Right, that’s my considered, measured response, now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. I’m a total geek when it comes to soccer stats. My loft sags under the weight of football paraphenalia and I can barely move for Welsh pyramid-related gubbins. In fact I often derive as much, if not more, pleasure out of football’s vast and ever-increasing archives than the actual game itself. So the draw in the World Cup qualifier in Belgrade has got me ululating like a widow at a pyre. Five consecutive draws exceeds the ongoing four and the four in 1958 and in 2000/01 and establishes a new all-time Welsh record! Given that Wales have been playing international football for 141 years, this is truly ‘historic’. That last word is in quotes to suggest ironic distancing, by the way.
Delving deeper, this unusual sequence brings other possible records into distant view. Depending on whether you’re a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full type of person, the draw means Wales have now gone six games without losing but also five games without winning. Since Wales can’t afford to lose any of the remaining four fixtures if we are to qualify for Russia 2018, the all-time Welsh record of 10 consecutive games without losing set between 2001 and 2003 is going to have to be equalled to end our 60-year World Cup wait. It’s daunting but it’s not impossible. As for the all-time record of 12 consecutive games without winning (established three times in 1896-1900, 1968-1970 and 2000-2001), that is surely safe in perpetuity – he said unconvincingly.
Moreover, two players reached personal milestones of note in Serbia. Chris Gunter won his 79th cap to overtake Craig Bellamy and become the third most capped Welshman after Neville Southall (92) and Gary Speed (85), and Joe Ledley’s 73rd cap pushed him ahead of Mark Hughes and Joey Jones up to joint-sixth in the list alongside Peter Nicholas and Ian Rush. Gunter is only 28 next month and Ledley turned 30 in January, so barring injuries and given the paucity of alternatives it is quite conceivable that Albion Rovers (Newport) product Gunter will become the most capped Welshman of all in a couple of years while Cardiff City product Ledley could well have overtaken all except Gunter, Speed and Southall by next year. Who’d have thunk it?
Looking at the evolving Wales v Serbia saga, it remains a dreadful potboiler with a horribly predictable plot: Played 6, Won 0, Drawn 2, Lost 4. This includes the two games against short-lived Serbia & Montenegro, and if you’re a glass-all-broken sort of person and throw in Wales’ record against Serbia’s defunct forerunner Yugoslavia (Played 7, Won 0, Drawn 3, Lost 4) the appalling overall summary becomes: Played 13, Won 0, Drawn 5, Lost 8. One day, one fine day, we might eventually curb the Serb.
Come September it will all be decided. I can take it; I’m strong and stable.