The best ever Welsh XI? (And subs) ….

I know what you’re all thinking … Seriously?
Why on Earth is this even an article?
Well with me being a Welshman and the national football team recently achieving our highest ever FIFA ranking of 9th (and thus overtaking England in the rankings, for the first time ever!), I thought it was the right time to look into it, so, here goes nothing …

Goalkeeper
Neville Southall
The Everton legend won a record 92 caps for Wales between 1982 and 1998, he was well known for his ability to handle one-on-one situations well, quickly coming off his line to intimidate the onrushing forward and relying on his instinctive reactions to save the ball.
I even once got the pleasure of meeting him at Wrexham Comic Con two years ago, and have to say that “Big Nev” was a great individual to talk to!

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"Big Nev" is Wales' most capped player!

Right Back
Chris Gunter
Perhaps surprising, but in my opinion, Gunter has been a very reliable choice at right back since his introduction into the national team in 2007, earning 60 caps to date, making him the player to have most caps for his country, in the current squad.
The Reading FC man has played a key part of Wales’ Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, which looks to be a very promising one.

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The Dark Horse - Chris Gunter has been a reliable right back.

Center Back
Ashley Williams
Captain. Solid at the back. Defensive wall.
Just a few terms used to describe the current Wales and Swansea City skipper, he’s the focal point of the Dragons defence and has been a huge part of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
He has so far made 52 caps for Wales, scoring once.

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Captain Fantastic - Ashley Williams has been a great captain for the Wales team in recent times.

Center Back
Kevin Ratcliffe
Spent the majority of his career (between 1980-1992) at Everton and his impressive performances there, saw him go on to make 59 appearances for Wales, often deputising as captain.
Interesting fact – Ratcliffe’s last match for Wales in 1993 turned out to be Ryan Giggs’ first.

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Kevin Ratcliffe (Red) battles Jurgen Klinsmann of Germany for the ball!

Left Back
Joey Jones
A relatively unknown name to many, but if you asked your dad (and he’s Welsh) there’s a chance he may know who he is.
A solid left back, Joey had 3 spells at Wrexham, and also played for Liverpool and Chelsea and went on to make his Wales debut in November 1975 against Austria.
He went on to win 72 caps, thus becoming one of Wales’ most capped players ever.

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The reliable one - Joey Jones is a Welsh footballing legend!

Right Midfielder
Gareth Bale
(I realise he’s actually a Left Midfielder, but I had to choose Giggs in that position!) One of the biggest stars in world football today and currently the world’s most expensive player since his £80 million move from Tottenham to Real Madrid in 2013, he’s often regarded as the “best Welsh player of all time”.
Time will tell if that last statement is real, but he’s certainly a phenomenal footballer, who with the ball at his feet he can do almost anything.
He has scored 5 goals in Wales’ Euro campaign so far and will be looking to score a few more if Wales are to qualify for the competition, which takes part in France next year.

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The main man - Gareth Bale in action!

Center Midfielder
Gary Speed
Second most capped Wales player of all time, with 85 caps, Speed also made 535 Premier League appearances during his career.
He was a commanding Central Midfielder, who was never afraid to put a tackle in and was regularly a captain, for club and country. He was said by his teammates to have been an ‘inspirational figure’ who led by example and demanded the best from those around him
He briefly managed the national team between 2010-2011, guiding the team to (at the time) their highest ever FIFA ranking of 43rd.
Tragically, Speed was found dead on 27 November 2011, aged 42, but many fans and players alike still remember him fondly.

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The late Gary Speed was an incredible player as well as a great manager for the national team!

Left Midfielder
Ryan Giggs
The most decorated player in British football history, he won pretty much every title possible with Manchester United, making 672 appearances for the club.
For his country, he made 64 caps, scoring 12 goals, and captaining the side many times.
Although many would argue that he wasn’t as effective for Wales as he was for United, he is still widely regarded as a legend nationwide.

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Arguably the greatest Welsh player of all time - Ryan Giggs!

Striker
Ian Rush
Wales’ all time top goalscorer with 28 goals in 73 games for his country, he was a deadly striker, who was just as prolific at club level too, mainly playing for Liverpool.
He made his Wales debut before he had even been handed his first start for Liverpool, playing his first match on 21 May 1980 against Scotland. He played his last international match on 24 January 1996 In a friendly match against Italy.

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Prolific - Ian Rush is Wales' all time top goalscorer!

Striker
John Charles
Another prolific striker, especially when he was playing for Leeds United between 1948 and 1957 in which he made 297 appearances, scoring 157 times.
He first played for the Wales national football team shortly after his 18th birthday
And went on to play at the 1958 World Cup tournament in Sweden – the only time the nation has qualified for the competition.
Charles was injured in the match against Hungary and missed out on the rest of the tournament. Wales manager at the time, Jimmy Murphy, said that “with John Charles in the side we might have won the tournament”.
In total for Wales, Charles made 38 appearances and scored 15 goals.

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Black and White, but pure gold! John Charles was the best Welsh footballer of his generation!

