Wales give Joe Ledley Euro 2016 chance; Gareth Bale is the main star

With Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale as the headline act in the Wales team, Chris Coleman also included Joe Ledley in his 23-man squad just a month after he broke his leg. Wales will need everyone at their best if they are to battle their way out of a tough group.


No surprises in the choice of Welsh goalkeepers. Danny Ward's performances for Liverpool this season have perhaps nudged him ahead of the popular Owain Fon Williams in the race to be deputy to Wayne Hennessey, but only injury or suspension will keep the Crystal Palace goalkeeper from starting for Wales.


It is hard to argue with Chris Coleman's selections in the defensive department, especially with a first-choice back five that pretty much picks itself: Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor at wing-back; James Chester and Ben Davies on either side of captain Ashley Williams in the centre.

James Collins was a certainty to join those five, and fresh off the back of his most consistent ever season at West Ham, he represents as good a cover option as Wales could hope for. From the outside, Jazz Richards may seem a surprise inclusion, but the Fulham full-back impressed greatly when called upon in qualifying, particularly in the home win over Belgium and victory in Cyprus, and so fully merits his place. The only real source of debate had been the likely identity of Wales' eighth defender; Adam Henley, Adam Matthews or Paul Dummett? The answer turned out to be none of the above as Coleman opted instead for more choices in midfield.


The most welcome news from Wales squad announcement was undoubtedly the inclusion of fans' favourite and erstwhile choreographer Ledley. Despite fracturing his fibula against Stoke City just a month ago, Ledley secured his place after proving his fitness to Wales coaching staff during last week's training camp. When fit he'll provide the anchor to Wales' first-choice midfield, sitting behind the playmaking talents of Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey. However, smart money would be on Andy King, fresh from Leicester City's remarkable Premier League season, taking Ledley's place in central midfield for the opening game against Slovakia at least.

The only surprise absentee from the plane to France is Wigan's Emyr Huws, especially after a much-praised showing in Ukraine in March. Instead Coleman, perhaps with one eye on the fitness of Ledley, has opted for dependable David Vaughan. Whilst omission may be harsh on Huws, it would've been much harder on Vaughan, a well-regarded pro who's always made himself available for selection when so many haven't.

As a mark of Vaughan's longevity, when he made his international debut in 2003, George Williams was just seven years old, but the young Fulham winger's pace and fearlessness mean they'll head to Bordeaux as teammates. Williams' pace offers another potential dimension to the Welsh attack, as do the quick, skilful feet of his namesake, Crystal Palace's Jonny Williams.

And, last but certainly not least among the midfielders is David Edwards who, though not first-choice, was always destined to be in Coleman's plans, particularly after an impressive display in Cyprus during qualification.


The minor debate over which forwards to take ultimately solved itself when both Tom Bradshaw and Tom Lawrence were ruled out through injury. Lawrence, who gave a couple of competent displays in qualifying has more cause to wonder what might've been; Bradshaw's debut against Ukraine certainly came too late to have made him a real consideration for selection.

As such, the three out and out forwards -- Simon Church, Sam Vokes and cult hero Hal Robson-Kanu -- picked themselves; Vokes' return to fitness and form with Burnley giving a particular boost to Wales' attacking options. David Cotterill's place in the squad was less certain among some supporters, but Coleman remains a big fan of the Birmingham City man's versatility.

Oh, and completing the squad is some chap called Bale from Real Madrid, who can reportedly play a bit.

Predicted Starting XI for opening match vs Slovakia:

Hennessey; Gunter, Chester, Williams, Davies, Taylor; Allen, King, Ramsey; Bale; Robson-Kanu.