When the bomb exploded in November 2020, the Welsh federation did not know how to react, beyond removing coach Ryan Giggs until the situation was resolved. “It is only a phone call away,” recalled Robert Page, second of the absolute who had to take command of the team on an interim basis in the following meetings, attentive to the instructions that Giggs passed him from the other side of the receiver. He had no other choice because one of the best extremes on the planet was accused of gender violence against his ex-partner – in addition to another woman in the same incident -, facts that he denies but for which he will be tried in January. “I am going to plead not guilty. I hope to clear my name, ”Giggs resolved. And Page was left alone in the face of danger – today they make their debut against Switzerland in Baku (15.00. Four) – something repeated on the gagged Welsh bench.
Ten years ago, then-coach Gary Speed came to the BBC studio to take part in a football debate, then stopped by Old Trafford to watch United’s game against Newcastle. Hours later, he took his own life in the garage at home. “I can’t understand it, he had the world at his feet,” his father managed to say. The position, then, was assumed by Chris Colleman and during the first five meetings he only knew defeat, to the point that he thought about leaving it. “I doubted if he was qualified, but I would have been a coward if I left him,” reflected Colleman, who ended up hitting the key to lead the team to the greatest of its achievements, a whole semifinal of Euro 2016. Now, like five years ago years, the Wales coach is the replacement. Although he is quite a newbie.
Page hung up his boots in 2011 after 550 games, a low-key career – Watford, Sheffield United, Cardiff, Coventry City, Huddersfield Town and Chesterfield – adorned with the record of being the only captain and center-back to have scored at least one goal in all four. major divisions of England. Before that, however, he turned down Wales in 2008 when coach John Benjamin Toshack called him up for the European Championship. “I’ve thought about it a lot, but I feel like I can’t be away from my family for two weeks. If I knew I was going to play, maybe I would continue because there is no greater honor than defending your country ”, he resolved. A decade later, when Giggs was removed from the draft, he would not commit the same again. disrespect.
Giggs’ former partner
It happens that Page’s experience on the bench is scarce and at a much lower level. In 2011, he was hired as part of the Port Vale coaching staff, in the League Two [Tercera División], especially focused on the lower teams. The leap came in 2014, when he took over the first team on an interim basis – due to hip surgery to the then head coach – and managed to promote it seven places in a month and a half. They gave him the position and he lasted until 2016, when Northampton Town signed him, and also the Welsh federation to take charge of the lower teams, where he managed to win the Victory Shield (Annual U16 tournament between Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) after 66 years of drought.
Fired a few months after Northampton because he lost nine of the last 11 games and because he said they played “girls against men”, he focused on the dragon team. Even more so when he was promoted as an assistant to Giggs – his former teammate in the national team – because Osian Roberts, until then second, decided to take over Morocco. And on the rebound, Page rose through the ranks again, now that Giggs is entangled with justice. “Ryan has sent me a message to wish us well. He supports the team like anyone who is watching it from home ”, revealed Page before taking on Switzerland. “In our minds, we have a game plan, we want to win and that is what we are going to do,” added Gareth Bale, the star of the Welsh team.
So far, Page has signed four wins, two draws and as many defeats at the head of Wales, always giving reel to the young people he already led in the U21, as up to 14 players on the team are under 24 years old. That was Giggs’ plan, a required transition after the best Euro Cup ever. So, Colleman took over in a big way. Now it’s up to Page, a novice on the bench.
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