by Jack Cook & Joe Mansfield
IT ISN’T every day you get the chance to meet Wales assistant manager Osian Roberts, but we did earlier this week.
We are two first year Sports Journalism students from the University of South Wales and we got to spend time with the Welsh football legend.
He gave us an insight into his time with the Wales national team. The influential coach revealed details of his career, the Welsh national team cycle and the legacy left behind by the Euro 2016 campaign, at a lecture in Welsh at the University of South Wales’ Treforest Campus.
“The presentation revolved heavily around the successes of the Euros in 2019 and you could see his sense of happiness as he looked back upon it and especially towards that special Robson-Kanu goal,” said Joe.
“It was a pleasure to meet a Welsh legend who has done and accomplished so much for Welsh football and for the Welsh language,” added Jack.
Roberts offered those in attendance a real insight into what life in the Wales camp was like, sharing some intimate insights into team dynamics, ethos and the personalities involved.
“That Belgium game shows us how football has the power to bring everyone together. One of the best performances in the history of British football,” he said.
“One of my proudest moments was when Gary Speed invited me to work with the team back in 2010. Gary was a fantastic man but tragically died after the third phase of a six-phase plan.
“The main thing for Gary was to make the players want to play for Wales and enjoy playing for Wales and ensuring they turn up. Gary even got comedians and magicians to come to get the team spirit up.
“It was also Gary’s idea to bring in the Miss Wales at the time, Courtenay Hamilton, to teach the players the National Anthem because Gary thought it was important doing so, for some reason the boys seemed to be keen to participate!
“When Chris (Coleman) got the job it was very hard for him because him and Gary were such good friends and after the 6-1 hammering by Serbia the team was at rock bottom. This made Chris want to change the system, so he changed it to the successful 3-4-3 formation.
“Me and Chris sat down with the players and talked about creating a new identity. The players told us management team what football they wanted to be associated with.”
Roberts moved on to talk about the successes of the Euro 2016 campaign.
“We started with Slovakia where we had a bit of a nightmare because the pilot landed on the wrong runway in Bordeaux, so the players had more time sitting down along with the bus journey which lead to Wayne Hennessey’s back cramping.
“Luckily the boys played well, and Danny Ward the replacement for Wayne did really well to be fair to him.”
When reflecting on the England defeat he said: “There was too much emotion in the game and that affected our performance. Now we try to teach the players to play with fire in the belly and ice in the mind.
“At full-time me and the coaching staff had a chat and decided that the players needed a day off because they had been together for four weeks. So we went in and told the boys the news.
“Then Gareth Bale knocked on the door and asked for a chat. Then he said that him and the players had decided to ignore what the coaches had said and instead they wanted to spend the time together and go for dinner or something.
“At this point I knew that something special was going to happen with this bunch of lads. That summer was something special.”
Osian Roberts then explained the tactics that they employed against specific teams such as exploiting the Russians forward-thinking fullbacks and the Belgian narrow defence.
” It was an honour to meet somebody of Osian’s stature with the respect people have for him in the footballing community,” said Joe.
“The presentation was excellent, a reminder that those with the Welsh language in their arsenal can be prominent figures in the footballing world.”
Jack said: “I found the presentation very interesting and insightful, especially looking into the tactics that Wales used at Euro 2016 and how they exploited teams’ weaknesses and used them to Wales advantage. Plus the stories that he told that happened in the camp.”
Thanks to Coleg Cymraeg for organising this event.