Wednesday 28 June 2017

Wales wait on Williams as North fear losing O'Neill

Wales 1 Northern Ireland 0

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

Jeremy Wilson

Ashley Williams faces an anxious wait to see if he will be fit for Wales' quarter-final against Belgium on Friday, with James Collins on stand-by to replace him at centre-half and Aaron Ramsey ready to take over the captain's armband.

Williams suffered a shoulder injury in a collision with Jonny Williams in the final minutes of their win over Northern Ireland and, although he appeared unable to move his right arm, he did complete the match.

Wales' Sam Vokes in action with Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart. Photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters
Wales' Sam Vokes in action with Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart. Photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

There were fears of ligament and muscle damage or a dislocation but the hope is that it is just bruising and, after a scan yesterday, further news is expected today.

Wales manager Chris Coleman said: "I wouldn't have any qualms about playing James Collins. He is that type of character and has the experience. He would relish it."

Coleman confirmed that his vice-captain is Ramsey, who was previously the captain under Gary Speed. "When we gave the captaincy to Ash it was really to try to get the best out of Aaron and take some responsibility off his shoulders," said Coleman.

"We must not forget what happened with Speeds and Rambo was affected by that.

Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates on the pitch after the match. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.
Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates on the pitch after the match. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

"I believe that he will be the captain of Wales one day. You have Rambo, Gareth Bale, Joe Allen, Chris Gunter - lots of experience."

Northern Ireland had blunted the attacking threat of Bale and Ramsey until Gareth McAuley's late own goal sent Wales through to the quarter-finals.

Striker Sam Vokes said: "You've got to keep grinding out results, whether we're playing 100 per cent as we were against Russia or against Northern Ireland when we were off it a bit.

"With it being a British derby, it was always going to be difficult to break them down and I thought Northern Ireland were brilliant in the way they went about it.

"But Gareth's ball across the box was the difference and to nick it at the end was a great feeling."

As Northern Ireland were left to reflect on what might been, skipper Steven Davis suggested that Michael O'Neill would be a good choice as Southampton's next manager.

O'Neill's stock has risen hugely during the campaign and the Irish Football Association accept that they may not be able to hold off interest from English clubs.

Davis, whose played a commanding role at Parc des Princes on Saturday, has no doubts that O'Neill has the tactical ability and man-management skills to lead a Premier League club.

"Whether you are a player or a manager, everybody needs an opportunity," Davis said.

"Our lads are playing lower leagues but they've shown they are more than capable of getting to this standard.

"You need a chance to do that and I think that's the same for a manager. It's just a case of somebody having the belief in Michael to give him the opportunity. I'm sure he wouldn't let anyone down.

Progression

"There's going to be people who are looking at him. He has done a hell of job here with us. We've had unbelievable progression in the last couple of years and we are unlucky not to be going to the quarter-finals.

"Obviously we would like to keep Michael, selfishly. But I'm sure at some point he will go on to manage a big club side."

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern, superb again against Wales after his display against Germany saw him named in the 'L'Equipe' team of the tournament group stages, said he has had several approaches from clubs. He is out of contract at Hamilton Academical.

"There's been a bit of interest, I think, since the Germany game - but before the tournament there's been interest as well. I wanted to come and didn't want to say anything to Hamilton because it's a great opportunity. So obviously Hamilton are keen to keep me as well so I do have options."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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