Wales

Euro 2016: Dean Saunders 'Keeping the Euros dream alive'

As Wales prepares for their next World Cup qualifying game assistant Wales manager Osian Roberts says we need to remove any obstacle that deters children from getting involved in the game.

In BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme - Keeping The Euros Dream Alive - he tells presenter, former international player Dean Saunders that every child who wants to play football or sport should have the chance to do just that.

Here Dean Saunders sets out his view on what we need to do to ensure Wales' recent success leaves a lasting footballing legacy.


This summer Welsh football put a smile on all our faces. And no one enjoyed it more than me.

And as the World Cup campaign gets off to a good start, the question many are asking is 'will our recent success leave a lasting footballing legacy?'.

I was lucky enough to play for Wales over 75 times and scored 22 goals. I also helped manage the national side.

But my generation of players never managed to qualify, so I was delighted when Chris Coleman's team did so well in the Euros.

We don't want it be a one-off, so are we doing everything we can to produce the talent to keep Wales at the top of the game for decades to come?

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Media captionA game of two halves - some ground rules

The key for me is making sure that every kid who wants to play gets the opportunity, and that means we really need to look after our grassroots game.

That's where every star started out - kicking a ball around with his village club or school.

If that's in good shape then I think talented players will be spotted and have a chance to play for their country.

Good coaching is the key and I think Osian Roberts and his team are doing great things there in increasing the numbers of qualified coaches at grassroots.

The other thing you need is good pitches.

That's more difficult as our wet Welsh weather means every winter games are called off for weeks, as park pitches get waterlogged, and that can put kids off.

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Media captionLife's a pitch - the Welsh weather

So what can we do about that?

I'm a big fan of the new 3G or third generation pitches - a lot better now than the carpets on concrete I remember! It means kids can play whatever the weather. They're also great for skills.

Even where public grass pitches are dry - it's unrealistic perhaps to expect cash strapped councils to cut the grass as often as I'd like, so kids can work on their passing.

As a professional coach I noticed that players who'd come through academies with good 3G pitches had really good skill levels.

And as a dad, I spent hours watching my son at the Crew Academy where his development was really helped by the 3G pitches there.

But there aren't many 3G pitches in Wales at the moment.

If you compare us to some of the top European countries - they have a lot more per head.

And remember Iceland in the Euros?

They put their success down to having 28 full size 3G pitches - for a country with the same population as Cardiff, where there are just four full size pitches.

We may not need as many as a country with very little grass but I think we need more than we have.

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Image caption Welcome home: Ashley Williams (Left) with Gareth Bale (Centre) on the open top bus in Cardiff City Stadium back in July

The good news is the FAW Trust and others have plans to build more - 100 across Wales.

The only drawback then is because they are expensive to maintain - they are costly to hire.

And we don't want football to become a costly game - especially for those grassroots clubs that are so important.

I've been really impressed with the army of volunteers, mums and dads, who keep grassroots football alive.

Hopefully some of their dreams can come true, and Wales continues to succeed at the very top, like they did this wonderful summer in Europe.

You can watch Week In Week Out - Keeping the Euros Dream Alive on iPlayer.

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