By David Williams
Ryan Giggs is still hopeful Aaron Ramsey will play for Wales in the Nations League away double-header against the Republic of Ireland on Sunday and Bulgaria next Wednesday.
Giggs remains optimistic one of his key talents is available despite the fact that Ramsey is out of the friendly with England at Wembley on Thursday after Juventus imposed a bio-secure ‘bubble’ around their squad.
The Football Association of Wales posted on their Twitter account: “Aaron Ramsey is currently unable to join the squad until after the England match.”
The FAW are attempting to find out if the bubble – imposed after two non-playing members of the Turn club tested positive for Covid-19 – extends further into this week.
Juventus were meant to host Napoli on Sunday and Ramsey was named to start with Serie A confirming the game should go ahead.
But Napoli did not to travel to Turin as two of their players have tested positive for Covid-19, with Campania region authorities enforcing local lockdown rules and not allowing the team to travel.
The home side, who arrived for the match at their Allianz Stadium, are expected to be awarded a 3-0 win.
Ramsey has only started once since the start of 2019 – when he scored twice in a 2-0 home win over Hungary last November which secured qualification for Euro 2020.
Giggs – who is already without Gareth Bale for all three games – has had success with Ramsey and Bale absent, notably in the 1-0 win over Ireland in October 2018.
That Dublin clash saw Wales play a competitive fixture without both Bale and Ramsey for the first time since the latter’s debut in 2008.
Their absence this time is likely to mean more opportunities for the next generation to continue to stake their claim.
In last month’s 1-0 win over Finland, Giggs handed international debuts to Dylan Levitt, Neco Williams and Ben Cabango. Manchester United’s Levitt, 19, started the game in Helsinki with Williams of Liverpool and Swansea City defender Cabango — 19 and 20 respectively — appearing off the bench.
— the bhoy, LLB (@BR27___) October 5, 2020
The trio’s first senior appearances for their country meant Giggs has now blooded a grand total of 18 fresh faces since taking charge and his bold approach has certainly worked so far.
Wales’ squad depth has improved and qualification for the 2020 European Championships — delayed until next summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic — has long since been secured.
David Brooks of Bournemouth, who played for England at Under 20 level and was player of the Toulon tournament in 2017, will be one of a number of young gems tasked with impressing.
“The first year Brooksy played for me he was outstanding. To be out for as long as he was it takes time to come back. Now he’s playing, he’s fit, and he’s good around the place,” Giggs said.
“He’s one of those few players where when you watch him in training, he does things which make you smile.
“Brooksy did represent England, but I think all the players will be looking forward to this game. England against Wales is always a huge occasion, but it’s a shame the fans won’t be there to see it.
“Our players can’t wait for this game and we’ll have to be at our best and on our toes to stop the likes of Marcus Rashford and the other players England have.
“Marcus is a talent. Having worked with him I’ve seen what a fantastic mentality he has. He’s a player who wants to improve and be the best.
“He’s one of a number of England players we’ll have to look out for in their forward line. If he’s in the kind of form he showed with that goal at Brighton you’ve got your work cut out to try and stop him. We’ll do our best.”
Giggs will take charge of Wales at an empty Wembley on Thursday desperate for his team to get one over their old rivals.
The old Wembley is a venue where Giggs once wore the Three Lions on his chest. He represented England Schoolboys there in 1989, but was never eligible for the senior side.
“It was a different Wembley when I went there. I’m excited to take a Welsh team to Wembley and play against a very good team. Hopefully we’ll get a positive result,” Giggs said.
Giggs is four years the junior of Southgate, but both are finding their feet in international football rather than in the cut and thrust of club management.
Giggs, no stranger to off-the-field headlines himself over the years, spoke last week of his sympathy for Southgate having to deal with the misdemeanours of Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood.
The two England players broke their team’s Covid-19 rules by inviting girls into the team hotel after a game in Iceland last month. They were immediately sent home by Southgate and dropped from his next squad.
“It’s something you have to deal with as an international manager, but also something you could do without because you have enough on your plate dealing with the football side,” Giggs said.
“When there is something outside of football it’s a headache. It’s something every manager has to deal with at some point, but I’m a big fan of Gareth.
“I am a big advocate for young managers getting their chance and he’s taken it. I think he’s done a fantastic job and I’ve spoken to him over the years about different things. I respect the job he’s done as a manager.”