Wales manager leaves Team GB decision to players

 

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The Independent Football

Manager Gary Speed rejected suggestions that he or the Football Association of Wales could attempt to "intimidate" Gareth Bale and captain Aaron Ramsey into making themselves unavailable for Team GB at next year's Olympics - but also curiously stated that his opinion on the issue "doesn't matter".

The build-up to tomorrow's friendly against Norway at Cardiff City Stadium has been dominated by the appearance of the duo in promotional images for a Team GB supporters' kit.

Arsenal midfielder Ramsey and Tottenham winger Bale have stated their desire to be involved in Stuart Pearce's squad for the London Games.

But the FAW do not want the players to play a part as they fear a British team featuring Welsh players would have a detrimental effect on Wales' standing as an individual association within FIFA, although the world governing body have assured them that would not be the case.

Speed addressed his squad on the matter earlier this week, but bristled at suggestions that the FAW would look to put pressure on their star players, and made it clear the final decision will rest with the players.

"It's their decision, I won't be intimidating anyone," Speed said.

"There is a long time to go between now and then and anything can happen. I have told the players to have a think about it before deciding. I haven't asked them to reconsider as there is nothing to reconsider, nothing has been decided.

"They make their own decision, it is not for me to do or tell them what to do."

But the former captain did say he had an empathy with Bale and Ramsey's desire to seize the rare chance to feature in a home Olympics, although he continually emphasised that he was directly behind the stance of his employers.

"The players' view is not at odds with the FAW. If you asked if they want Wales to continue as an individual nation they would say yes, so in that sense they are not at odds," he said.

"It's only natural that they want to play as it is a fantastic tournament and occasion.

"My position and view on it means nothing, it doesn't matter. The FAW have made a stance and I say it is the right one for the future of the FAW, so my opinion doesn't matter.

"We want the FAW to be here in 120 years' time and that is paramount. That is the only stance we can take."

Captain Ramsey, meanwhile, said he had no regrets about appearing in the promotional images and hopes that he and Bale will get a good reception from the home fans when Wales go in search of a fourth win in five games.

The Arsenal midfielder said: "I don't regret what I was doing. Gareth and I are contracted to Adidas and it was a shoot for them.

"I spoke to Gareth about what happened, but it wasn't just that top that we had pictures taken in that day. There were a few others. We were promoting the shirts for them.

"My view hasn't changed. If it doesn't affect Wales' identity then I still want to play," he added.

"I hope the fans are supportive. Whenever I put on a Welsh shirt I give 100 per cent. Gareth and Joe (Allen) are no different to me.

"We want to go out there and win. I'm a proud Welshman who gives his best every time so hopefully the fans will get behind us and we can get another good performance."

Speed, who said he expects to name a largely unchanged side against Egil Olsen's men, acknowledged that he was disappointed with the focus the media had placed on the issue of Bale and Ramsey's Olympic availability, insisting the matter has not been spoken of outside his brief discussion with the entire squad on Tuesday night.

He said: "It (the media focus) disappoints me, we have a massive game tomorrow and we are talking about something beyond my control. It has been blown out of all proportion.

"For those boys it's not as important as you make it out to be. We spoke about it as a team for two minutes but not individually.

"They have had pictures taken with their sponsors so it's not as big as it's made out to be, although I understand why it has attracted attention as they are two fantastic players."

PA

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