It was not the start to his competitive Wales managerial career that Gary Speed either wanted or doubtless anticipated. Yet despite seeing his side comprehensively outplayed at the Millennium Stadium against England, he was surprisingly upbeat in his post-match press conference, determined to look at the long-term, rather than the outcome of a solitary match.
He openly admitted the early blow of James Collins conceding what he deemed a ‘soft’ penalty after only six minutes delivered a sucker punch to his plans and felt it took the team almost thirty minutes to recover.
“The penalty didn’t do us any favours. We are a young, developing team, who haven’t been used to winning many games recently. To come back from that was always going to be very difficult and I think for thirty minutes we struggled to deal with it.”
He was, however delighted with the effort and application from his players in the second half where he believed he saw signs of where the team is heading in the future and was keen to impress the fact that the squad will take time to develop the way he envisages.
“In the second half, I was delighted with the way the players went about it. They kept trying to get on the ball and play. This is our first real game and hopefully we can learn and benefit from it.”
Speed admitted the start to the game was disappointing but insisted the reaction of his players was paramount.
“We are looking to the future and you learn a lot about players and the team when things like that happen. We struggled for thirty minutes, but after half time I was delighted with their efforts. We had a lot of the ball, albeit without creating too many chances, but the team kept trying to play the way we want them to.”
The manager has a clearly defined long-term strategy and knows there is a lot of work to be done in the months and years ahead.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. The way the players approached the second half will make them more confident and mentally stronger as a team when things aren’t going our way.”
Speed remains realistic but optimistic about where Wales are heading in the future.
“We’re not going to qualify in this group, even if we’d have won this game, we probably still wouldn’t have qualified, but by the time the next World Cup campaign starts in August 2012, we have a strategy in place to enable us to compete. We want to go into that group with a great chance of qualifying for the tournament- that’s the aspiration.”