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Rob Page promises not to lose focus despite Wales drawing with Gibraltar

Rob Page had to face up to jeers from Wales supporters after his side’s goalless friendly draw against Gibraltar (David Davies/PA)
Rob Page had to face up to jeers from Wales supporters after his side’s goalless friendly draw against Gibraltar (David Davies/PA)

Rob Page faced up to the jeers directed at him after Wales were held to a draw by Gibraltar and promised not to lose focus on his long-term plan.

Page had to withstand boos and calls for him to quit from some Wales fans after Gibraltar – ranked 203 out of the 210 teams in world football – fought out a 0-0 friendly draw at the Estadio Algarve in Portugal.

It was Wales’ first game since losing a play-off final penalty shoot-out to Poland in March that denied them a place at Euro 2024 this summer.

“It’s part of the job,” Wales manager Page said when asked about the wrath of the fans being aimed at him, while those same supporters had applauded the players at the final whistle.

“When you’re a manager of a football club or an international team you set yourself up for criticism.

“We’ve had a result that’s not gone our way against Gibraltar and I’ll take the criticism. I took it as a player and as a manager.

Wales Squad Announcement – Urdd Eisteddfod – Wednesday May 29th
Rob Page wants Wales to be patient (PA)

“We were a penalty kick away from qualifying for the Euros and we’re unbeaten since September.

“The form at the minute has been OK with regards to results. We haven’t qualified for the Euros, but we’ll regroup and go again (against Slovakia) on Sunday.”

With the play-off final against Poland ending in a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes, Wales are actually unbeaten in nine games.

Only once in their 148-year history, under Mark Hughes between 2001 and 2003, have Wales enjoyed a longer undefeated run.

The Football Association of Wales immediately backed Page to continue in his role after the Poland defeat, and the 49-year-old has over two years left on his contract.

Asked if drawing with Gibraltar would damage that unity between board and manager, Page said: “If you’ve got a business plan and a long-term plan you can’t be emotional.

“That’s a question you should ask the board or the chief exec or the president, not myself.

“I’m not going to lose focus on the long-term plan we’ve got.”

Page fielded one of the most inexperienced sides in Welsh history against Gibraltar, opponents they had swept aside 4-0 in a Wrexham friendly last October.

There were only 44 caps in the starting line-up and not one of the XI played in the Premier League in the season just finished.

Five players – Charlie Crew, Fin Stevens, Jay DaSilva, Lewis Koumas and Tom King – made debuts, and it was not until the established strike trio Brennan Johnson, Daniel James and Kieffer Moore came off the bench for the final half-hour that Wales looked like scoring.

Page said: “Of course, it’s Gibraltar. But I want to put a bit of context on it.

“We’ve just missed out on the Euros and this is our first game after that.

“The lads are on the back of three weeks off, so it was unrealistic to start with our strongest team for the two games.

“That’s the reason we picked that team to play that game. We’ve exposed some of the younger lads and given them that reward, because they’ve been excellent as squad players.

“We’ve also introduced younger lads into the group. I’m still going to take these friendlies because we want to expose these younger players.”