Gareth Bale has ‘very good chance’ to face Scotland
WALES manager Chris Coleman has described Gareth Bale as having a “very, very good chance” of starting tonight’s Group A clash with Scotland at Hampden Park, after the Tottenham Hotspur winger arrived in Glasgow yesterday on a separate flight from his team-mates.
The bespoke nature of his travel arrangements should not be mistaken as diva-style behaviour from Bale, who, despite his status as a world-class performer, is normally described as refreshingly down-to-earth. Instead, it was a precautionary move by Wales to isolate the winger from the rest of the squad, as he continues to fight off the effects of a virus.
Coleman also denied that he was partaking in mind-games prior to kick-off tonight, with Wales one place above bottom-of-the-table Scotland, and in similarly dire need of a victory.
“I’m not the type of manager to come out and do that,” he said. “I don’t see the point. I’d rather get on with it. I don’t have an elaborate plan up my sleeve, like saying he’s not going to play when he is. I’ve said exactly what’s happened.”
It had been thought that an ankle knock sustained in last weekend’s game between Spurs and Fulham would place Bale’s participation in this evening’s clash in jeopardy.
However, the player started to feel the affects of a virus on Tuesday evening and, although he trained last night at Hampden Park, Coleman described his session as having been “modified” as he continues his recovery. Indeed, Bale spent just half an hour on the pitch, where he was again kept apart from his team-mates.
However, the Wales manager was confident that Bale would be included in his starting XI this evening, although he had not spoken to the player himself by the time he met with reporters at the national stadium yesterday evening.
“He had the ankle knock as well, which didn’t help, so we haven’t seen too much of him,” he said. “But the medical staff think he should be all right.”
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan yesterday denied that Scotland had a gameplan specifically designed to stop Bale. “We have contingency plans for the whole team,” he said. Strachan, who takes charge of his first competitive match as national manager tonight, said he “had an idea” where Bale would play, although whether the winger would be involved at all became a matter of serious debate last night. But Coleman was insistent. “He is all right,” said the Wales manager. “He flew up later than us. He had a bit of a virus, so we could not do any sessions with him.
“He just needed rest really. He took a later flight to the lads because we wanted to separate him from the lads for obvious reasons.
“If there is any doubts about him physically and he is not ready then he won’t play, because we cannot take the risk with Gareth or any other player, because they don’t belong to us, they belong to the clubs. Unless they are 100 per cent right, we can’t take the risk and we won’t. But, at the minute, we are optimistic that everything will be fine. He has got a very, very good chance to play tomorrow. I can’t give you a 50, 60 or 70 per cent [figure]. ”
Coleman added that Bale had been brought up to Scotland with the intention to start the match. “Otherwise we would not have brought him up,” he said. “It would have been pointless. It is pointless us flying him up here if we did not think he had a really good chance to start tomorrow night.”
Bale himself is keen to play, the manager assured reporters. “Well he is here, isn’t he? He took his own, separate flight to come up. He always turns up, Gareth. Nine times out of ten. He wants to be here.”
Coleman was conscious of the time being spent discussing the player, who has scored 25 times for club and country this season. “I don’t keep talking about Gareth, you lot do,” he said.
“I don’t blame you, look at what he has done, but he gets treated no different to the others. With his ability, you have to say he’s up there with the best. But, if we treated him differently and I was another player, I wouldn’t like it. Players are not daft. They know he’s a super player. But he’s a quiet boy, and he integrates with everyone and doesn’t expect preferential treatment.”
Former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage has branded his country’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Hampden tomorrow a wooden spoon clash.
The two home nations have little chance of catching runaway Group A joint-leaders Belgium and Croatia to reach next summer’s finals in Brazil.
Wales are just one point above Gordon Strachan’s basement side.
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