Ricketts determined to raise game for England
Thursday 10 February 2011
Sam Ricketts is confident Wales can match England next month despite a poor start to the Gary Speed era. Speed's first match as Wales manager ended in a limp 3-0 defeat as his side capitulated in the second half of their Carling Nations Cup opener against the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday night.
Wales now have six weeks to regroup before their apparently doomed Euro 2012 qualifying campaign resumes with a daunting but hugely-anticipated visit from their closest neighbours.
Speed will certainly hope the likes of Craig Bellamy, Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Gabbidon will be fit to feature at the Millennium Stadium. Ricketts, the second-most capped player in the Welsh side at Dublin's Aviva Stadium with 42 appearances, said: "It was a disappointing result because we wanted to get off to a good start but the gaffer said this was the starting point for him. There were some good aspects from the game in that we worked in the first half on how we wanted to play.
"We have to build from this, take the positives and build in every game. The England game will be very, very different but everyone is desperate to play in it. There will be a lot of lads who play in the Premier League now, so it's maybe not as big a step up as it used to be in the past – or even when we last played them. So there is no reason why we should not get a result in that game.
"We've got some world-class players to come back into the side because any team would miss the likes of Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey."
Speed was appointed in December in succession to the long-serving John Toshack, who was stood down after defeat in the opening Euro 2012 qualifier. Wales went on to lose twice more under the caretaker charge of Brian Flynn and their chances of reaching the finals in Poland and Ukraine next year look hopeless.
The team were defensively poor as Ireland upped the tempo after the break last night and fell apart after Darron Gibson opened the scoring on the hour with a spectacular strike. The outstanding Damien Duff added a second soon after and Keith Fahey rounded off a miserable night for the Welsh with an excellent late free-kick. None of those tribulations, however, will prevent the England game from being a full-blooded encounter and Ricketts, as a Premier League regular with Bolton, is convinced Wales have the quality to trouble their rivals.
The 29-year-old said: "I'm looking forward to marking Wayne Rooney again if that's how it pans out and, as I've said, we've got a lot of lads playing in the Premier League so there's no reason to worry. Yes it's a massive game, but it is in Cardiff and speaking for myself I can't wait. It's a new regime, new ideas and we are looking to progress. He's [Speed] got a backroom staff with excellent credentials so it's a chance to learn and improve both as an individual and as a side as well."
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