The Welsh national team has been home to some of the best footballing talent in Great Britain. The renaissance of the Welsh squad in the 2010s got many people remembering classic days of Welsh football history, such as the 1958 World Cup and near misses in the 1990s. But are the modern generatio as strong as those before them? Here is our XI of the best Welsh footballers of all time
The best Welsh footballers ever
GK: Neville Southall
The epitome of the successful working man, nobody gained more of a cult following in the 1980s and 1990s than Neville Southall. The former waiter turned binman turned professional footballer excelled for almost 15 years at international level, winning 90 caps from 1982-1997. The Everton legend was a fearsome figure in between the sticks and his reactions were lightning fast underlining his true shot stopping ability.
This reputation underlined his world-class ability, although Southall never got to show it on the biggest stages of international competition. Having also featured prominently in the Welsh coaching set-up too, Southall will always be remembered as an all-time great for his national side.
RB: Alf Sherwood
Not a household name to many, Alf Sherwood has remained as one of the underappreciated legends of a bygone era and is one of the best Welsh footballers ever. Capable of playing anywhere in the back four, Sherwood had impeccable timing and became known as “King of the Slide Tacklers” for his ability to time tackles to perfection.
Sherwood starred for Wales 41 times between 1946-1956 and famously captained Wales to a famous 1-0 win over an England side in 1955 that featured both Billy Wright and Stanley Matthews. It was indeed Matthews who said that Sherwood was “the toughest player he ever faced”. Nothing pays a testament to Sherwood’s abilities than that.
LB: Gareth Bale
Whilst he is best known for his attacking exploits, it’s tough to remember that Gareth Bale started his career as a full-back. During his early days with Tottenham, Bale used his excellent technique and blistering pace to great effect at boosting attacks before transitioning into a more attacking role. Since then Bale has become the posterboy for modern Welsh football leading his country to an impressive semi-final spot in Euro 2016. With 33 goals for The Dragons, Bale is the all-time top goalscorer for his nations and no doubt an all-time great by the time he hangs up the boots for good.
CB: Ashley Williams
A natural leader on the pitch, Ashley Williams proved himself to be one of the best defenders available in the 2010s. A strong, physical presence in the air, William could cut out any crosses or balls with ease and stand against the toughest threats in the box without losing ground. This presence also made him a threat from set-pieces allowing him to pick up 2 goals in 86 appearances. His leadership played pivotal role in Wales going into the latter stages of Euro 2016 and steer them along to new territory for the first time.
CB: Fred Keenor
One of the first true defenders of the games, Fred Keenor was a master of all the defensive basics and deserves his place in our team of the best Welsh footballers ever as a result. With hard tackling and no-nonsense passing, Keenor established himself as a master of his area where few would ever best him in a one-on-one situation. Playing primarily for Cardiff City, Keenor’s reputation preceded him and sent fears through strikers across English and Welsh football. He managed 32 caps from 1920-1932 and laid the foundations for many others to follow in his footsteps many decades later.
CM: Mark Hughes
Having succeeded as both a player and a manager, Mark Hughes has been a prominent figure in British football for the best part of 5 decades. Yet many seem to forget at just how adept a footballer Hughes actually was. Capable playing on both the wing and in the middle, Hughes was a perennial threat anywhere in an opponent’s half.
His surging runs and clean striking ability meant he could always be relied upon to find the back of the net as well as finding his teammates. Hughes managed to score 16 goals in 72 caps for Wales from 1982-1997 in a squad that never quite reached its full potential.
LM: Ivor Allchurch
One of the leaders of Wales’ famous 1958 World Cup squad, Ivor Allchurch was a footballer ahead of his time. With a balanced mix of pace, strength and composure; Allchurch was given his first cap just 30 games into his professional career. The Swansea City legend then cemented his place in the squad for the best part of a decade making himself a headline grabber whenever he took to the pitch.
His highlight for the national squad came in the 1958 World Cup where his two goals against Hungary secured them a quarter final spot against Brazil. Known by many as the “Golden Boy of Welsh football”, Allchurch remains an iconic player to this very day by many across the Welsh Valleys.
CM: Aaron Ramsey
Many were a little unsure about the potential of Aaron Ramsey when he signed for Arsenal in 2007 but he has gone on to prove everybody wrong and cement his legacy as one of the finest Welsh footballers ever. Perfecting his role as a box-to-box midfielder, Ramsey is just as capable of beating defences with a lofted pass as well as a blistering shot from 30 yards.
His knack for getting forward as well as protecting the defence has made him crucial to a Wales side that has reached the final stages of both Euro 2016 and Euro 2020. A true legend that has proved to be the key part of Wales’ renaissance as a footballing powerhouse.
RM: Ryan Giggs
Despite a somewhat chequered personal life, few players have amassed a list of honours quite like Ryan Giggs. “The Welsh Wizard” proved himself to be one of the best dribblers in world football over the past 30 years with the ball seemingly always glued to his feet.
His pace when running allowed him to beat defenders for fun before lashing the ball home with fierce power. More of a creator than a scorer for Wales, Giggs managed to notch up 12 goals in 65 caps yet remains one of the greatest players to never feature in a major international competition throughout his career. Certainly one of the best Welsh footballers ever, maybe the best.
FW: John Charles
One of the leading strikers of his time, there is few accolades that John Charles failed to claim during his career. Capable of playing as both a defender and striker, Charles could feature anywhere on the pitch and make a sizable impact. Capable of playing with both feet and striking a ball with deadly accuracy, Charles was one of the heroes of the Welsh squad that went to the last eight of the 1958 World Cup.
His ability to always deliver for his nations led Wales to nominate him as their Golden Generation player in 2003 where UEFA asked each member nation to name their greatest footballer of all time. A real honour for a real legend
FW: Ian Rush
With the signature moustache wheeling away in celebration, you knew that Ian Rush was in the mood on the pitch. His explosive nature mixed with deceptive pace made Rush a nightmare for defenders to handle – much to little success.
The Liverpool legend couldn’t stop finding the net when plays for The Dragons and his 28 goals in 73 caps stood as a national record for nearly 3 decades before it was beaten by Gareth Bale in 2018. A true legend that remains one of the best strikers to ever play for any British international side.
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