Roll back to July 6 in Lyon when Wales were finally eliminated from Euro 2016. The red wall stood together stronger in complete unity as one. Fast forward to October 9 for the World Cup qualifying match against Georgia, where we were fortunate to come away with a draw – murmurs of discontent and some boos were heard.
This is typical of a football fan one says, we are a fickle lot. But this is Wales, the team who exceeded mine and thousands of other expectations during that glorious summer in France.
I was present when the lights went out at The Vetch against Iceland, and also at the Romania and Russia games where we fell at the final hurdle. Them days it was a realisation that the team had done well and we trudged off to drown our sorrows with a pint or two; we were used to it and expected nothing else. Those to an extent were also excellent Wales teams who possibly should have done better. We then endured mediocrity for many a year, players picked from lower leagues with no affinity to us, but again, we accepted it. If a player turned up and gave his all, we were happy.
Then, with the emergence of two world class players in Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, add to that a sprinkling of decent Premier League and Championship players, things changed quickly. We clicked, the country woke up and realised we were on the brink of something very special. The clever marketing team at the FAW (Football Association of Wales) introduced the twitter hash tag #TogetherStronger which has been prevalent throughout the last campaign and the current 2018 Russia World Cup one.
We started the current campaign with a comfortable 4-0 home victory over Moldova, followed by a 2-2 draw against the Austrians out in Vienna, where a 4,000 strong following was present. This sort of following is usually reserved for matches where we need a result to qualify, such as Nuremberg ’91 or Milan ’04, and this amount of away support is unprecedented. This is surely an effect of France, which created a boom in the FAW membership, request for tickets and sell-out home games.
But, what it has done is attract a new breed of fan who demands instant success, like the millions who choose whichever club side that has the biggest revenue and attempts to win their respective domestic league or the UEFA Champions League.
The long suffering fan has opinions; he should have introduced new blood, he should have dropped so and so etc. But he’ll still be there when the form eventually drops, his expectation is only for the player in the red shirt to give his all.
The new fan who moans about ticket allocation, poor play and drawing at home to Georgia will no doubt be in his back garden, checking his family tree for a long-lost relative of the next flavour of the month.