READY TO ROAR AGAIN — The Welsh Dragons




Welsh football has gone from strength to strength over the past decade and this progression doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

This improvement was clearly evident when the Welsh squad, led by then manager Chris Coleman qualified for the European Championships back in 2016, their first major tournament since the World Cup in 1958. That long wait of 58 years for tournament football was almost forgotten during those three weeks at Euro ’16 because of the teams memorable achievement of reaching the semi finals, which included defeating one of the favourites Belgium on their way. That incredible journey finally came to an end at the hands of the eventual winners Portugal and even though making it all the way to the last four was viewed as a huge success, many Welsh fans couldn’t help think about what might have been. If only they could have sneaked past Portugal and made it to the final, could they have won it. Although a strong feeling of pride was created by the team that summer, the heartbreak of getting so close to glory still lingers. 

However, the squad has demonstrated over the last few years that this was not a one off and that they are hungry for more success at major tournaments. Their qualification for the European Championships this summer gives them another opportunity to excel on the World stage and who knows, this time around they may go one step further, or even win it. And why not? They have match winners amongst their ranks, which is what any tournament winner always needs. They have flair, desire, a fantastic team spirit and possibly most importantly, they now have experience of performing well at a European Championships and beating world class opposition. Their recent 2-1 win against Czech Republic in a ‘must win’ World Cup qualifying game in Cardiff also reinforces that character and personality is present. Wales have been drawn with Italy, Turkey and Switzerland in their group at this summers Euros, so tough games clearly await, but the squad will be more than confident in their ability to progress.

SAMSON caught up with Wales striker Sam Vokes, who scored in that superb victory against Belgium, to talk about his experiences at the tournament and also his view on how Wales can perform this summer. 




Sam Vokes | Wales vs Belgium, Euro 2016
Sam Vokes | Wales vs Belgium, Euro 2016

“I have a lot of amazing memories from Euro ’16, we achieved so much and the reason we got so far was due to our team morale and closeness as a squad. We’d been together as a group for a long time and also through a lot of tough times, so when we finally qualified for our first major tournament we wanted to go there and enjoy the experience and see how far that would take us. From a personal view a massive highlight for me was that goal against Belgium, coming off the bench in a huge game like that was a great experience and to get a goal in front of the Wales fans in the corner of the stadium is a feeling I’ll never forget.”

With reaching the last four at a tournament now comes expectation to perform again at a similar level and Sam is clearly looking forward to Wales showing what they can do again this time around.

“I’m really excited to see Wales in this years tournament. I think they have an excellent team and a very exciting way of playing. With the mix of experience and youth in the squad I definitely think they can go far, especially due to their recent form and also knowing now how to pick up big wins in potentially tough games will definitely help.”

With any successful team there is always effective and progressive planning going on in the background, plans that can hopefully keep success going for many years to come.  It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m currently standing in the middle of a brand new state of the art training centre in North Wales, surrounded by exquisite grass pitches and picturesque views. This is Colliers Park in the beautiful village of Gresford near Wrexham and I have just been given a guided tour of this stunning training centre by facility manager Lucy Scott. This place is just one of the reasons why Wales can continue to qualify for more major tournaments in the future because they are not sitting back and basking in their success of 2016, they are continually building for the future in the right way by developing places like this where the best young Welsh talent can be nurtured. This optimism is shared by Sam when asked if Welsh football is currently in a strong position in terms of players coming through, the structure in place and top class facilities up and down the country.

Colliers Park, Gresford


Colliers Park, Gresford

“Yes 100%, some of the results the team have been achieving in tough games recently shows the mentality not only of the team but also the nation as a whole. Since the teams achievements at Euro ’16 I believe it has left an imprint on the country which is being built on in many ways and everyone connected with Wales is looking forward to seeing the current team at another major tournament.”

Wrexham also boasts an International Football stadium and the football club itself has recently been bought by Hollywood’s Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, which will also boost interest levels in football in the surrounding area, which could also help produce the next Welsh footballing superstars of the future.

Thanks to: Sam Vokes, Lucy Scott and staff at Colliers Park Gresford. Header image: John Smith/FAW

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