Rob Page’s Under 21 side will play their first game of 2019 this afternoon (Sunday 9 June) when they face Albania U21s at the Selman Stermasi Stadium in Tirana (KO 16:00 BST). The match is the first of two friendly matches against the Albanians this week and Page says his side are raring to go.
Albania U21 v Wales U21
Sunday 9 June 16:00
- Selman Stermasi Stadium, Tirana
Tuesday 11 June 14:00
- Niko Dovana Stadium, Durres
“We had a three-day training camp at Dragon Park back in March where we identified some new faces to bring into the U21 squad. On top of that we’ve still got a group of lads from the last campaign. Regan Poole, Aaron Lewis and Rhys Norrington-Davies amongst others all played their part in the last campaign and they know the culture we have and what we expect of them. It helps the new players realize the expectations as it’s about what you do off the pitch as well as on the pitch. We've re-iterated the pathway and the Welsh way to everyone on camp. it's great to see it so visible with the likes of David Brooks, Dan James and Matt Smith all moving up in the last eighteen months”
The double header against Albania can be seen as a similar challenge to the two friendlies played away to Georgia last June. Both those games ended in draws and Page expects two more tough tests for his players this week.
“They’ve played three qualifiers already, picking up two draws and a loss. From what I saw in those matches we’re expecting a tough, physical test, just like Georgia last year. I know the players I have are gifted footballers from a technical point of view, but we also need to work on the physical side of the game. We’ve identified Albania as an ideal test both physically and technically.”
Despite losing Cameron Coxe to an injury earlier in the week, Page has no other injury concerns ahead of the game and there is a welcome return to the squad for midfielder Jack Evans. Evans was diagnosed with cancer less than twelve months ago but has made an inspiring recovery and will be wearing the red of Wales against this week.
“Jack has been a credit to himself and his family with the way he has conducted himself through the last year” explained Page. “It’s been a turbulent twelve months for him to say the least, it’s the worst news any young man can have but what I’ve seen in training is that he looks like he’s been given a second chance and he’s got the bit between his teeth. He’s worked his socks off at Swansea and after they sent him to Trinidad & Tobago on a training programme he’s come back fitter and sharper from that experience. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play again.”
Follow the @Cymru account on Twitter for live updates from Tirana.
* Tom Pugh (Scunthorpe United) and Niall Huggins (Leeds United) have been added to the squad while Cameron Coxe (Cardiff City) has withdrawn through injury.