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WALES WATCH: STARS IN FORM AHEAD OF RYAN GIGGS’ FIRST COMPETITIVE GAMES

Normally we focus on three Wales stars in the spotlight in our regular Wales Watch feature. But, with the Nations League looming and Ryan Giggs’ first competitive games, Tim Edwards, aka Fearless in Devotion gave us a run down on pretty much the whole squad. You lucky people!

Wayne Hennessey

Ol’ Safe Hands was in imperious form despite Crystal Palace succumbing 0-2 to Mark Hughes’ Southampton.

The evergreen stopper recorded his first ever penalty save for the Eagles, denying Charlie Austin.

It was one of a string of top class stops as the big man continued to be overworked in a dreadful start for Palace — one win in their first four games.

A guaranteed starter in Cardiff on Thursday.

Danny Ward

An unused sub as Leicester City lost 1-2 to his former employers and early pacesetters Liverpool.

He is going to have to seriously bide his time or get lucky. Last week Kasper Schmeichel signed a new long-term deal which will keep him with the Foxes until 2023.

Adam Davies

The Barnsley skipper led his team to third in League One with a 2-1 win over Gillingham.

The Tykes were two up when Davies produced a fingertip save to deny Tom Eaves.

Davies and his team are one of five unbeaten clubs after six games played.

Chris Gunter

Mr Cantkeepagoodmandown made his first Championship start after recovering from injury but he could not prevent struggling Reading from suffering a 1-2 home reversal to Sheffield Wednesday.

Paul Clement included the experienced defender at the expense of Tyler Blackett, a switch which has been divisive amongst the Royals faithful.

It would appear Gunter’s crown is slipping a little in leafy Berkshire yet he will always be football royalty for his countrymen, who rightly fawn at his dedication to the Welsh cause.

Connor Roberts

He has played every minute of Swansea’s six games so far as the relegated side adjust to life under new boss Graham Potter.

The Swans have won three, drawn two and lost one with their latest triumph coming against the odds at Millwall on Saturday.

Despite being reduced to ten men after just five minutes Roberts and Co came from behind to strike twice late on for an unlikely triumph.

James Chester

Ouch. He skippered Aston Villa to their heaviest loss since their 2016 Premier League relegation in Saturday’s 4-1 thumping at Sheffield United.

The result saw Villa fans turn on boss Steve Bruce, who said his players had “forgotten to put their boots on” in the Bramall Lane battering.

Gregg Evans, writing for Birmingham Live, said of Chester: “Didn’t look himself as he was hesitant and lacking in confidence.”

Neil Taylor, out of favour at club and country was thrown on with 13 minutes left.

Ashley Williams

In and out of a Stoke City side struggling to get to grips with life back in the Championship.

Ryan Giggs has given him a major confidence boost by insisting he was always going to remain captain for the Nations League games.

However, the on-loan Everton defender was an unused substitute as Gary Rowett’s men lost 2-1 at West Brom.

There is a strong argument why Ash, partial to a red card or two lately, should surrender the skipper’s armband.

But Giggs knows his talisman is a leader of men who now needs to nurture the new crop of Welsh talent in a potentially tricky double header in Cardiff and Aarhus.

Chris Mepham

The centre-back has been indispensable in Brentford’s strong start to their Championship campaign.

He has been used sparingly in the EFL Cup but that could change when the Bees travel to the Emirates for a third round clash with Arsenal later this month.

The £15m Leicester City target is starting to court more Premier League admirers with a string of strong performances that belie his 20 years. Impressive prospect.

Tom Lockyer

The 23-year-old is seeking a fifth senior Wales cap.

He impressed Giggs in the goalless draw with Mexico in Pasedena but has hardly pulled up trees leading Bristol Rovers since his return from injury.

Local hacks have questioned his lack of aerial dominance as the Gas languish in the League One relegation zone with a solitary win from their first six games.

Ben Davies

Another who is guaranteed to start the double header.

However, Davies enters the international break off the back of Spurs’ first defeat of the season.

Watford came from behind to record their first league win over the North London club in 31 years and maintain their perfect start to the new Premier League campaign.

Paul Dummett

He needs no introduction. The elephant out of the room for so long is now back in the room, so let’s talk about him.

The Newcastle United skipper helped the Magpies retain their Premier League status last season against all the odds.

Rafa Benitez and the Toon Army love him. We will have to rekindle that romance with a man who is almost certain to add to his two Wales caps to date, with the last one won almost three years ago.

Whatever caused the irrevocable relationship breakdown between versatile left-back Dummett and Chris Coleman we will never really know.

But Coleman and the years under his leadership are now consigned to a glorious history. Dummett and the Giggs era is the here and now. Suck it up, get used to it and get behind him/them.

