Wales boss Robert Page would not change anything about managerial career

Robert Page takes Wales to the World Cup this week admitting he would not change anything about a managerial career that once suffered FA Cup humiliation at Stourbridge.

Page will become the first manager to lead Wales at two major tournaments when he oversees their first World Cup appearance for 64 years in Qatar.

But Page, much like the competitive central defender who fought his way to the top flight at Watford, has not had always had it easy in management and still remembers December 13, 2016 as if it were yesterday.

Wales v Ukraine – FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier – Play Off – Final – Cardiff City Stadium
Robert Page takes his Wales squad to the World Cup in Qatar (David Davies/PA)

It was the day Page’s League One Northampton were beaten 1-0 by seventh-tier Stourbridge in the second round of the FA Cup.

“That was a real low point,” said Page, 48, who would be sacked the following month after a 5-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers.

“We played Port Vale on the Saturday before in League One and beat them 3-2. We could have scored six goals that day.

“My thought process was we play Stourbridge in the cup on Tuesday and I’d be crazy to change a winning team.

Stourbridge v Northampton Town – FA Cup – Second Round Replay – The War Memorial Athletic Ground
Non-league Stourbridge celebrate FA Cup victory over Robert Page’s Northampton in 2016 (David Davies/PA)

“If I change it, I set myself up for a fall. I kept the same side and we lose 1-0. In hindsight I should have freshened it up a little bit.

“You go through those experiences and learn from it. I wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s made me the person, coach and manager I am today. You’ve got to do the hard yards. You make mistakes, but you go out and learn your trade.”

Page made 550 appearances in a 17-year senior playing career before moving into coaching with Port Vale’s youth team, eventually succeeding Micky Adams as first-team manager there in September 2014.

Robert Page
Robert Page joined the Wales set-up under Ryan Giggs (Handout/PA)

Following an eight-month stay at Northampton and short spell as
Nottingham Forest assistant boss, Page joined the Wales set-up as Under-21 manager and then first-team coach under Ryan Giggs.

Page became interim manager in November 2020, leading Wales to the last 16 place at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, before succeeding Giggs on a permanent basis after World Cup qualification was secured in June.

“I went to the Euros but, if I’m honest, I’ve learned more from the Nations League playing against Holland and Belgium,” Page told the PA news agency at a McDonald’s Fun Football session in Cardiff.

“Watching how Roberto Martinez’s teams have evolved playing against a back three, and seeing the tweaks Louis van Gaal made the second time we played them.

Belgium v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group D – King Baudouin Stadium
Wales manager Robert Page says he has learned a lot from coming up against Belgium boss Roberto Martinez in the Nations League (Tim Goode/PA)

“Did I think that by taking Port Vale’s youth team I was going to be manager of Wales one day? No.

“It’s been circumstances and a bit of luck along the way. But I do think you earn your luck as well.”

Wales kick-off their World Cup campaign against the United States on November 21 before facing Iran and England.

There is an optimism that Wales can qualify for the last-16, a positive mood reflected during Page’s visit to his native Rhondda this week when he opened a new 3G pitch in Treherbert and announced his 26-man squad at Tylorstown Welfare Hall.

Wales World Cup Squad Announcement Media Day
Wales manager Robert Page was back in his native Rhondda this week opening a new 3G pitch (Nick Potts/PA)

Page said: “Going up to the valleys was really special and opening up a new 3G pitch is a game-changer for the community.

“We are going to the World Cup now and it will be nice if we (Wales and England) both have maximum points going into that final game and we’re challenging for top spot in the group.

“But I can’t worry about that now. ‘I just have to focus on getting maximum points from those first two games.”

:: Robert Page was speaking at a McDonald’s Fun Football session in Cardiff. McDonald’s Fun Football sessions, provide free football coaching for 5–11-year-olds across Wales and the UK. Find a Fun Football session local to you at: www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football