But new contract for manager imminent
13 September ~ After an impressive comeback victory in Scotland and an unfortunate defeat against Croatia in March, the signs were promising for Wales. Unfortunately, after a farcical few days, designs on third place are now long forgotten and everyone has since braced themselves for a battle to avoid finishing bottom of Group A. For that, Chris Coleman is largely culpable. Having been on the ropes after a 6-1 mauling in Serbia, Coleman navigated his way through the criticism to oversee some much improved performances.
To then go and undo all that good work by forgetting his passport before the trip to Macedonia was scandalous. He may not have thought his actions warranted an apology but his blasé, arrogant attitude towards the incident only enflamed the situation.
His subsequent handling of Gareth Bale was also bizarre. It is entirely understandable to select your best player even if there is only a remote chance of him playing, while it was also encouraging to see that Bale was willing to make the trip to Macedonia. But to then put him on the bench for the purposes of "mind games" is absurd. Coleman's antics also resulted in his side's display being harshly viewed, when the truth is that Wales performed admirably in the 2-1 defeat and with a bit more luck could have got at least a point.
In drawing level against Macedonia after falling behind, the team showed a resilience that has been lacking in previous Welsh sides. But that desire and mental strength was absent a few days later in a demoralising 3-0 home defeat to Serbia. Bale was more than a decoy on this occasion, lifting his team after coming on in the 58th minute – but he could not inspire a late rally. Injuries and suspensions hamstrung Wales during these games, but the talent and potential in the squad is clear. Whether or not the right man is in charge remains a source of heated discussion.
Coleman handled the Gary Speed tragedy with sensitivity and class, but his record is even worse than that of John Toshack and Bobby Gould. He was far more sombre after the Serbia game but attempted to deflect criticism by accusing James Collins of turning down the chance to join up with the squad, after injuries sustained in Macedonia. The West Ham centre-back rejected these claims, disputing that he had received a call. The fact that Coleman decided against selecting him in the first place, despite a paucity of options, did not go unnoticed.
Wales can still finish anywhere between third and bottom, with forthcoming games against Macedonia at home and a daunting trip to Belgium still to play. Every point is vital in order to climb the FIFA rankings and secure a more favourable draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers. After a calamitous week, you would assume that a decision would be made on Coleman's future next month. But it appears that the Football Association of Wales (FAW) have already decided to maintain the status quo for a further two years and a new contract is believed to be imminent. There may be a need for continuity at present, but their haste is difficult to fathom.
Coleman deserves credit for stepping in to the breach when there was a dearth of candidates, but that is no longer the case. Tony Pulis, an equally divisive character, is now available and his achievements at Stoke should ensure him some consideration. While Ryan Giggs, who will occupy the role at some stage, is that much closer to calling time on his esteemed playing career. That is before considering overseas options, which the FAW have always previously shunned.
The announcement of Coleman's contract extension may prove even less popular than when Toshack saw his underwhelming tenure extended. Anything for an easy life at the FAW it would seem. A little bit of patience would be the more sensible stance, as the situation will surely resolve itself in the coming weeks. Scott Johnson