Wale(s) Be Back
Austria arrive in Cardiff on Saturday hoping to pile more misery on another member of the North Wales Goalkeeper’s Union.
Wayne Hennessey has shipped six goals in three games to leave his Crystal Palace side rooted to the foot of the Premier League table.
He performed heroics at Anfield to prevent a landslide defeat yet he remains an easy target for the Palace boo boys who simply no longer appreciate one of their longest serving players.
Newcastle United are rumoured to be lining up a move for him and, at the age of 30, it could be viewed as a decent move.
The Bangor-born stopper has enjoyed a lengthy unchallenged spell as Wales’ chief custodian.
But with Danny Ward breathing down his neck after playing a pivotal role in helping Huddersfield Town win promotion to the top flight, Hennessey is surely under more pressure than ever before.
He has performed heroically for his country and is guaranteed to start the double header against Austria and then in Moldova.
But Ward, along with Barnsley’s Adam Davies will be keen to dislodge a mainstay of the national side, not only for their own development but to strengthen their reputation at club level.
Chris Maxwell, meanwhile, will be wondering what else he has to do to convince Chris Coleman he is worthy of a squad place.
- Chris Maxwell has been in imperious form for PNE
The St Asaph-born sticksman who, like Ward is a Wrexham youth product, has been in fine form for Preston North End in the Championship. His time will surely come.
Hennessey will be hoping for no crucial mishaps on Saturday. That fate befell Danny Coyne against the same opposition 12 years ago, but more about that shortly.
Saturday will only be the tenth meeting between Wales and Austria.
Wales have lost five of those including successive defeats in the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.
It has been 42 years since we overcame Austria, birthplace of T-1000 Arnold ‘I’ll Be Back’ Schwarzenegger, in proper competition and in the nine times we have faced one another only the odd goal tends to settle matters.
A load of old Toshack
While the Golden Generation of Welsh Football should have enough to secure victory this weekend let us cast our minds back to a dozen years ago when our reasonably enviable attack fizzled rather than sizzled against Das Team.
On March 26, 2005 John Toshack oversaw his first competitive outing at the helm but two goals in a late four minute spell from Ivica Vastic and Martin Stranzl ended our hopes of scoffing obscene amounts of Frankfurters and dressing in red and white lederhosen in Germany the following year.
Bellamy, Earnshaw, Davies, Giggs and Hartson played that day. Decent.
Wales could have taken an early lead had the ref awarded a penalty for a blatant handball. However, another hard-luck defeat was nothing new back then, just the usual impending sense of forever failure.
Even Marmite Giggs on his 50th appearance could not skipper his side to an invaluable win in front of almost 48,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium.
- Legendary crime-fighting duo Coyne & Giggs
Four days later Wales should have emerged triumphant in Vienna had it not been for a combination of bad luck and worse goalkeeping.
Bellamy had a goal harshly ruled out after Spanish referee Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez ruled that the Cardiff-born nut-job had fouled defender Ernst Dospel. I’m sorry, but you know when you have been fouled by Bellars…it usually results in you crying like a baby on the floor wondering what you had done to incur such a psychotic wrath.
Home keeper Helge Payer made a string of fine saves to keep our lads at bay before his opposite number, Coyne pissed all the hard work up the wall with a classic goalkeeping clanger at the death.
- After his Vienna howler Coyne realises he left the bathwater running at home
Rene Aufhauser’s weak shot from distance bobbled harmlessly towards Coyne. He lent down like a father about to embrace his excitable todder with open arms, but somehow allowed the ball to pass through him like express diorrheah.
- Coyne goes coy
The Tranmere Rovers custodian crocodile-rolled onto his face in embarrassment. On the sidelines Tosh bore the look of a man who had just dropped his chips in the sea. I and a few hundred Welsh fans were too pissed to care, that was until the following morning when the self-loathing session commenced via a read of the rear pages of the papers.
Ah, Vienna. It meant nothing to me.
Goalkeeper Dan Bachmann enjoyed a relatively productive loan spell at Wrexham during the 2014/15 season before returning to parent club Stoke City.
In July he signed a three-year deal with Watford.
Cardiff City might be salivating over Kenneth Zahore at present but it is very much a case of what might have been with Guido Burgstaller.
The Austrian forward only made a handful of appearances for the Bluebirds after signing from Rapid Wien in 2014.
He was cast adrift and headed back to Europe with a point to prove. He hit 33 goals in 63 appearances over three seasons at FC Nürnberg, which secured him a move to German giant FC Schalke at the start of the year. He has struck nine times in 17 appearances.