Striker
Mark Hughes
A well known out and out goalscorer in the English First Division, ” Sparky” scored just 17 minutes into his Welsh debut, netting the winning goal against England on 2 May 1984. 
He went on to play 72 times for his country, scoring 16 times.
He also managed the national side between 1999 and 2004, being, on the whole, unsuccessful, but did also only just fail to qualify for Euro 2004, when his side ended up second in their group, beating Italy 2–1 in Cardiff in the process, but went on to lose to Russia in the playoffs.

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Mark "Sparky" Hughes was a phenomenal player!

Manager
Chris Coleman
Arguably, he has taken over with the squad that Gary Speed left behind for him, but nevertheless, he has done an incredible job, taking The Dragons to 9th place in the FIFA rankings, and putting them on the verge of reaching their first major tournament since 1958.
They’ve also enjoyed a 9 game unbeaten run in the qualifying as of last night’s 1-0 win against Cyprus in Nicosia, the longest of any Welsh team in history. He’s also been bold and brave enough to hand some youngsters their international debuts in recent games, such as Johnny Williams, Declan John and George Williams.
Coleman deserves high praises for what he has already achieved with his squad and I’m sure that we can expect even bigger things from him in the near future.

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On to greater thinga - Chris Coleman has led the Welsh nation to the brink of a major tournament!

Substitutes:

Goalkeeper
Paul Jones
Many would argue that he was not the best of Goalkeepers, but he was a reliable one for Wales, playing consistently for almost a decade.
Jones made his international debut against Scotland on 27 May 1997, going on to make 50 appearances in total.
He won his 50th Welsh cap against Slovakia on the 7th of October 2006 and marked the occasion with the number “50” shaved into his hair.

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Reliable keeper - Paul Jones played consistently for Wales!

Center Back
Danny Gabbidon
Another reliable player for the national team, Gabbidon was a strong, commanding Center Back, he played at the highest level of English football, for West Ham United, Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace.
He made his international debut in a 0–0 home draw against the Czech Republic on the 27th of March, 2002.
He retired from international duty in 2014, making 49 appearances for his country.

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Gabbidon was a hard working, committed individual!

Center Back
James Collins
Another experienced Premier League Player, Collins is still going strong, and has played a big role in Wales’ 2016 qualifying campaign, playing alongside Ashley Williams at the back.
He made his debut for the senior Wales side against Norway in 2004 and scored his first goal for Wales in a 3–1 defeat to Cyprus on 13 October 2007.
He has so far played 45 games for Wales, scoring on 3 occasions.

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James Collins is still playing for Wales and will be hoping to help them qualify!

Right Midfielder
Billy Meredith
Playing in the 19th century, Meredith was considered one of the early superstars of football due to his performances, notably for Manchester City (two spells) and Manchester United.
He won his first cap for Wales in a 2–2 draw with Ireland on 16 March 1895 in Belfast. Meredith famously “wept unashamedly” as he helped Wales to beat England 2–1 at Highbury to claim the 1920 British Home Championship, marking the last of his 48 caps for his country.
At 45 years and 229 days he remains the oldest player to ever win a Wales cap.

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Wing wizard Meredith is a true legend of the game!

Left Midfielder
Ivor Allchurch
He was known as ‘The Golden Boy’ of Welsh football.
Allchurch had a glistening career, playing for Swansea, Newcastle United and Cardiff City, where he played 691 games and scored 249 goals.
For Wales, his record of 68 caps for Wales stood until 1986, when it was exceeded by Joey Jones. He also held the record number of goals scored for Wales, 23, which was eventually broken by Ian Rush.
He became widely recognised after his performances for Wales during the 1958 World Cup.
In 2005, a life-sized statue of Allchurch was unveiled outside Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium.

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Ivor Allchurch - The only Welsh player who has a statue to commemorate him!

Striker
Craig Bellamy
Ranked 3rd in the all time appearances list for Wales, Bellamy made his senior debut for Wales in 1998 and over the next fifteen years gained 78 caps for his country, scoring 19 goals. He was the Wales captain from 2007 to 2011, when he stepped down from the role due to injuries.
His most famous Wales goal came in a 2-1 win over Italy, on 16 October 2002, when he rounded Gianluigi Buffon to score the winner.
Bellamy retired from international football after Wales ended their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign.

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Bellamy was a highly experienced individual who always gave 110% for his country!

Striker
John Toshack
Another naturally gifted Welsh goalscorer, Toshack played for Wales at schoolboy, under-23 and full international level earning 40 senior caps and scoring 13 goals, including a hat trick against Scotland in the 1979 British Home Championship.
He was another former player to manage the national side, on two occasions, once in 1994, resigning after just 41 days in charge and then took over again between 2004 and 2010.

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Toshack - your dad might say he's one of the best Welsh players ever!

Striker
Dean Saunders
Saunders had a successful international career for Wales as he was capped 75 times between 1986 and 2001, and scored 22 times – making him one of the nation’s highest scoring and most capped players of all time.
He won the last of his 75 caps as a substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, on 28 March 2001, at 36 years old.

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Saunders had a fairly impressive International career!

So with Wales, on the verge of qualifying for Euro 2016, maybe we will see new members of the national side make a name for themselves in the near future?
Time will tell …

Are you a Wales fan or have just been impressed with the way they’ve performed in the group stage games?
Or do you agree/disagree with the chosen squad?
Let AFEfootballnews know in the comments below!

Posted by Arron Fôn Evans.

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