By Tommie Collins.
The Cardiff City Stadium looks set to welcome the Oranje for what should be a mouth-watering encounter tonight.
However, is the friendly all it seems on paper?
It’s been an astonishing turnaround in Welsh fortunes over the past eighteen months whilst the Dutch have suffered utter capitulation ever since the impressive showing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Wales qualified for Euro 2016 with a game to spare – our first tournament since 1958. The Dutch failed to even manage a play-off place.
However, the crux of this piece is whether Gareth Bale should have been part of the Welsh squad for the upcoming game.
Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale will be missing for the clash despite making his comeback from injury at the weekend in a 3-2 defeat against Seville.
Incidentally, he also pulled out of the last game against the Dutch back in June 2014 citing a leg injury he had been nursing.
Many others and I were not best pleased by his decision back then.
It seemed as though we had another Ryan Giggs on our hands – someone I’ve been critical of in the past for shunning his country numerous times when friendlies came calling.
To make matters worse, Gareth Bale went on a publicity-jaunt to Indonesia of all places during that particular international break.
This was a time when the Welsh squad needed him as we were far from being the finished article.
Nevertheless, I honestly feel that Gareth Bale can be excused for this match as he has almost single-handedly got us through to France.
I expect Chris Coleman to experiment a little to get a better feel of his squad ahead of this summer’s tournament. I believe the internationals pencilled in for spring needs a steady squad in place ready for France.
Last week saw Chris Coleman build on his ever-increasing cult following. It was fantastic to see him taking a stand against Arsene Wenger for his criticism of Wales playing Aaron Ramsey for the full ninety-minutes against Andorra.
Although when it comes to Gareth Bale, we have to think about our long-term relationship with Real Madrid. His record speaks for itself; therefore we need to be slightly cautious.
‘Angen cadw’r ddesgil yn wastad’ as we the Welsh would say.
However, it’s refreshing to see us standing up to big-club managers. We were pushed around for many a year by Sir Alex Ferguson when it came to Ryan Giggs but it now seems a distant memory.
Another burning issue with this friendly is the chosen day. It means a long post-work Friday night drive along the A470 for many of North Wales’ loyal supporters.
With Uefa setting the dates I understand that friendlies could have been played on the Saturday. It would have proved a great opportunity to make it slightly easier for those who live beyond the South Wales divide.
I know of many loyal fans who are struggling to make this match due to them using up their work-holiday allocation for the recent qualifiers.
A missed opportunity of sorts, perhaps?
The U21’s match against Armenia at the Bangor University Stadium further complicates matters. It kicks off at the awkward time of 2pm that proves to be another kick in the teeth for the ever-faithful North Walians.
For future reference, Saturday slots would do the trick whilst I hold hope that Gareth Bale’s absence from the friendly fold will be temporary – not permanent.
Keep the faith.