By Paul Jones
Connor Roberts insists it is naive to expect Wales to qualify for every major tournament.
Wales have reached the last two European Championships and the 2022 World Cup after ending a 58-year wait to play at a major tournament.
But making Euro 2024 in Germany next summer was seriously dented by qualifying defeats to Armenia and Turkey in June.
Wales travel to Latvia on Monday knowing victory is essential to maintain hopes of automatic qualification, although being a top-tier team in the last edition of the Nations League will offer them the safety net of a play-off place.
“I think there’s a bit of a determination to not feel like we did after those previous two games,” said Burnley wing-back Roberts, 27, who is set to win his 50th cap at Riga’s Skonto Stadium.
“The only way to not feel like that is to win the game or to play well. It’s just remembering what got us to be performing well and to qualify for big competitions and to win games before.
“That is hard work and dedication, but I think we would be naive to think that we’re going to qualify for every single tournament going forward and win loads of games.
“We are still a small nation in the grand scheme of things. So we have to keep our feet on the ground and realise where we’ve come from.”
🗣️ "We all know it wasn't good enough!"
Connor Roberts says Wales "have to give everything" to change their recent form 🏴 pic.twitter.com/4Z0GvtJgtr
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) September 6, 2023
Wales have had a difficult 12 months since qualifying for the World Cup by beating Ukraine in a play-off final.
The talismanic Gareth Bale retired after the World Cup, other senior players left the international stage, and boss Rob Page has come under scrutiny after one win in 13 games – a 1-0 home victory against Latvia in March.
There were some positive signs in Thursday’s goalless friendly against South Korea, but the sight of Cardiff City Stadium little more than a third full with an attendance of 13,668 underlined Wales’ current malaise.
Roberts said: “We find ourselves in a difficult position, but we’re still in with a chance (of qualifying) and all you can do is try and win the next game.
“If, come the end of the campaign, it’s not good enough then we just have to move on and progress as a country and as a footballing nation.”
Results: Croatia 5 Latvia 0; Turkey 1 Armenia 1.
As good as it could have been for Wales – Latvia dispirited before Riga clash, Turkey + Armenia still within reach. pic.twitter.com/VztYDCkm0K
— Phil Blanche 🏴 (@philblanche) September 8, 2023
Roberts reaches his 50-cap milestone after being something of a late developer in the game.
He did not make his debut for first club Swansea until he was 22 following loan spells with varying degrees of success at Yeovil, Bristol Rovers and Middlesbrough.
Roberts said: “There was many a time at Middlesbrough and Bristol where I laid in my bed on my own miles away from my family thinking ‘maybe I ain’t good enough to be a footballer’.
“Now I have nearly 50 caps for my country and no-one can ever take that away from me.
“I’ve had some unbelievable experiences – a World Cup, a Euros, a couple of goals and a load of happy times in the Wales jersey. So hopefully that can continue for a couple of years at least.”
Here for the game Rob Page did not want.
🏴 Wales v South Korea 🇰🇷 pic.twitter.com/RmLk4bZKgE
— Phil Blanche 🏴 (@philblanche) September 7, 2023