Rob Page Wales

Rob Page Wales. Pic: Getty Images

Harsh Grilling Awaits Rob Page By FAW As Rivals For Wales Job Look On

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By Jake Maddaford

Rob Page’s position as Wales manager is set to come under review after hugely disappointing friendlies against Gibraltar and Slovakia.

Page was booed by Wales fans again following the 4-0 thrashing in Slovakia on Sunday and there were more calls for him to quit after Thursday’s embarrassing 0-0 draw with Gibraltar, opponents ranked 203rd in the world.

Despite being non-competitive fixtures in which Wales were without several senior players, pressure has been steadily growing on Page over the past 18 months.

Wales’ poor performance at the 2022 World Cup followed by the failure to qualify for Euro 2024 built up a loud anti-Page lobby on social media and that has now turned into dissent from the stands.

Page was defiant after the Gibraltar game in Portugal, insisting that he was focused on the “long-term plan” and blooding young players ahead of this autumn’s Nations League campaign and the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

But the 49-year-old’s tone was downbeat after Wales were dismantled in Slovakia and said his mood was “low”.

Asked if the two friendlies could have a bearing on his future, Page said: “I’m the wrong person to be asking. Only the board, the chief executive, the president, the technical director – that’s a question for them.

“After camp, we have a conversation with Dave Adams (Football Association of Wales technical director) and Steve (Williams, FAW president) and Noel (Mooney, FAW chief executive). Of course we’ll have those conversations.

“One way or the other, we will decide on what’s right for Wales and move forward.”

Page has over two years left on the contract he signed in September 2022 after guiding Wales to their first World Cup since 1958.

He took over from Ryan Giggs in November 2020, first on an interim basis and led Wales to the last-16 at the Covid-delayed European Championship the following summer.

Page was appointed permanent manager after the World Cup play-off final victory over Ukraine in June 2022, but Wales have since won only five times in 22 games.

FAW boss Mooney placed Page’s future in the spotlight last October by saying the manager’s position would be reviewed if Wales did not qualify for Euro 2024 automatically.

Page and Mooney held clear-the-air talks after those comments, and Wales responded by beating World Cup semi-finalists Croatia in Euro 2024 qualification.

The FAW came out quickly to throw its backing behind Page after the play-off final defeat to Poland on penalties in March, but it remains to be seen whether it will show the same support now.

With that background, it is natural that some fans have begun to speculate on who might takeover.

There appear to be three firm favourites – all of whom were born in Wales.

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1. Steve Cooper

Admired and respected by many he is the number one option among some Wales fans.

This ex-Swansea and Nottingham Forest coach is still held in high regard among Welsh fans despite his sacking from Forest last year.

During his time at Swansea, Cooper managed to take the side to consecutive top six finishes, losing to Brentford in both ties, once in the semi-final and in the final the following year.

His best work arguably came when he joined Nottingham Forest, arriving at the club when they were rock bottom of the championship in September.

From that moment on, Forest’s fortunes took a remarkable turn as Cooper reached the play-offs for the third season running, beating Sheffield United in the semi-final and Huddersfield in the final to reach the Premier League for the first time in over 20 years.

During his only full season, Cooper masterminded wins against Arsenal and Liverpool and a draw against Manchester City, as Forest secured survival in the league with a game to go.

It’s also worth noting that he spent time in England’s youth setup, managing their under 17’s to world cup glory in 2017.

With this track record and no known interest in his services at the moment, this gives the FAW the opportunity to get a manager who has worked well with young players ahead of what is a crucial period in Welsh Football

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2. Craig Bellamy

Here’s the wildcard – ex-Wales international Craig Bellamy has been assistant coach to Vincent Kompany for the past three years at Anderlecht and Burnley.

However, it has been confirmed that Bellamy will not be joining Kompany and Bayern Munich, leaving his future in the sport up in the air.

Bellamy earned 79 caps for Wales over his nearly 20-year career, earning experience that many current players in the squad would dream of achieving.
While this would be his first managerial gig, giving the reins to a player who has played for some of the biggest clubs in the UK could prove to be a clever move by the FAW should they choose to do it.

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3. Osian Roberts

A name that will be familiar among the FAW officials and most fans, Osian Roberts is best known in Wales for being Chris Coleman’s assistant during the most fruitful period in Welsh football.

Since then, his career has taken him across the globe, where he has now ended up at Italian side Como, helping them earn promotion to Serie A for the first time since 2003.

His familiarity with the Welsh setup could benefit him massively, despite much of the squad changing since he was last involved.

While managing is not his highest priority, his reputation among the FAW hierarchy could see the powers that be turn to him should they choose to replace Page.

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