Chris Coleman looks to make his own mark on Welsh football

Chris Coleman Credit: PA

Chris Coleman is a manager who divides opinion. In one camp stand the antis, convinced that his record and methods fall below that expected of an international leader. In the other the realists, who measure his two-year stint against the context of player availability and the awful circumstances in which he was appointed to the post.

Whichever one you lie in one thing is for certain, he is the man who will lead Wales in their bid to qualify for Euro 2016. Having signed a two-year contract extension with the FAW he now faces the international managers’ most difficult adversary, time.

Barring any changes, last month’s friendly with Finland was the last time he will have his squad together until their next scheduled camp in March 2014. Not ideal then that the lasting memory of Welsh international football is a late equaliser in a game that Wales should really have won. That is the thought on which he must dwell.

Whether it passes quickly or not, the next four months will be time to reflect on a turbulent two years in charge of the national team.

Since taking charge in 2012 following the death of his close friend Gary Speed, Coleman faced the unenviable task of balancing the expectations of a Welsh footballing public buoyed by the apparent sea-change in Welsh football under Speed, with the reality of playing both football manager and father-figure to a young group of players rocked by the passing of their leader and friend.

The resulting dip in form and points led to Wales finding themselves in yet another failed campaign and, as the clock ticked down on his contract, pressure mounted from both outside and inside Welsh football to look to a future beyond Coleman.

But after disappointing defeats in Serbia and Macedonia, a ray of light beckoned the end of the campaign. A hard-fought win over Macedonia in Cardiff and a point against a marauding Belgium showed enough to convince both Coleman, and his employers that more is to come.

Wales now have big hitters of their own though.

In Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey Coleman has at his disposal two of world football’s finest talents – talents that any side would welcome to their ranks.

As he has pointed out time and time again though it is not the strongest players that will define Wales fortunes, but the weakest. It is therefore inevitable that the next four months will see much of the former Swansea and Fulham player’s focus fall on the development of Wales youngest talents.

Having blooded players as young as 16 year old Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson during the last campaign the foundations have already be laid but it is a challenge that Coleman believes goes far deeper with the national side now acting as part of players’ development as clubs focus more and more on foreign imports.

Whether young or old one of the greatest tests for Coleman will be simply getting his best players on the same pitch at once, something he is yet to do during his time in charge.

Two years in though and the path ahead is clear. No inheritance of another man’s project, no more deficits to make up before he has begun.

When they meet back in March it will be Chris Coleman’s squad and Chris Coleman’s campaign.