6-1. Such was the severity of the score, the videprinter would have spelled it out in brackets behind the numeric symbol. James Alexander-Gordon would have intonated a slightly shocked tone as he read “Serbia SIX, Wales one”. It's taken me two days to comprehend how to tackle the desolate and depressing performance on Tuesday night.
We lost to Belgium on the previous Friday. That was fair enough. Belgium have the best player in the world right now in Eden Hazard and possibly the best centre-half the Premier League has seen in its history. We had James Collins who, for all his good work at club level, has never been anything but a liability for Wales. And he decided to compound that with an early sending off for a ridiculous and pointless challenge.
It's taken me two days to comprehend how to tackle the desolate and depressing performance on Tuesday night.
But I don't think anyone could have predicted the capitulation that took place in the Novi Sad on Tuesday night. Wales have been humiliated before. Back in 1996, when Wales were properly s**t, we lost 7-1 to the Netherlands. That was when Bobby Gould was in charge. Players like Pembridge, Hartson and Vinnie fucking Jones were playing back then.
Wales have made great gains in the FIFA World Rankings over the past two years. I know people deride them but they are the only measurement system we have for this kind of thing. Wales are currently ranked 45 whilst Serbia are ranked 42nd. Two evenly matched teams, it would seem.
In fact, Wales would have been feeling confident going into the game. Serbia had just completed their 6th game without a goal. Granted, it was against Scotland who persist with banjo-wielding striker Kenny Miller, but to go six games without scoring is quite the drought. With Bale and Ramsey in our starting line-up, our creativity could have been too much for Serbia.
The rest of the goals were a complete masterclass in woeful defending
The first goal was a wonderful free-kick by the underrated Alexander Kolarov which stand-in keeper Myhill had no hope with. But the rest of the goals were a complete masterclass in woeful defending. The second in particular showed incredible levels of incompetence. As the Serbian striker makes his way to the by-line, our defenders seem bewildered by the whole idea of football. Williams seemed to make a decent fist of the first tackle and then the rest of the defence gave up. In fact, Matthews got between the Serbian defender and the by-line and then showed him the way to the goal.
It's hard to do the shoddy defending justice. Blake, Matthews, Williams and Gunter lined up together when we destroyed Norway 4-1 less than a year ago. How can things have detoriated so quickly? Darcy Blake looked like an absolute world-beater when we played England at Wembley. He had Wayne Rooney in his pocket and there was talk of five-million pound transfers not long after.
And what of the rest of the team? Ramsey looks a shadow of his former self. His confidence has gone since he was assualted by Ryan Shawcross. Making him captain was a bold move by Speed and it signaled the new era of Wales. But it would seem now it has burdened him. Bale is in a constant state of injury recovery. Ear-marked for the GB squad, he later pulled out due to injury. Then, when playing in pre-season, 'not that sort of player' Charlie Adam tried to break Bale's ankle once again. Steve Morison didn't play on Tuesday night. He was named in the starting line up but he didn't play.
He's tactically inept and it harks back to the days of Toshack; a jobs for the boys appointment.
Gary Speed's untimely and tragic passing was always going to have an effect. In the immediate aftermath, the FAW rightly didn't want to rush into a new managerial appointment. They took three months to deliberate and get Chris Coleman in. I wrote at the time that I didn't believe Coleman was the right choice for manager. He's tactically inept and it harks back to the days of Toshack; a jobs for the boys appointment.
Speed's death ten months ago tore Welsh football apart. It's obtuse to talk about the effect of his death on a game, a sport but it's torn the game apart. Bellamy, who recently returned to Cardiff, has seen his life turned upside down. He made his debut against Huddersfield and looked a shadow of the player he was during the Team GB games over the summer. It has since been revealed that Bellamy's life has been completely torn apart due to the death of his best friend.
We have some of the most exciting prospects in British and European football at our disposal.
The football, on the pitch, has stagnated completely as well. Speed had developed a progressive and exciting footballing side. He masterminded a meteoric rise up the rankings and oversaw performances that were eye-catching and encouraging. Coleman has come in and, with the same players and same team, has turned us into a drab and depressingly familiar outfit. I support Wales, I'm a realistic football fan. But we have some of the most exciting prospects in British and European football at our disposal.
Unfortunately, they are wasted on Coleman. As a footballing nation, Wales are forever writing off qualifying campaigns in view of the next one. Toshack did it for five years and it got us nowhere. Coleman has now come in and I'm afraid the same is happening already. Time is most definitely needed in these circumstances. The recovery process is still nowhere near over.
Coleman should never have been given the job but the problem is viable alternatives. At the time, Dutch Ray said he was the right man for the job. It seemed people turned against his timing and the manner of his statement. But he was right. Continuity was needed. Ray was close to Speed and the players too. The players respected his opinion; Bellamy credits him with saving his career. He would have kept the system going and kept the players on side. Alas, those bridges are now burnt. Ray has long gone and it's back to the old school.
If we change it now, we write off this qualifying campaign. Is that acceptable? It depends. If they change it, bring in another candidate who is one of the old school, one of the boys then no. But I would change the manager if the FAW promised to bring in a progressive and young manager. Toshack came in and was there for five years. Five wasted years. Coleman has come in and he's wasting time as well. Wales have players at their disposal who could really make an impact on the World and European stage but we have a manager who couldn't make an impact at Coventry and has struggled ever since.
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