The appointment of Ryan Giggs as manager ushered in a new era for Welsh football.
Though his experience in the hot-seat is limited, he did take charge of Manchester United for four matches after David Moyes was dismissed and has a wealth of knowledge having played at the highest level for over two decades
That, coupled with his fresh approach and new ideas, could bring the best out of an exciting, talented and some what youthful Wales side.
Ben Davies is turning out for one of the best teams in the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur, and Declan John continues to impress for Rangers. If Danny Ward is able to get regular first team football, either at Liverpool or elsewhere, then he could keep goal for the next decade.
Injuries have marred Gareth Bale‘s career over recent seasons but when fully fit he’s still one of the best in the world. By no means should Giggs shoehorn the Real Madrid winger into his team but at the same time he shouldn’t be viewed as a luxury.
These big-name players will need to guide the talented youngsters, of which there are many, coming through the ranks. And with this in mind, we’ve taken a detailed look at four players Giggs should build Wales’ future around.
The Brentford centre-back’s rise is one usually associated with an over the top Hollywood movie. As detailed in a recent interview with the 20-year-old, he was released by Chelsea as a youngster, rejected by Watford and then overlooked by Queens Park Rangers.
After so many set-backs, Mepham found comfort playing Sunday League but eventually caught the eye of scouts at Brentford.
Fast forward four years and he was the subject of a bid worth £6million from Bournemouth during the winter window, and that’s despite having only played 14 times for the Bees.
The 6ft 3ins defender has continued to impress in the Championship and it won’t be long before he’s being courted by several Premier League clubs.
Mepham is dominant in the air, winning 5.7 aerial duels per 90 minutes, but he can also play football. He’s finding a team-mate with 81 per cent of his 44.3 passes and is not shy about bringing the ball out from the back.
He’s got future captain written all over him.
The Welsh wonderkid beat Michael Owen’s long-standing youngest Reds goalscorer record by 98 days when he smashed the ball home at the Kop end. He was just 17 years and 45 days old.
He’s yet to really dazzle for the first team with Jürgen Klopp wanting to manage his development closely but the signs are there. He’s a truly special talent.
He has already shown he has the potential to be a game changer while away on international duty. He came off the bench with the score at 0-0 against Austria last year and fired home what was the eventual winner.
It was an instinctive strike from 20 yards which arrowed into the bottom corner. A more experienced player may have tried to work the ball into the box to create a chance. But that’s what Woodburn offers the team.
Right now he’s a wildcard. In the future he could be a reliable match winner.
The 20-year-old terrorised teams playing for Liverpool’s Under-23s but Klopp was reluctant to give him an opportunity in the first team.
There was a feeling that, maybe, he was a player who didn’t have the durability to make the step up to first-team football. He wouldn’t be the first and he definitely wouldn’t have been the last.
To the surprise of many he moved to struggling Championship side Hull City during the winter window. At the KCOM Stadium he’s already proven his worth. He’s netted three times and added a further two assists in just 379 minutes for the Tigers.
He might not get the chance to impress at Anfield but after his performances in the Championship there will be a host of teams looking to sign him in the summer. The more exposure to first-team football he gets, the better for the national team.
He’s a wide forward who regularly gets into goalscoring areas. They’re priceless in the modern game and he could learn a lot from playing beside Bale in the forward line for Wales before replacing him as the poster boy down the line.
“He deserved to play tonight, he deserved to play against Everton, he deserved to play his first league game against Huddersfield. Now he has to stay calm. Maybe next game he goes to play for the youth team, I don’t know. This player is very humble. He could have a great future, but he has to continue in this way.”
When Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is waxing lyrical about a player, especailly one so young, then it’s important to sit up and take notice. And after an eye-catching performance against Bournemouth back in December, the Blues coach was full of praise for 17-year-old Ampadu.
He made his professional debut as a 15-year-old for Exeter City and is one of the most highly-rated youngsters at Stamford Bridge. By all accounts he is part of Conte’s future plans and though a fractured ankle has ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign, he’s expected to be part of the first-team squad next season.
Ampadu is the sort of player every national team manager wants in their squad. He’s versatile and can play as part of a back three, a back four as well as in midfield.
He has a maturity on the ball which is well beyond his years. He’s calm and composed and knows how to pick a pass even when under pressure. He has ever attribute needed to star for years to come.
At the base of the Wales midfield, Ampadu could be the man playing balls into the feet of Woodburn, Ramsey and Bale for years to come. It is an enticing prospect.