Wales manager Chris Coleman has revealed he considered playing for Ireland but his Irish father Paddy told him to pledge his future to Wales.
Coleman, a solid defender, played nearly 600 games for Swansea, Crystal Palace, Blackburn, and Fulham in a 15-year senior career and won 32 caps for Wales.
He caught the attention of then Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton as a young player.
“There was talk about when Jackie Charlton was manager of the Republic and a tentative phone call came my way,” Coleman said.
“But my dad always pushed me to play for Wales.”
Paddy Coleman left Dublin and moved to Swansea at the age of 20, and it was there Chris was born and grew up.
“I started playing football at the age of seven and he guided me, he never raised his voice. I’ve watched parents sometimes on the touchlines at youth games and they are screaming and shouting, which is not the way to go.
“But he was the opposite to that. He was always a quiet talker – he never lost his Dublin accent – but he was massive for me as a youngster.”
Coleman’s World Cup visit to Dublin will be full of emotion this weekend as he returns to the home city. Vital points on the road to Russia 2018 will be at stake on Friday with third-placed Wales seeking to cut the four-point gap on Group D leaders the Republic of Ireland.
But the game also holds special significance for Coleman as, three years ago, he scattered his father’s ashes in the River Liffey... alongside a pint of Guinness.
“Throwing a pint of Guinness into the Liffey (with the ashes) is a done thing there, especially where he was from in the East Wall of Dublin,” Coleman said.
“We did it next to the Brazen Head pub, which dates back to 1198, and is the oldest pub in Ireland. He always said make sure you do it there.
"It was his request. But if I’m honest I did have a little drop of Guinness first... it was eight euros a pint! My two sisters and Charlotte (Coleman’s television presenter wife) were with me when we did it. It was incredibly poignant.”
Coleman enjoyed huge success managing Wales last year, leading them to the semi-final of Euro 2016 – the country’s first major tournament since 1958.
Coleman’s success with Wales is tinged with sadness though as his father never saw him take the country to the European Championship in France.
And Coleman says his father would have been so proud to see him standing on the Aviva Stadium touch-line as the Wales manager.
“I used to take him back to Dublin most summers for a few days,” Coleman said.
“He would have a little roam around where he was brought up. He loved football and would have loved this – he would have been ecstatic.”
Coleman has described Wales as in “pretty good condition” after avoiding the injury problems which beset World Cup rivals the Republic of Ireland.
Wales lost in-form Ipswich frontman Tom Lawrence to a hip injury on Monday, with his place taken by Liverpool youngster Harry Wilson. But every member of Coleman’s 23-man squad trained yesterday, including Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn.
The 17-year-old striker joined the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey at their Vale of Glamorgan base for the first time, and third-placed Wales appear in good health.
“We are a very good team when we’re at our best and at our strongest,” manager Coleman said.
“The squad might have looked different two or three months ago. But we’ve got players back, and I’ve picked those who have been on the front foot and most ready for the challenge.”
Bale has already scored four times in this World Cup campaign to move within two of equalling Ian Rush’s 28-goal Wales record. The Real Madrid forward’s recent comeback from ankle surgery is a huge boost for Wales, as is Arsenal midfielder Ramsey’s return.
Ramsey was arguably Wales’ best player in their march to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 last summer. But his World Cup contribution so far has been minimal.
“In these first four games we’ve only had Aaron in one of them,” Coleman said.
“That’s tough for us, and we’ve only had Joe Allen for two and a bit as well. We’re looking forward to having Rambo back. He’s had game time at Arsenal and he’s feeling good.”
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