Wales boss Rob Page defends Aaron Ramsey selection amid fitness issues

By Sports Desk March 13, 2024

Wales boss Rob Page insists Aaron Ramsey’s surprise selection for Euro 2024 play-off duty is not a risk.

Skipper Ramsey has not started a match for six months after suffering a knee injury.

The 84-times capped midfielder returned for Cardiff in February but made only two substitute appearances – playing a combined total of 72 minutes – before picking up a calf complaint.

Cardiff manager Erol Blut initially ruled Ramsey out of the play-offs, but the 33-year-old could now feature for his country.

“It’s not been ideal for Aaron, he’s had a few setbacks,” Page said after naming Ramsey in a 28-man squad for the play-off semi-final with Finland in Cardiff on March 21 and a potential home final against Estonia or Poland five days later.

“Sometimes injuries change from the first instance. They can change overnight, there can be a difference in diagnosis.

“If there’s a chance of having him involved in the squad I’m going to take it and name him.

“The last two camps we’ve had him in and around the squad, even though he’s not been able to play a part. To have someone of his stature in and around the players is beneficial for us.

“Irrespective of what happens at the weekend (when Cardiff play Swansea in the South Wales derby), he’s on the grass this week.

“His rehab back to full fitness has gone to plan and we’ll have eyes on him every day.

“If he has the potential to give us some minutes off the bench we will use him. He still has a lot to offer.”

Former captain Gareth Bale went into the 2022 World Cup with fitness issues hanging over him and struggled to make the impact in Qatar that had been expected of him.

But Page insists Ramsey’s inclusion is not a gamble as Wales attempt to qualify for a third successive European Championship and a fourth major tournament in five.

“We’ll get him on camp and assess him,” Page said.

“We’ve already had conversations with him. Our medical team are based in Hensol where Cardiff train, that’s the luxury we’ve had of being in the same vicinity.”

On the risk of rushing Ramsey back to playing, Page added: “Times have changed. We’re not where we were two or three years ago.

“You look at the quality of players we’ve got. The strength in depth we’ve got.

“When you now look at the other names in that squad, there’s a good selection headache for me to have.

“All the forwards we’ve picked are playing well and scoring goals, so it’s a good problem to have.”

Adam Davies, Charlie Savage, Dylan Levitt, Josh Low, Rabbi Matondo, Rubin Colwill and Wes Burns have been recalled to an enlarged squad.

Low replaces Tom Lockyer, who played in Wales’ last Euro 2024 qualifier against Turkey in November.

Luton defender Lockyer suffered a cardiac arrest in a Premier League game at Bournemouth in December.

Reading midfielder Savage and in-form Cardiff forward Colwill join Wycombe defender Low in being promoted from Matty Jones’ under-21 squad.

Leeds pair Daniel James and Ethan Ampadu are to win their 50th caps over the course of the play-offs.

Page said: “They’re great lads for what they’ve given to us and the country.

“Ethan’s still a young lad at 23 and they deserve all of the plaudits they’re going to get.”

Related items

  • Olympiacos 1-0 Fiorentina (aet): El Kaabi's extra-time winner snatches dramatic Europa Conference League glory Olympiacos 1-0 Fiorentina (aet): El Kaabi's extra-time winner snatches dramatic Europa Conference League glory

    Ayoub El Kaabi was the hero as Olympiacos won their first major European honour in history as they snatched a dramatic 1-0 extra-time victory over Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final.

    After nothing could separate the sides inside 90 minutes, talisman El Kaabi scored a 116th-minute winner at the AEK Arena as they became the first Greek side to win a major European competition.

    Once again, Fiorentina fell at the final hurdle of this competition, with La Viola also losing out to West Ham in the Prague showpiece last season.

    However, the success belonged to Olympiacos and head coach Jose Luis Mendilibar, who secured continental glory in successive seasons following his Europa League triumph with Sevilla this time last year.

    Daniel Podence tested Pietro Terracciano early on before Fiorentina thought they had opened the scoring just nine minutes into the final.

    Cristiano Biraghi's cross crept into Konstantinos Tzolakis' bottom-right corner, but Nikola Milenkovic was ruled offside for his position in front of the Olympiacos goalkeeper.

    Despite their celebrations being cut short, Fiorentina continued with the greater attacking impetus throughout the first half.

    Yet La Viola's dominance paid little dividends as Giacomo Bonaventura – their scorer in last season’s final defeat to West Ham – wasted the best chance, shooting straight at Tzolakis from close range after 21 minutes.

    Opportunities remained elusive after the break but Fiorentina again went close in the 69th minute as Dodo found Christian Kouame, whose scuffed effort was pushed away by Tzolakis.

    Olympiacos almost struck 11 minutes later when Francisco Ortega's free-kick was met by Iborra, but the 36-year-old's header missed the inside Terracciano's right-hand post as the final headed for extra-time.

    Mendilibar had earlier introduced former Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic, who almost came back to haunt his old club in the 96th minute, when cutting inside before fizzing a strike that Terracciano tipped away.

    A penalty shoot-out appeared likely when Tzolakis denied Jonathan Ikone, until El Kaabi ghosted in to nod home Santiago Hezze's cross with just four minutes remaining and send Olympiacos' fans into ecstasy after a lengthy VAR check for offside in Athens.

  • Busby pleased with foundation laid after first session ahead of Brazil friendlies Busby pleased with foundation laid after first session ahead of Brazil friendlies

    Senior Reggae Girlz Head coach Hubert Busby expressed pleasure with the foundation laid at the team’s first in-person engagement since his reappointment, and he believes it sets a good tone for the remainder of the camp in Brazil.

