AT THE start of a new Wales campaign, there are exciting times ahead.

This one feels more important because it’s Ryan Giggs’ first campaign in charge, and these will be his first competitive matches as manager.

For me, he’s picked his strongest possible squad for these matches and I’m pleased to see that everybody is fully fit and firing, and ready to go.

Gareth Bale, Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey have a bit more responsibility than usual this time, with young players like Tom Lawrence, Harry Wilson, David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu coming in alongside them. The senior players have the responsibility of trying to lift these younger players to the next level. These youngsters are ready for the next stage of their development.

There’s a lot of talk about the Denmark match and who will be playing for them, but the players will be focused entirely on the Republic of Ireland – and it’s payback time.

Yes, it’s going to be a tough challenge, but we owe them one. It’s always a competitive match, not one for the faint-hearted, but we have the quality.

You’ve got to earn the right to win any football match and it’s roll your sleeves up time. We’re playing at home so we’ve got to start on the front foot and be aggressive from the start. Giggs and Roy Keane are good friends, but there will be no pals act during that 90 minutes.

Giggs is not going to be scared of making big decisions and maybe his biggest so far will be whether to play Ashley Williams. He’s been a stalwart for Welsh football and he still has something to offer in the dressing room with his leadership. But I do feel he’s lost that yard of pace on the pitch. In months and years to come, Ashley will have a different role to play in the Welsh set-up, and who better to help bring Ethan Ampadu through than him?

I would start Chris Mepham in his place at the heart of defence. It’s a big season for Chris at Brentford. He has a good pedigree, having been at Chelsea until he was 18. He’s only 20 now and he was reportedly a £15 million target for Bournemouth over the summer, which shows how highly he’s rated.

It’s a balancing act for Giggs. Bringing these youngsters is great for squad competition, but you have to be careful about exposing too many of them at once, and I’m sure he’ll be aware of that.

I’m really excited for this next episode in Welsh football. I can’t say much about the structure of the Nations League except for, finish on top of the group and worry about the next step after that.

Wales will definitely beat Republic of Ireland, and we will go to Denmark with momentum and confidence. And barring injury, I can’t see why we can’t go to Aarhus and win there as well – first team or not.


It’s been a great start to Sam Ricketts’ managerial career at Wrexham.

After Tuesday night’s draw against Halifax they are third in the table after nine games, which is a great position to be in.

Sam would’ve done his homework on last season and known the strengths and weaknesses of the squad he inherited. He added half a new team and he seems to have understood the league quite quickly. I can only see things going from strength to strength.

There’s a different feel to Wrexham under Sam Ricketts this season, in my eyes. They’re on the brink of something big. Add one or two loan players to strengthen the squad and this could be their season.


Even though The New Saints received over €1 million from their European exploits this summer, they still failed to leave their mark. So it’s time to put themselves back on the map in the Irn Bru Cup this Saturday against Queen’s Park.

The last two seasons they have reached the semi-finals, so they’ll want to go one step further this time around. With home advantage, I’ve got to go for a convincing TNS win.


Malcolm Allen is part of S4C’s Sgorio presentation team. Sgorio will have live coverage of all of Wales’ matches in the UEFA Nations League, starting with Wales v Republic of Ireland from 7.30pm. Then on Sunday, Sgorio will show live coverage of Denmark v Wales at 4.45pm on Sunday. Sgorio will also be showing TNS’ Irn Bru Cup tie against Queen’s Park on Saturday from 7.30pm, English commentary available.