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Rhian Wilkinson defends Wales captaincy rotation as Hayley Ladd gets armband

03 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Left to right Wales’ Sophie Ingle, Olivia Clark, Hayley Ladd before the UEFA Women’s Euro 2025 qualifying round League B, Group B4 match at the SToK Cae Ras, Wrexham. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Hayley Ladd will become Wales’ fourth captain in as many games under new boss Rhian Wilkinson against Ukraine on Tuesday.

Wilkinson has yet to settle on a permanent skipper since long-time captain Sophie Ingle stepped down after her first game in charge, April’s 4-0 Euro 2025 qualifying victory over Croatia.

Jess Fishlock and Angharad James subsequently led the side in qualifiers against Kosovo and Ukraine.

“Not permanent”

But the armband has now passed to Manchester United’s Ladd for the return game with Ukraine in Poland, although Wilkinson has stressed that it is not a permanent appointment.

“Hayley will wear the armband in the next game, but we’ve got lots of leaders in the squad and others will get opportunities in the next few games to lead their team,” said Wilkinson.

Asked whether the rotation policy was unsettling the dressing room or raising questions over indecision, Wilkinson said: “You could make the argument that if you give someone the armband too quickly then you’ve got a group of players who are frustrated that they are not given an opportunity.

“I make subs at half-time, I make changes and react to things in games pretty decisively.

“I’ll be accused of not knowing the best line-up because I used subs? The last coach (Gemma Grainger) was accused of never using her subs, so pick a lane.

“I’ll be blamed for something and if it’s not being decisive that’s the story line.

“The other one is that I really want to make sure all our players are already acting as leaders and captains and I’m doing my due diligence as a coach.”

Rising star

Ladd joined United from Birmingham in 2019 and has been part of the leadership group at the Women’s Super League club for the past two seasons.

She said: “I’ve taken the armband a few times at United and when I was younger I captained teams on several occasions at under-17 and under-19 level.

“I’m 30 now and I like to think I know what I’m about and what I can deliver for the team.”

Wales dropped their first points in Euro 2025 qualifying on Friday as Ukraine drew 1-1 in Llanelli after scoring inside three minutes and withstanding intense second-half pressure.

Wilkinson’s side remain top of their section with seven points from three games, ahead of Croatia on six and Ukraine on four.

“We dominated the ball in the second half on Friday, but that’s not what the game is,” said Wilkinson.

“You can have all the possession you want, but if you don’t put in the back of the net you’re not winning games.”

Cardiff goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan and Leicester midfielder Josie Green have withdrawn from a qualifier being played at Grodzisk Wielkopolski because of Ukraine’s war with Russia.

Blackburn forward Georgia Walters has joined the squad.

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