CHRIS COLEMAN hailed Wales on their run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals by saying: “As a nation, we’re geographically small but for passion, we’re a continent.”
And a glance at the graduates from the Welsh Football Association’s coaching courses shows the Dragons are also punching well above their weight.
While Uefa coaching courses for badges at B, A and pro licence level are for everyone from any level of the game, some of the names are box office.
As well as those from the League of Wales, women’s football or academy level, there are World Cup, Champions League and Premier League winners.
New Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder, who also has top-flight experience with Sheffield United, is another graduate.
On Friday, Cardiff announced FAW graduates Steve Morison and Mark Hudson as first-team manager and coach respectively.
Plus Newport County boss James Rowberry used to work for the FAW Trust and is a Uefa pro licence holder.
As are Thierry Henry, Marcel Desailly, Sol Campbell, David Ginola, Craig Bellamy, Les Ferdinand, Tim Sherwood, Jens Lehmann, Tim Cahill, Garry Monk, Simon Grayson and former Wales and Fulham chief Coleman.
Some cast list!
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But the conveyor belt of coaching talent does not end there.
Current Wales manager Robert Page and his Belgium counterpart Roberto Martinez, who face each other in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Cardiff, as well as Liverpool assistant boss Pep Lijnders and Manchester United set-piece coach Eric Ramsay all took their coaching badges with the Welsh FA.
Then there is a batch of the Wales stars of Euro 2016 who have taken their first steps into coaching with the Welsh Football Trust, a development arm of the association.
Neil Taylor, who has been helping Aston Villa’s Under-16s as a coach but intends to continue playing, was the first in the class to pass the A licence last week.
The 32-year-old ex-Swansea and Villa left-back’s class-mates includes the captain from that golden tournament in France, Ashley Williams, as well as Joe Allen, Joe Ledley, Chris Gunter, Andy King, James Chester and Sam Vokes.
Stoke midfielder Allen, who is in the current Wales squad, gave an insight into why the reputation of the coaching courses, previously run by Osian Roberts – who is Vieira’s assistant manager at Selhurst Park – and now Welsh technical director David Adams is still growing at such an impressive rate.
Allen said: “People like Osh and David have had a huge influence on a lot of young coaches and managers. People really enjoy the course.
“There is certainly a word-of-mouth feel to it. A lot of people pass on their good experiences and we attract people from all over the world at this point. So we are doing something right on those courses.
More and more managers and coaches have been through the system and go on to manage and coach at a really high level. The FAW should be proud.
“From my experience of being involved in it, I can see why.
“Especially, in the last few years you are seeing more and more managers and coaches who have been through the system and go on to manage and coach at a really high level. The FAW should be proud they have chosen that route.”
Allen has been trying to combine the hard slog of the Championship as well as Wales duty with his coaching studies.
But was he surprised to see his international team-mate Taylor nudge ahead of his peers?
Allen, 31, added: “No, he has set the standard and done really well. He has done a lot of coaching and got a lot of hours in. He has left a lot of us behind.
“So I think him passing and getting that done could be the kick up the backside the rest of us need.
“I could make excuses that there is not enough time or it is difficult when you are playing but I have been a little bit lazy if I am being honest.
“I could probably have put a few more hours into it but there is plenty of time for that.”
Even the next generation of stars have signed up with the future of Welsh coaching burning bright.
Current Wales defender Ben Davies as well as women’s star Natasha Harding have enrolled.
Ex-Dragons and West Ham defender James Collins, former Manchester City ace Yaya Toure and Newcastle and Argentina centre-back Federico Fernandez are also in line.
And there are more.
French duo Gael Clichy and Yohan Cabaye, who both starred in the Prem for Arsenal, Man City, Newcastle and Palace respectively, have also decided to follow the Welsh coaching pathway.
Former Newcastle defender Jean-Alain Boumsong has worked with Wales Under-15s on his pro licence earlier this month.
Adams said: “Our strength in delivering reality-based coach education is to provide individual coach mentors, who support each coach in their transition from player to coach.”
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