PICTURE belongs to Sky Sports News.
CHRIS MEPHAM has hailed the “very positive” attitude of Wales manager Ryan Giggs following their qualification to UEFA EURO 2020.
In the space of just three years, Mepham’s footballing career has sky-rocketed into Premier League territory. Having made his debut for Championship side Brentford in January 2017, he eventually went on to make just shy of 50 appearances for the club.
Some highly impressive performances in the heart of their defence earnt him a £12m move to the Vitality Stadium with top-flight side Bournemouth (above), where, under the guidance of highly-rated manager Eddie Howe, his game has improved further and further.
Many will argue though, that it is on the international front that Mepham, who turned 22 two weeks ago, has impressed the most. Since his first cap during the China Cup against the hosts in 2018, the 6ft 3’ defender has gone one to make nine more international appearances – the most important of which came on Tuesday night.
Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s double against Hungary in Cardiff was enough to see Wales through to EURO 2020 with a 2-0 win. Mepham played 90 minutes alongside defensive partner Tom Lockyer and kept the likes of Dominik Szoboszlai and Roland Sallai quiet.
Following the match and the wild celebrations that undoubtedly came in the days after the win, Mepham was quick to heap praise onto manager Ryan Gigges when speaking to AFEFootballNews on Thursday.
He said: “He’s very positive and very willing to give young players a chance.”
Commenting on having qualified for EURO 2020, he added: “It’s an amazing feeling and it’s something that I could only have dreamed of doing when I was a kid.
“With not having played much for Bournemouth recently, to still be given the nod to go and play in two of the biggest matches Wales have had over the last couple of years, was a massive thing for me.
“And of course to get two clean sheets in those matches was incredible too.”
Mepham’s rise to making regular appearances on the international scene had been predicted in the past. Speaking to Sky Sports in 2018, Brentford’s then-manager Dean Smith (now at Aston Villa), said: “He deserves everything that’s coming his way at the moment because of his attitude and the way he is every day on the training ground.
“He’s pushed himself to them heights and he has earned that recognition and he’s earned his place in our team at the moment and he’s earned his place in the Welsh team.
“He’s a shining light to younger players in the club of how you can go and progress and become an international.”
It seems Mepham is now very much part of Ryan Giggs’ plans for the future and should be one of the first names on the squad sheet when Wales board the plane to EURO 2020. His performances at the back have been a breath of fresh air and it looks as though he has the consistency to help Wales become a solid team defensively.
The UEFA EURO 2020 competition itself will feature 24 teams and will take place across 12 European countries, including Russia and Denmark. The draw to determine which teams go into which groups will take place in Bucharest, Romania, on November 30.