    Busby and his squad –with the exception of Jody Brown, who was scheduled to arrive late –went through what he said was a lively two-hour session to hit the ground running ahead of the two-match friendly series against The Female Canaries on June 1 and June 4.

    While the games will aide Brazil’s preparations for the upcoming Paris Olympic Games, for Busby and his team, the outing is more about rekindling their competitive spirit, as it represents the first assignment together for the core group of players after almost nine months apart.

    Those Girlz that represented at last year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup withdrew their services after the Olympic qualifiers against Canada in September, citing nonpayment and mistreatment from Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) among their reasons.

    Now reunited, Busby pointed out that the first session was to get the Girlz reacquainted with the structures the team plans to implement going forward.

    Reggae Girlz celebrate their historic progression to the knockout rounds at the 2023 World Cup after a 0-0 stalemate with Brazil.

    “Obviously a great first day, the players…some of them came in a little bit late, but they came with a great attitude. We got some passing patterns in, and also got into a little small-sided game just to open up the legs and we also did a little bit of implementation of some of the tactics in terms of how we want to play and build. So overall, spirits are very high, the attitude was good, energy is very good, and everybody was fantastic,” Busby said shortly after Wednesday’s session at Nautico Football Club.

    “Everyone is in good conditions coming off part of a little bit of the season. It was a long travel, there's no way of getting around it, but the players are good. So, you know, all we do need to do now is just really kind of get them recovered, review some film, and to implement that plan a little bit more and get ready for our training tomorrow (Thursday),” he added.

    Having last guided the team in 2021, Busby pointed to the significance of this first camp to reengage players, individually and collectively with a broader view of what his coaching staff is hoping to achieve, as well as to reinforce roles and responsibilities when it comes to team selection.

    “Obviously, the core of this particular group of players have been away for a long time, so the excitement level is good to come in and see their fellow sisters. It's good for them to pull on the jersey and take that pride in playing for their national team and that showed today (Wednesday) and I'm really proud of the way they came out and showed that attitude,” the former national goalkeeper shared.

    “But really for us now, it's for them to kind of focus on what needs to happen. That was the base on some of those one-on-one conversations, as well as to get their expectations of us and also to share our expectations of them…around the roles and responsibilities within our system and then for us to go out and continue to implement that in the daily training sessions,” Busby noted.

    Reggae Girlz vs Brazil at the 2023 World Cup in Australia.

    While the expectation is for his 42nd-ranked Girlz to prove formidable against the number 10-ranked Brazilians, Busby pointed out that getting back to and, by extension, surpassing the team’s competitive level at the World Cup will be a process.

    Jamaica and Brazil met twice at the 2019 and 2023 World Cups. The South Americans won the first encounter in France 3-0, while the Girlz fought gallantly for a goalless stalemate in Australia last year, and made an historic appearance in the knockout stages of the global showpiece.  

    “I think it's been a process, right. I think the idea now we're talking about is how we look to evolve as a team, as a group, and as a programme. Also to best sort of put into place the characteristics of what a Jamaican women's football player should possess on the world stage,” the tactician reasoned.

    “There is also our playing principles in terms of what we want to do, so I think that's the key heading into these next two games. But it's a process and I think after speaking to the players and obviously with the staff, we're committed to that process,” Busby ended.

  • Southgate lauds Mainoo talent as England group together for Euro 2024 Southgate lauds Mainoo talent as England group together for Euro 2024

    England manager Gareth Southgate has no doubt over the talent of Kobbie Mainoo after watching the Manchester United youngster flourish this campaign.

    Mainoo was on target in Saturday's FA Cup final victory over rivals Manchester City as Man Utd triumphed 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.

    Having caressed past Stefan Ortega in the first half, 19-year-old Mainoo became the first English teenager to score in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981.

    That match-winning finish capped a fine breakthrough campaign for Mainoo, who has been rewarded with a place in England's preliminary squad for Euro 2024.

    As the Three Lions joined together for their pre-tournament training camp, Southgate reserved special praise for the exciting England midfielder.

    "The curious thing about young talent is how will they cope under pressure," Southgate said in an interview with England's media channels. 

    "You can see the technical ability but it's about how tactically aware they are, how mature, ability to cope with big matches.

    "When you're playing for Manchester United, you're always under the spotlight. He's shown that with them, with us in March.

    "We've never been afraid to put young players in. If players are good enough we're not so concerned about their age. 

    "Kobbie has had an amazing season and it was fabulous for him to finish the season with a goal and a trophy."

    Decisions remain for Southgate, though, as the England boss prepares to cut his 33-man squad to just 26 players ahead of the upcoming tournament in Germany.

    He added: "It will be extremely difficult. It was very difficult to leave players out of this 33 and, of course, there are some younger players coming in with slightly different expectations to this camp.

    "But there are going to be some difficult calls to make. We're hoping that not too many of these calls are decided by injury and we've got the strongest possible squad to pick from."

    England will play warm-up friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland next week, before starting their group-stage campaign in a June 16 meeting with Serbia.

    Denmark and Slovenia will follow for England, who will hope to go one better than their runners-up finish to Italy in the last European Championship three years ago.

    "There are so many aspects to being with this group of people that I love," Southgate continued, looking ahead to the upcoming international tournament.

    "Ultimately we're trying to form a team and a group that have got to push each other and be there for each other. There's a team dynamic that's crucial to winning that we have to find.

    "People will have slightly different roles that they will with their clubs. At their club, all of these guys are pretty much the first choice on the team sheet, so some have different roles in the next few weeks.

    "The challenge of winning the games and the excitement of seeing our fans out there in some of the biggest occasions in world football is why you're in the game really. That's what we're looking forward to."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.