Chris Coleman has tipped Gareth Bale to eclipse Ian Rush as Wales’ all-time leading scorer and inspire his “golden generation” to history.
The Real Madrid striker has scored 10 goals in his last 11 appearances for his country ahead of tonight’s Euro 2016 Group B qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Cardiff.
That included two strikes to save Wales in Andorra last month, taking Bale to a total of 14 goals for his country, halfway to Rush’s tally of 28.
The Liverpool striker’s record may not last too much longer given Bale’s fine form, and Coleman has no doubt the world’s most expensive player will end up setting a new standard. The Wales manager said: “I think Gareth can break Rushy’s record if he plays enough games for us. He is young enough and that is without taking his ability into consideration.
“Going on what he has already done, going forward he is going to play enough games to surpass that. Rushy had a superb record and he was one of the best players I played with, but he [Bale] can definitely do it – and he will because he is one of the best players in the world, who can score a goal out of nothing.”
Bale’s feats in a red shirt, combined with a belief that qualification for a first major finals since 1958 is a genuine possibility, mean Wales will play in front of their biggest home crowd for three and a half years at Cardiff City Stadium.
An attendance of 30,000 is expected, a mark last exceeded when Wales played England at the Millennium Stadium in March 2011.
The sense of expectation adds to the pressure on a side missing the key presence of Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen in a midfield decimated by injuries – David Vaughan, Andrew Crofts, Emyr Huws and Lee Evans are also absent.
But Coleman has demanded his players step up to the mark as they look to get ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, their automatic qualification rivals, who lost their opening Group B fixture against Cyprus last month. “The time is now,” he said. “These players have a great chance to live up to the tag they have been given as the ‘golden generation’.
“I thought the first Welsh team I played in was the golden generation, with Neville Southall, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush, Dean Saunders, Gary Speed and Ryan Giggs.
“These boys have also been handed that label, and they will live up to it if they do the business. Are they good enough? Yes, I think they are. I will tell the players before the game that we can create history.”
Coleman also insisted the ongoing debate over whether striker Ched Evans should play for his country again has not been a distraction.
Evans was jailed in 2012 after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room, and he is due to be released next week having served half of his five-year sentence.
“We’ve had a light discussion, but that story has come from outside of our camp,” said Coleman. “All respect to Ched and everybody involved, but that’s not on my mind, it’s not on the players’ minds and not on anyone’s minds.”
Welsh wonders: Country’s leading scorers
Ian Rush 73 (Caps) 28 (Goals)
Trevor Ford 38 23
Ivor Allchurch 68 23
Dean Saunders 75 22
Craig Bellamy 78 19
Robert Earnshaw 58 16
Cliff Jones 59 16
Mark Hughes 72 16
John Charles 38 15
Gareth Bale (left) 45 14Reuse content