Rob Page to ‘ignore the noise’ amid reports his Wales job could be in jeopardy
Phil Blanche, PA Sport
Wales manager Rob Page has promised to “ignore the noise” amid reports that his job could be in jeopardy.
It was reported on Saturday morning – little more than 24 hours before Wales’ vital Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia in Cardiff – that Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney had wanted former Sunderland and Ipswich manager and TV pundit Roy Keane to replace Page following June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.
Page signed a four-year deal in September 2022, but Mooney confirmed this week that the manager’s position would be reviewed next month if Wales did not qualify for Euro 2024 automatically.
Wales are currently fourth in Group D and need to win their final three games against Croatia, Armenia and Turkey to realistically secure a top-two place and avoid the play-offs in March.
Page responded to the speculation over his future at his pre-match press conference for the Croatia game, saying: “We’ve got to ignore all the noise. It is noise and that’s it, so we try to protect the players as much as we can.
“I have not spoken to the chief executive at all, so I could not tell you whether it is true or not (that he is to be replaced).
“All I have to focus on is, before the World Cup I signed a four-year deal and the long-term plan for me is to start introducing young players into the group.
“We are in a transition period and we have said this time and time again. We have lost big players like Joe Allen and Gareth Bale. Not just for what they bring us on the pitch, but also the value they add in the changing room.
“We’ve seen the talent we’ve got coming through. We’re developing these young players and it’s going to take time.
“I get the frustration. We want to win games of football but there’s got to be a bit of perspective. I’m doing what’s best for the FAW, not myself. By introducing these young players, it is better for Wales in the future.”
Three members of Page’s coaching staff – Alan Knill, Ian Mitchell and Tony Roberts – took the unusual step of attending the press conference at the back of the room in an apparent show of unity.
“It’s a great gesture from the staff, not something I was ready for but I really appreciate it,” said a visibly-emotional Page.
“We are really close and everyone is pushing in the right direction. I wish the supporters and you guys (the media) could see what we’ve got in that changing room. It’s incredible. The staff here means a lot.
“We’re in an industry where everyone wants to win games of football. I feel the frustration as well but the bigger picture is we have a plan to introduce younger players for the future.
“I can’t worry about the business side of it, cost-cutting and all that. I’ve got a job to do as a football coach to get them in the right place, physically and mentally, to win games of football.”
Mooney told BBC Wales on Wednesday that a “serious review” would take place on Page’s position after the Armenia and Turkey games next month when “everything will be settled”.
Wales captain Ben Davies was critical of Mooney’s comments, saying: “It’s not helpful. We don’t want noise coming from within the organisation. We hope that everybody is on the same page.
“It is disappointing to hear, but as far we are concerned it’s not our focus. Our focus is the game against Croatia.”
Asked specifically about Page, Davies said: “We’re very supportive of the manager. It’s professional every day and everyone wants to come on camp.
“Having a manager always behind you and giving you support breeds loyalty and he deserves our support now.
“We’re a tight-knit group and I think that part of the reason we’ve had the success we’ve had over the years is because we all stick together.”
Wales defender Chris Mepham is in contention to start against Croatia, despite being out for a month with a hamstring injury.
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