A great victory over a battling but limited Northern Ireland side. Park the bus? Them Micks erected a bleeding terminal and filled it with a fleet of diesel-driven double-deckers! Wales, superior in every department, had only to overcome the entirely new, bizarrely incongruous pressure of being hot favourites deep into the knock-out phases of a finals tournament, see off the Irish adrenalin rush and patiently wait for Gareth Bale to supply a killer flash of quality. He’s so good, we all knew he would.
It was a minor oddity that our Gareth’s devastatingly undefendable cross was diverted into his own net by another Gareth, which only becomes slightly odder when you consider that two Irish Evans’s played central roles as Bale’s man-markers and two Welsh Williams’s accidentally collided causing injury to captain Ashley that threatens his participation in the quarter-finals. There is something in all these significant doubling up of names that perturbs me; can’t quite put my finger on it…to do with the unsettling era we are living in probably. Anyway, Wales overall record against Northern Ireland is now P35, W16, D12, L7 and we have gone nine games undefeated against them with their last victory 26 years ago. Job done.
Next: Belgium in Lille on Friday (head-to-head record: P12, W4, D3, L5). Wales are entering uncharted territory and climbing to stratospheric altitudes not encountered in a lifetime. Is this a dream? Is all this really happening? And why am I almost blasé already?
Keep it tight early doors and shovel it out to Gareth at every opportunity could be a tactic; acutely astute Chris Coleman, growing in stature with every game, will know how to play Belgium, ranked 2nd in the world by FIFA (Wales are 26th), as they are familiar recent opponents from Euro 2016 qualifying and World Cup 2014 qualifying too. We are highly unlikely to win – too many hazards – which is great because that means no pressure, no expectations and no disappointment waiting in ambush. It will be sheer, unadulterated pleasure, a game to sit back and enjoy, a game to wallow and revel in, and a game that will require shed-loads of mood modifiers to properly appreciate. Well that’s my plan.
I’m on the subject of football so will mention four other European matches taking place this week that are as important to Wales as the national team’s exploits in France: the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and the Europa League. I mention them because there is effectively a news blackout on all matters involving the Welsh football pyramid. The BBC’s football website, for instance, provides not a single word about the four Welsh clubs’ upcoming matches in its ‘Welsh Football’ pages (they are devoted to the national side and the clubs in the English pyramid, duplicating the already exhaustive coverage Swansea City, Cardiff City etc get in the many pages covering the English leagues). However, the BBC’s Scottish and Northern Irish football pages do cover their domestic pyramids thoroughly and currently feature articles about the European games facing their clubs. This blatant discrimination against Welsh football (which has the knock-on effect of ludicrous and unique double coverage for Swansea & Cardiff etc) is in complete breach of the BBC’s charter and legal obligations. I have tried and tried and tried again, for over 20 years, to get the BBC to obey the law, but on the few occasions I have managed to bash through the near-impenetrable obstacles the Corporation calls a ‘complaints system’ I have always been met with a derisory, unexplained, contemptuous rebuff. Soon the FAW, at long last, will have some cash from the Euro heroics (£11million so far!). I strongly urge chief executive Jonathan Ford to flex this muscle quickly and force the BBC to stop this illegal discrimination and sinister censorship. Auntie will crumble – the old bag always swoons at a whiff of power. Here are the intriguing games Wales’ four representatives face:
Champions League First Qualifying Round First Leg: The New Saints v Tre Penne (San Marino), Park Hall, Oswestry, 7pm
Europa League First Qualifying Round First Leg: Connah’s Quay Nomads v Stabæk Fotball (Norway), Belle Vue, Rhyl, 7.15pm
Europa League First Qualifying Round First Leg: IFK Göteborg (Sweden) v Llandudno Town, Gamla Ullevi, Gothenburg, 6.30pm
Europa League First Qualifying Round First Leg: AIK (Sweden) v Bala Town, Tele2 Arena, Stockholm, 6.30pm
Needless to say, no ‘Welsh’ let alone ‘British’ media will cover any of these games in any way on any platform, and the Second Legs next week will also be completely ignored (Llandudno will play at Nantporth, Bangor, and Bala at Belle Vue). This is what the Welsh pyramid has had to endure since it was established in 1992 (why, I wonder, is the BBC so threatened by Wales?). No other national football system on Earth is treated this way. The BBC’s football websites are the most visited in the UK and their incredible policy of deliberately refusing to even mention the Welsh pyramid is highly damaging. Tackling this outrage will be a litmus test of the FAW’s new pride, vigour and determination to succeed.
By the way, whenever I’m overwhelmed by events beyond my control – a frequent occurrence – I find solace in the witticisms, epigrams and aphorisms of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Here are a few that are helping in these best of times/worst of times:
“The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it”
“There is no sin except stupidity”
“There are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it”
“As soon as people are old enough to know better, they don’t know anything at all”
“Why was I born with such contemporaries?”
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train”