Chris Coleman – The Cymru Years
International
5 May 2020

Chris Coleman – The Cymru Years

On Thursday evening (7 May), former Cymru manager Chris Coleman will join Ian Gwyn Hughes across the FAW social media channels to reflect on the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying campaign (7.30pm). 

The conversation follows on from the recent repeat of that successful campaign that resulted in Cymru qualifying for the finals of a major tournament for the first time in 58 years, and will be shown on Facebook and YouTube from 7.30pm. In the meantime, here's a look back at Coleman's tenure, and some of the key moments that made him the the most-successful manager in the history of the national team.

TRAILER: Get a sneak peek of this special show below.

It was on 19 January 2012 that Coleman was unveiled as the new manager of the Cymru national team, in what he described at the time as “the most difficult press conference I am ever likely do.” Replacing his close friend Gary Speed just a matter of weeks after his timely death made it an emotional situation for all concerned, and Coleman felt it more than anyone else.  

And it proved to be a difficult first year for the former defender as his young side struggled to come to terms with the human tragedy of losing their previous manager in such circumstances. Straight defeats to Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina and then Belgium were followed by the 6-1 loss in Serbia between May and September, and it seemed that the side were only heading in one direction.

But the heavy defeat in Novi Sad was a significant moment for Coleman, and the manner of the defeat and severity of the result would actually prove beneficial in the long-term. Under huge pressure, Coleman accepted that he would have to do things his way in order to succeed, and that his role was not to carry on with Speed's work, but to develop the legacy he had left behind in his own vision.

Cymru were moving in the right direction under Speed, and his final match as manager resulted in a convincing 4-1 victory over Norway at the Cardiff City Stadium. Following the 6-1 defeat to Serbia, Coleman appointed his own captain in Ashley Williams, and it marked a significant shift as it was Speed who had entrusted young midfielder Aaron Ramsey with the responsibility of leading his country. 

It was sink or swim for Coleman, and his new approach reaped immediate rewards as two late goals from Gareth Bale earned him his first victory in October 2012. The 2-1 win over Scotland at a rain-soaked Cardiff City Stadium brought a degree of closure to the past, and the celebrations that followed Bale's incredible winner displayed an outpouring of pent-up emotion. 

The results against Serbia and Scotland were probably two of the most-significant of Coleman's entire time as manager, as they shaped his plans for the next qualifying campaign. Cymru were finally moving forward under Speed's successor, and as the results and performances improved, so did the confidence and belief in Coleman's methods. 

Another key match took place in March 2014, as goals from James Collins, Sam Vokes and Gareth Bale defeated Iceland 3-1 in a friendly in Cardiff. The overall performance on the night was excellent, and showed the sort of football the side were capable of producing. The qualifying campaign would begin in Andorra in September 2014, and there was a growing belief that Cymru were finally ready to deliver.

Success followed, and Coleman himself will talk us through that qualifying campaign in his conversation with Ian Gwyn Hughes on Thursday evening. From the narrow win over Andorra to discovering that the defeat to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica was irrelevant as Cyprus had beaten Israel, each and every moment and emotion will be discussed and analysed. 

But qualification for EURO 2016 was just the start, and Coleman's side would make history in France by reaching the semi-finals, before losing to eventual tournament winners Portugal. It was the most amazing period in the history of the national team, and established Coleman as the most-successful Cymru manager. He believed there was still more to come from his team, but it was EURO 2016 that would mark the end of his success.

The qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup began with a resounding 4-0 win over Moldova in Cardiff, but a string of draws against Austria, Georgia, Republic of Ireland and twice against Serbia followed. Injuries to key players were stretching Coleman's resources, and Cymru were continually playing catch-up as dropped points proved crucial. 

Despite consecutive victories over Austria, Moldova and Georgia in September and October 2017, a 1-0 defeat to Ireland in the final game of the campaign in Cardiff brought this particular chapter to an end. Coleman remained in-charge for the friendly defeat against France in Paris the following month, but it would be his last match as manager of the national team.

Coleman was responsible for the some of the defining moments and images of a generation, and his place in Welsh football history is assured. His pride and passion for his country was infectious to the players and staff that worked alongside him, and that was what ultimately what brought him through the difficult times early in this chapter of his managerial career.

Ryan Giggs has emulated Coleman's success in reaching the finals of a major tournament, and while EURO 2020 has been delayed, his young side will take inspiration from how Coleman's team performed against the odds at the last tournament. Just as Coleman came to realise after the defeat in Serbia in September 2012, Giggs has done things his own way since taking charge, and a new and exciting era awaits on our eventual return to normality.