Euro 2016 - sheer joy for Welsh legends Mike and Cliff
02 July 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Legendary former players Mike England and Cliff Jones have spoken of their pride after watching Wales reach their first ever major tournament semi-final at Euro 2016 last night (Friday, July 1).
Ben Davies was in action in Lille as Chris Coleman’s charges came back from a goal down to beat Belgium 3-1 in a thrilling quarter-final – a result that has an entire nation in jubilant mood today.
Unfortunately, Ben picked up his second yellow card of the tournament and will be suspended for his side’s semi-final clash with Portugal on Wednesday night.
Towering defender Mike, who played 44 times for Wales between 1962 and 1975 and later had an eight-year spell as their manager, is sympathetic towards our hard-working left-back after watching him play a key role in France so far, but he remains hopeful that Wales can draw on their team spirit to prolong their adventure even further.
“It’s a team game and it’s a magnificent effort that the Welsh lads have made so far,” beamed the now 74-year-old, who won the 1967 FA Cup, the 1972 UEFA Cup and the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 during his nine-year tenure at White Hart Lane.
“The manager, Chris Coleman, is a people person and he’s got that team all working as a unit. To play for Wales in itself is an honour – I always remember, when I played myself, every time I put a red Welsh shirt on it was a great honour and I think it does help if the team are playing as one like they are now.
“I felt so sorry for Ben last night, he was so unlucky and now he’s going to miss the semi-final of something that he’s dreamed of for a long time but he’s still a superb player.
“I really enjoy watching this team play because they’re not overawed by any of the bigger names and now they’ve got the confidence to know that they can play against anyone with no fear factor.
“I’m in my 70s now but I’m so excited about it all that I’m going to get in a car and I’m going to drive to the next match! Myself and a few mates have decided that we’re going to leave Wales at 5am on Tuesday morning and make sure we get there for the game the next day.
“It’s a chance in a lifetime to see this and I know that the whole of Wales is rejoicing at the moment because it’s been such a lovely journey.”
Mike’s former club and country team-mate Cliff Jones, who actually put the defender up at his house for three months following his transfer to Spurs from Blackburn in 1966, was equally thrilled to see his nation make history last night.
“I’m so proud of the team and it’s like the spirit of 1958 when I played at the World Cup and we got to the quarter-finals,” said our 1961 Double-winning winger, who scored 16 goals in 59 appearances for Wales between 1954 and 1969 and is still a regular at the Lane on matchdays.
“The spirit and the connection that these boys have got is fantastic. That’s one of the things I like about it – the connection between the team and the manager, Chris Coleman, is brilliant and that’s a big reason why they’ve done so well.
“They’ve certainly done it the footballing way, they’ve played some terrific stuff and I’m so pleased for the team.
“It’s a big shame that Ben’s going to be missing in the semi-final because he’s been playing so well and he, along with the other defenders, Ashley Williams and James Chester, has been one of the main reasons why they’ve got this far.
“It is unfortunate for him but hopefully the momentum of the team now is so good that anybody who comes into the side is going to be carried along with it. I think, if they perform like they did against Belgium last night, they’ve got every chance against Portugal.”
Mike agreed that the manner of yesterday’s victory over the Red Devils – in addition to their 3-0 win over Russia in the final game of the group stage – means Wales can be confident of holding their own in the last four.
“After that first goal against them for Belgium – which was quite some goal, by the way – they replied and it shows that the team has got what it takes,” he added.
“The first game where I think they impressed everyone was the Russia game. They won that one 3-0 and played really well. Each performance has been of a very high standard and if you’re a Welshman at the moment you just feel very proud.”