Declan John

He has featured just once for the Swans since his shock departure from Rangers, starting in their 1-0 EFL Cup defeat to Crystal Palace.

The former Bluebird will be looking for a loan move in the New Year if he fails to make inroads into the first team.

Ethan Ampadu

Despite Chelsea fans clamouring for Ampadu to start the season ahead of David Luiz the prodigious talent has yet to taste league action this season.

He impressed in their goalless International Champions Cup pre-season game against Lyon, but Ampadu has been left waiting in the wings as Sarri’s Blues lead the way with Liverpool and Watford after four games.

Joe Allen

Ah. Super Joseph Allen. The jewel in Stoke’s fallen crown is immune to criticism in the Potteries. He is hero worshipped there but it will count for very little unless his team can buck up their ideas after an indifferent start under new boss Gary Rowett.

Allen took an elbow to the hooter in their defeat at Preston last month.

I asked Stoke fanzine Duck how he has been performing.

“In all honesty, we don’t know Joe Allen’s best position. And more importantly, neither have the last three Stoke managers. Great work ethic is one thing, but that needs to be allied with positional discipline. With Etebo, Clucas, and Woods all signed over the last few months, we have reached a stage where what used to be one of the first names on the team sheet shouldn’t be on there at all.”

Ah. Best ignore what I claimed above then…

Matthew Smith

The teenager has really got FC Twente fans on board after just three appearances since joining the Dutch side on a season-long loan from Manchester City.

He made a late goal-line clearance as his side held on for victory. Many fans heralded the midfielder as the man of the match on his debut.

Aaron Ramsey

The dynamic midfielder helped Unai Emery’s new-look Arsenal defeat his boyhood club Cardiff 2-3 at the CCS in a Sunday sizzler.

Rambo is a surefire starter for Giggs as he enters the peak of his playmaker powers. And it looks like Warnock’s plans to “rough him up” didn’t come to much after all.

Andy King

The 29-year-old is in limbo at the club he loves. He didn’t even feature in Leicester’s 4-0 EFL Cup win over Fleetwood, prompting speculation he could be on his way out prior to last Friday’s international transfer window deadline.

The Foxes legend has not featured under Claude Puel this season and his bit-part roles for Wales could become extinct before we know it.

Joe Ledley & Harry Wilson

The pair started in Derby’s opening day win at Reading but were subbed in the second half of the 1-4 home rout to Leeds United.

Wilson, on loan from Liverpool started their 2-0 EFL Cup win at Oldham before Joe Ledley netted in the 2-0 league win over Ipswich after coming on as a first half substitute.

The snappy dresser and snazzy table top dancer was booked and replaced in the Rams’ triumph over Preston but neither he nor Wilson featured in the last league and cup games due to injury niggles.

Their Derby teammate Tom Lawrence started the season in terrific goalscoring form but a calf issue has hampered his progress. He was a second half substitute in their 2–1 win at Hull.

David Brooks

He started the first three games for Bournemouth as they secured seven points in the process.

However, he has yet to complete a full game for his new club as Eddie Howe looks to integrate him slowly but surely into the relentless nature of Premier League football.

Brooks was an unused substitute in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.

Ben Woodburn

The Liverpool wing king was a second half substitute for the Blades’ first three Championship games before starting the next two matches.

However, he was back on the bench for their win over Bolton and never even got on the pitch as the Blades scythed down Aston Villa 4-1.

A tragedy for the Starman.

Gareth Bale

No longer competing with the Portuguese Winker for the title of Main Man at Los Blancos, Bale is playing with a happiness to match the hunger again.

He scored for the seventh La Liga game as Leganès were spanked 4-1 at the Bernabeu on Saturday.

Revenge will be sweet for the Galactico against Eiré….watch this space.

Sam Vokes

Line leader extraordinaire Vokes will be hoping to unleash his frustration on Irish and Danish defences after missing plenty of chances to extend Burnley’s unlikely foray into Europe.

“We created things all night and should have taken our chances – myself included,” Vokes told BT Sport after they were dumped out by Olympiakos.

“It’s one of those. Some days they go in and some days they don’t.”

Vokes came on in the second half at Old Trafford on Sunday but could do little to influence his team’s 2-0 defeat to United.

Tyler Roberts

The forward started but didn’t complete a full 90 minutes in both of Leeds’ EFL Cup ties.

However, he has yet to kick a ball in anger in the league as Marcelo Bielsa’s men top the Championship with 14 points from a possible 18.

He may though get a shot in these two matches if he can impress Giggs and the management team.

So, everyone up to date and ready for Ireland? Don’t forget to like and share with your friends. Or just keep to yourself and impress your mates down the pub with your new-found in-depth knowledge.

 

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