by Tom Pritchard & Callum Ellis
BBC FOOTBALL correspondent Rob Phillips has praised Wales manager Jayne Ludlow for transforming women’s football.
Ludlow, who was named BBC Sport Wales Coach of the Year at the 2018 Wales Sport Awards, is the keynote speaker at tomorrow’s Women and Sport Conference.
Phillips said: “What she did was not only transform the Wales football team to push the second best team in the world (England) so close for qualification, but actually, she’s brought an awareness and a recognition of women’s football in Wales.
“So when you talk about Wales’ star footballers, you must now include Jess Fishlock, Natasha Harding, Helen Ward, Kayleigh Green.”
Ludlow, a former Arsenal Ladies midfielder, took her Wales side agonisingly close to qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, losing out to England in the final group game at Rodney Parade in Newport.
Wales won five of their eight group games, finishing five points behind Phil Neville’s England, who are currently ranked fourth in the world.
Ludlow’s Wales currently find themselves 29th in the FIFA World Rankings, joint with Thailand.
Phillips admitted that he has not always been the most knowledgeable about the national team:
“I’m being brutally honest, a few years ago I wouldn’t have known any of the Welsh Women’s footballers, other than maybe Jess Fishlock, Helen Ward and one or two others. Now I can almost name the team that played against England, that says something for what Jayne Ludlow has achieved, and what she hopes to build on now.”
“She’s determined to build on it when the Euro 2021 Qualifiers start next year.”
Phillips, who also commentates for the BBC, concluded: “We’ve seen even over the coverage of the Ballon D’Or incident that women’s football still has to make progress, but every day they’re winning over more and I think it’s a cause we should all be behind.
“Why shouldn’t they get the same coverage as men? Why not?”
The Women and Sport Conference is being held at the USW Sport Park in Treforest.