By Callum Ellis
The next two months mark a significant period for Wales men’s football manager Ryan Giggs and women’s boss Jayne Ludlow.
Ludlow’s side get their Euro 2021 qualifying campaign underway with a trip to the Faroe Islands this evening.
While the men’s team return to Euro 2020 qualifying action when they host Azerbaijan at the Cardiff City Stadium on September 6.
Both sides hold dreams of making their respective tournament finals, but that’s always an uphill task in international football as history has shown.
Giggs’ men began with optimism but having slipped to back-to-back defeats against Croatia and Hungary in June, their chances of sealing a place at next summer’s tournament are slim. They can probably afford no more slip-ups.
Wales sit fourth in Group E, six points adrift of leaders Hungary who have played a game more.
Talisman Gareth Bale looks to have emerged back into Zinedine Zidane’s plans at Real Madrid and will provide Giggs with a boost.
Aaron Ramsey, who is yet to feature in the campaign after suffering a hamstring injury, recently made his debut for new club Juventus but has since pulled out of the Wales squad.
To add to the injury issues, Tottenham defender Ben Davies is yet to play for Spurs this season and is still recovering from groin surgery.
Fellow defender Connor Roberts remains hopeful that his team-mates can turn their form around and says they are yet to show their full potential in the campaign so far.
“The summer results were bitterly disappointing from everyone’s point of view,” said Roberts.
“The only way we can rectify that now is by coming together as a team and a country and getting the wins we need.
“We know we are capable of that. We haven’t played to our potential yet in this group, but there is still time to turn things around. I’m sure we can do that.
“Hopefully, I will get the chance to play again as I always look forward to representing Wales.
“There is nothing better than wearing your country’s shirt and playing against whoever the opposition may be. Obviously, I hope to get picked and we can put on a good performance for the fans.”
Women’s boss Ludlow has problems of her own with Wales’ most capped player Jess Fishlock out of the first two qualifiers after she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament whilst playing for club side, Reign FC.
Fishlock played a key role in the last qualifying campaign as Wales marginally missed out on a place at this summer’s World Cup and will be a big loss.
Ludlow was initially able to recall fellow midfielder Rachel Rowe, who seemed to be recovering from an ACL injury, but it was later decided she should continue her recovery work at Reading and Rowe was replaced by Josie Green.
Angharad James also returned to the squad after she was rested for the friendly against New Zealand in June.
There was also a surprise call-up for 15-year-old midfielder Carrie Jones, who has progressed through the Wales age-grades and becomes the youngest member of the squad.
Ludlow, a former centre-midfielder herself who enjoyed a glittering playing career, believes Jones will benefit from the experience of being in a senior team environment.
“I see her challenging for a place. If she wasn’t going to do that, she wouldn’t be selected,” said Ludlow.
“She’s competed very well in her domestic performance programme and we have high hopes for her in the future. Having said that, it’s very early days with regards to her senior career: club and country. It’s a learning process, so if she comes on board with us and she takes as much out of the environment as she can.
“Whether that’s on the pitch learning from the coaches or in the environment learning from her team-mates and enjoying the experience, it will be a positive.
“For us as a small nation, we try and pick as many as we can who are playing at the best level possible. We’ve done that again. There are some new additions and some babies in there as well, which is again something we’re always going to have to do.
“I hope, whether they are old or young, that they enjoy the experience and they look forward to what is going to be a very challenging but hopefully enjoyable campaign.”
Jones added: “I’m currently in the performance squad so I’ve trained with some players that have been in the senior squad like Nadia Lawrence and Kylie Nolan. On camps it’s such a great experience learning from the other experienced players.
“I dreamed big and worked hard to get it – now I’ve got here.”
Wales are looking to build on their World Cup qualifying campaign which saw them push the England Lionesses all the way to their final qualifier before they eventually sealed a place in France with a 3-0 win at Rodney Parade last summer.
Ludlow’s side will return to Newport when they host Northern Ireland on September 3, five days after the trip to the Faroe Islands. While Norway and Belarus are the other two teams competing in Group C.