New-look Wales can “make their own history” declares Aaron Ramsey, as they embark on their mission to qualify for Euro 2024 with a fresh outlook.
Wales kick off a new qualifying campaign in Croatia on Saturday, followed by a home match against Latvia three days later, heralding a new era for the team.
The retirements of key players such as Gareth Bale, Joe Allen, Chris Gunter, and Jonny Williams since last year’s World Cup signify the beginning of a transitional phase.
Ramsey, newly appointed captain, said: “It’s very exciting to be part of this team.”
“There’s so much opportunity for us. Although we are a young squad, there’s a lot of young players on a high number of caps already.
“The majority of the team has remained intact. We are missing players but there’s so much excitement with some of the players that are playing at the highest level at the moment and can definitely make their own history with this team.”
The Wales men’s national team experienced its most prosperous era with former Real Madrid legend Gareth Bale, 33, at the helm.
However, the Welsh talisman announced his retirement from football altogether in January. Another crucial player, midfielder Joe Allen, was also instrumental in the team’s success, having helped them reach back-to-back European Championships and the 2022 World Cup.
Nevertheless, he decided to step down from international duty last month.
Defender Chris Gunter, who boasts an impressive 109 caps, and attacking midfielder Jonny Williams likewise followed suit earlier this month.
“They have been amazing for Wales over the years and have contributed so much to the success that we have had” said Ramsey.
“We will be forever grateful for what they brought to this team, this nation. But things are always changing and there are opportunities now for other players.”
Following Wales’ disappointing performance in the World Cup, where they were knocked out in the group stage, Aaron Ramsey was given time off by his club to come to terms with the situation.
However, the 32-year-old midfielder is now eager to get back on the pitch and help Wales secure a third consecutive European Championship appearance, saying he is ready to go again.
He said: “It was a very difficult time after the World Cup.
“We did so well to finally get to the finals and to experience that, but it was a very strange World Cup.
“I think a lot of things naturally went through your mind afterwards, but after a bit of time to digest it all, you’re ready to go again.
“I’ve come back at club level, we’ve been doing really well, I’ve been enjoying my football and I’m playing well. There’s a lot to look forward to.”
With Gareth Bale’s retirement, manager Robert Page saw Aaron Ramsey as the logical successor for the captaincy of the Wales national team.
Ramsey had previously held the position, having been appointed by Gary Speed in 2011 before being replaced by Ashley Williams the following year.
As the most-capped outfield player in Page’s current squad, Ramsey feels more equipped to lead his country than he did 12 years ago when he was first given the responsibility. According to Page, it was a “natural progression” to make Ramsey the new captain.
Ramsey commented; “It’s been a long time since I last had it, a lot has changed in that period of time.
“I feel like I’m ready for it now – I’ve learned a lot over the years.
“I was 20 years old when I last had it. It was a very unusual experience at the time, one that I’ll be forever grateful for from Gary, but now I feel like I’m ready for this.
“It’s a really proud moment for me and my family and hopefully it can be a very successful time for us.”