Manager hasn't continued Speed's success
14 September ~ Wales' 6-1 defeat in Serbia was, in the words of manager Chris Coleman, "embarrassing" and "criminal". With two defeats in the opening two games the World Cup qualification campaign is as good as over, despite whatever noises will come from players and management prior to the October round of fixtures. Five defeats in five games, with 14 goals against and only one scored means any initial optimism from Coleman's appointment has vanished. Already some quarters are calling for him to leave.
He is only five games into the role and had a side missing around eight players including Craig Bellamy, Wayne Hennessey, Neil Taylor and the suspended James Collins. Liverpool's recent £15 million signing Joe Allen, who did play, was clearly suffering from the illness that had kept him out of the Belgium game and was a shadow of his normal self.
It appears that the Welsh team as a whole have yet to fully get over the death of Gary Speed. This is most acutely illustrated by the absence of Bellamy, who has openly admitted that he is struggling to cope with his close friend's demise. It might be reasonable to suggest that players and manager just need time, that the Serbia result is an aberration and that things will improve. Other factors suggest the problems run deeper.
New managers tend to take over due to the previous regime's failings but this wasn't the case with Wales, as progress was being made under Speed. Continuity in style and personnel seemed sensible but with the exception of Osian Roberts, the rest of Speed's management team has been replaced.
Brian Flynn was also removed and separate managers brought in for the Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 teams. Flynn's role had been deemed a success and credited with bringing through many of the current first-team. To revert to the previous system is unnecessary. The last two Under-21 results – a 1-0 home defeat to Armenia followed by a 5-0 thrashing in the Czech Republic – are reminiscent of a previous era when Welsh youth football would regularly struggle.
In the build-up to the qualifiers Coleman also made very public and ultimately futile attempts to recruit new "Welsh" players in the form of Angel Rangel of Swansea, Cardiff's Ben Turner and Ryan Shawcross of Stoke. The latter especially was doomed to failure given Shawcross's previous commitments to England and was bizarre given the injury he inflicted on Welsh captain Aaron Ramsey. While he said nothing publicly, it seems inconceivable that Ramsey and his team-mates would have welcomed the approach.
All this culminated in the abject performance in Serbia with the players looking at best disorganised and at worse uninterested. Wales seem on a downward spiral that will be difficult to reverse and Coleman is lucky that the vast majority of the squad are too young to announce their retirement. The manager's early decision making and the reaction of the players to date suggests it won't be easy for him to emerge from Speed's shadow. Paul Ashley-Jones