of two tin-pot tax-havens, a mock-medieval ruritania, a small island and a Third World horse-trader, and there is the genuine prospect of Wales losing all eight qualifying matches, especially as the virtually 100% turn-out of players for the glamour fixture against England is unlikely to be repeated for, say, the unappealing trip to Bulgaria in October. Appropriately, official rankings have hit record new lows (116th out of 202 in the FIFA rankings, 44th out of 53 in the UEFA equivalent) guaranteeing an even tougher group for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
The inert, anaemic performance against an ordinary England team illustrates the chasm in class that Welsh players confront every time they take on another international side. The sheer numbers are insurmountable. England for instance, with a population 20 times the size of Wales, has 100 times the amount of professional footballers (around 3000 to Wales’ 30). Speed will never have the luxury of fine-tuning a squad and honing tactics; he’ll have to make do with whoever shows up, plus any new recruit that the FAW’s busy genealogy department has managed to connect to a nan who once had unprotected sex in a Llandudno B&B. The absence of Cardiff-born, Southampton-produced Gareth Bale, currently touted as the world’s best player and being courted by Real Madrid, made no difference to the outcome – football being an 11-a-side game – but only drew attention to Wales’ embarassing, parasitic reliance on another nation’s clubs occasionally unearthing accidental, one-off gems.
The FAW, in receipt of a fat windfall from the 70,000 crowd (an England match is always lucrative – that’s why they haven’t played us voluntarily for decades), is perfectly content. Chief Executive Jonathan Ford announced this week plans to build a £5 million National Football Centre at, of all places, Spytty Park in Newport, sorry I mean the Newport International Sports Village. Given that this is the home of fifth-rate English pyramid Judases Newport County, a club that has antipathy to Welsh football as its very founding principle, that’s like holding an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a distillery – thus very true to lick-the-boot-that-kicks-it FAW form. Their corporate slogan is “Pride. Passion. Belief.” (yes, it includes those fooling-nobody assertive full stops). Much more fitting would be “Shame. Torpor. Defeat.”
I will repeat again what I have stated countless times, on this blog and elsewhere: WALES WILL NEVER QUALIFY FOR ANOTHER TOURNAMENT FINAL UNTIL ALL ITS CLUBS PLAY IN ITS OWN PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE. I will continue to make this point until there is change, or until the end of eternity – whichever is sooner.
Finally, it is always amusing whenever Wales play England at football to observe the “British” media betray the true nature of the relationship. They cannot resist taking the English perspective and treating Wales as foreign opposition rather than adopting the neutral position that might be expected if “Britain” had any credence as a genuine national entity. We in Wales have known for centuries that it does not; it is simply a synonym for “England”, as the hollering for “our lads” revealed, and it is about time the threadbare pretence ceased.