Ashley Williams insists Wales’ managerial situation needs clearing up soon

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Phil Blanche, PA
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Ashley Williams has called the Wales managerial situation a “mess” and insists Gareth Bale and company need clarity over who will be leading them at this summer’s European Championship.

Wales boss Ryan Giggs missed the last two camps in November and March after being arrested on suspicion of assault and has had his bail extended until May 1. Giggs denies the allegations.

Robert Page has taken caretaker charge in Giggs’ absence and Wales have won four and drawn one of their six games since, with the only defeat being against the world’s number one ranked side Belgium.

Ryan Giggs File Photo
Wales manager Ryan Giggs has missed the last two international camps (Ben Birchall/PA)

Wales start their Euro 2020 campaign against Switzerland in Baku on June 12, and former Dragons captain Williams says uncertainty over the manager’s position will impact the players.

“The manager’s situation is a mess,” Williams told the PA news agency while helping to relaunch the McDonald’s Fun Football programme after the coronavirus pandemic.

“The quicker that can be cleared up from a Wales football fan perspective the better.

“I’m sure the players and fans want some clarity on what’s happening and we can get on with the enjoyable part, which is the football, and getting that buzz back around the tournament.

Wales v Czech Republic – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales caretaker manager Robert Page has won four of his six games in charge (Nick Potts/PA)

“It’s a massive distraction for everyone, but the players will have to manage it when that time comes.

“They are professionals and they’ve been dealing with distractions all their careers. They’ll have to try and park that, put it to bed and concentrate on the games.

“They’ve got to enjoy the experience because they’ve worked hard to get there.”

Football Association of Wales president Kieran O’Connor said recently that Page will be involved in their plans for Euro 2020 if Giggs is unable to take charge.

Page says he has been in regular contact with Giggs over the last few months, including the last two camps which saw Wales secure promotion to the top tier of the Nations League and recover from the Belgium defeat to beat the Czech Republic in their second 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Williams, Wales captain when Chris Coleman’s side reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, said: “Pagey’s done well stepping into difficult circumstances.

“But he’s quite new to the first team and not been around for a really long time.

“I can only imagine without a figurehead manager being physically there that it’s down to Gaz (Bale), Wayne (Hennessey), Gunts (Chris Gunter) and Joe Allen, when he’s there and fit, to keep standards high and guide because the squad is so young.

Belgium v Wales – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group E – King Power at Den Dreef Stadium
Gareth Bale has had to captain Wales through a difficult period (PA Wire via Belga)

“Gaz will drive that culture from within and I’ve been really impressed with the boys on the pitch.

“In terms for me being a captain in a major tournament we were really big on everyone taking responsibility for themselves and the team collectively.

“Looking back on 2016 we had a manager who we obviously trusted and was there all the time.

“It’s a difficult time going into a competition like that. There’s a lot of media distractions and things going on right, left and centre.

Wales v Belgium – UEFA Euro 2016 – Quarter Final – Stade Pierre Mauroy
Wales players and manager Chris Coleman celebrate after Ashley Williams had scored in the Euro 2016 quarter-final victory over Belgium in Lille (Joe Giddens/PA)

“We were fortunate we had Chris Coleman who protected us from all of that and these boys don’t have that.”

Williams won 86 caps for Wales and hung up his boots in January after playing over 670 games for Stockport, Swansea, Everton, Stoke and Bristol City.

The 36-year-old former defender, who is currently taking his coaching badges, has worked with the Wales Under-17s men’s team and is helping more children play football.

Ashley Williams
Former Wales captain Williams (Ian Cook/McDonalds handout)

“The initiative is really good,” Williams said of the McDonald’s programme, which provides free access for children between five and 11 to play football.

“Coming out of the pandemic and lockdown it’s been difficult for children, who can’t play organised football, to keep active.

“This is a great way to encourage them to do that with free sessions in a safe environment and with good coaches.”

:: Former Wales captain Ashley Williams is launching one million hours of McDonald’s Fun Football sessions for children as grassroots football returns across Wales. To find your nearest session go to: mcdonalds.co.uk/football.