Forward Craig Bellamy is convinced Wales now have a manager in former Sheffield United boss Gary Speed who can deliver long-term success.
Speed has endured a difficult start to his reign with a lacklustre 2-0 Euro 2012 qualifying loss to England in Cardiff following a dismal 3-0 friendly defeat by Ireland. Wales are bottom of Group G and with little hope of reaching the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine after four successive defeats.
Yet Bellamy has been impressed with Speed, who was appointed as John Toshack’s successor in December, and how the former national captain has modernised the team’s set-up. The 31-year-old said: “It has been the best week I’ve been involved in with Welsh football. All my career I’ve been fortunate enough to play for my country, but for the first time I really see a future, and the national team being able to do something.
“It has been so professional, the preparation this week. There has to be professionalism off the pitch to get a good performance on it.
“For the first time in my Welsh history we are more developed. I have spent my career involved in really highly professional clubs and then when I came to Wales it was amateur. But I have seen so much to be pleased about this week. I have no doubt Welsh football in four or five years’ time will be having success.”
Bellamy, who has spent the season on loan at Cardiff from Manchester City, concedes he may not have a great role to play in Speed’s new era.
The fiery striker remains one of Wales’ most potent weapons but will not be able to play every game as he manages a long-term knee complaint.
It is for that reason Bellamy asked Speed not to consider him for the captain’s role he had fulfilled under Toshack.
The captain’s armband was taken on Saturday by Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey who, at 20 years old, became the country’s youngest-ever skipper.
Bellamy believes the future lies with players like Ramsey and 21-year-old Gareth Bale, who did not feature at the Millennium Stadium because of injury.
The manner of defeat to England was disappointing, with early goals from Frank Lampard and Darren Bent killing off any hope.
“We have young players we have to be positive about,” said Bellamy. “We are playing good young players. In a few years time they will have learnt from this game. We’re obviously disappointed but in the long run it will be very important. It is not nice losing games but it will benefit a lot of young players.”