The Welsh national football team brought out their inner dragon last night as they clinched their first win over a team in FIFA’s supposed top ten. Manager Chris Coleman, formally of Fulham of course, decided to utilise a wing back system that would help cover the attacking talent at Belgium’s disposal. Prospective Fulham player, Ashley Richards, started just his second international game in two years in a right wing back role. Coleman’s charges defended in a fashion that looked as though it was for each and every single Welshman in the Cardiff City Stadium or across the nation.
With rumours that Swansea City had accepted a bid of £500,000 for Ashley Jazz Richards from Fulham, I took it upon myself to watch him very closely as he could well be our starting right back next season after a mixed (to say the least) spell on loan; what transpired was truly incredible. I’ve not seen Richards put in a performance even close to his turn out for Wales against Belgium as he was the epitome of the effort and dedication shown last night earning an eight out of ten from BBC Wales’ Dafydd Pritchard. Richards was strong in the tackle, getting into Eden Hazard quickly, which forced the Chelsea man to look towards the middle and right hand side of the pitch to make an impact on the game.
There was no Belgian threat at all really, but Richards’ performance made sure there was none whatsoever down that side, whether it was Jan Vertonghen overlapping, or Eden Hazard, moving to Dries Mertens and then Kevin de Bruyne late on. Jazz was also dedicated in stopping crosses from getting into the Wales box, it was a master class in cancelling out service to strikers as both Richards and Taylor wedged themselves in between crosses, starving both Christian Benteke and then Romelu Lukaku of any form of food to digest. Ashley Richards’ determination to get in the faces of word class bracket talent was admirable and hugely successful as Chris Coleman’s game plan was executed to perfection.
Confident striding forward in his wing back role, Richards also displayed the poise in possession he gained coming through the system at Swansea, working with managers like Paolo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers in his early professional career. Initially, I were uneasy as towards us signing Jazz Richards, and as a fan of Jack Grimmer, I was hoping we’d give our home-grown Scot all of our faith going into the new season as we build an actual team; but this performance really changed my opinion on Richards. With the announcement that Tim Hoogland will be leaving us, I’m now somewhat excited about the possibility of watching Jack Grimmer and Ashley Richards fight to start in the Fulham back line.
All I know that is if Richards puts in similar performances to his one against Belgium in eighty per cent of our matches, then £500,000 is one hell of a steal. It’s now down to Ashley Richards to be part of an improved defence with improved performances, all that jazz will be a fairly essential component in Fulham battling at the top end of the table rather than facing another frustrating inconsequential season.