Rob Page: Wales boss to ‘influence’ players to get more club game time with January moves

Wales striker Kieffer Moore in action against Croatia
Wales striker Kieffer Moore has hardly played for Bournemouth this season but is wanted by former club Cardiff City

Manager Rob Page says he will encourage some Wales players to consider moving clubs in January in order to play more.

Wales face Finland in Cardiff in a Euro 2024 play-off semi-final on 21 March, with the winners to host Poland or Estonia five days later in the final.

But the lack of club game time for many of his preferred starting side is an ongoing concern for Page.

“We have to be on the front foot with it… we need to take every advantage into these games in March,” he said.

“If that means we have to try and influence some of the players to go and play and get minutes then we’ll be having those conversations.

“We have to be selfish, we have to think of ourselves in this as well and get the players playing as many games as they can.

“We need to get all of us [coaches] in the room and have a plan, go through the squad – the potential squad – who needs to get out playing games, who needs more minutes, and we’ll try to determine how healthy the bodies are coming into camp in March.”

Wales missed out on automatic Euro 2024 qualification because of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Turkey, coupled with Croatia’s 1-0 win over Armenia.

But the real damage was done by the 1-1 draw in Armenia the previous Saturday that took automatic qualification out of Wales’ hands, with Croatia leap-frogging them into second place in Group D courtesy of their home win over Latvia.

Wales’ wing-backs for their final two group games – Burnley’s Connor Roberts and Neco Williams of Nottingham Forest – had barely mustered a full 90 minutes between them for their clubs since the 2-1 home win over Croatia on 15 October that revitalised their qualification hopes.

Bournemouth trio Kieffer Moore, David Brooks and Chris Mepham all started against Armenia, but Page admitted their lack of game time meant he felt unable to use forwards Moore and Brooks from the start against Turkey, while defender Mepham was suspended.

Page’s two front-line goalkeepers – Danny Ward at Leicester City and Forest’s Wayne Hennessey – have not played a single minute of competitive club football so far this season.

While some players would undoubtedly prefer to remain at their current clubs and fight for their place, should any of those who lack game time be able to find more minutes through transfers or loans to other teams, it would boost Page’s planning for March’s mini-campaign to qualify for the finals in Germany.

“We had to make some changes from Armenia to Turkey and that’s purely because of the lack of minutes some players are playing at club level,” Page said.

“So Kieffer as an example wasn’t playing week-in week-out, so for him on a very heavy pitch in Armenia, to put the shift in he did, to then ask him to marry the standards we’re asking him to four days later is a big ask.”

Cardiff City manager Erol Bulut is a confirmed Moore fan and revealed on Thursday the Bluebirds had tried to re-sign the 31-year-old – who joined Bournemouth in January 2022 – before the season started, and would again try to recruit their former target man in January.

“If we can get Kieffer we don’t leave him on the bench, I have to use him – that’s why I want him,” Bulut said.

While Wales do have options in attack, with Page content to change tactics and styles depending on the opponent and the occasion, 6ft 5in Moore is a key player to allow his national manager to make those choices or change the flow of a game.

Come March, a fully match-fit Moore playing regularly at Championship level would certainly be on Page’s wish-list rather than warming a bench in the Premier League, and the Wales boss would likely be as keen as any Bluebirds supporter to see Moore back at Cardiff City Stadium.

Brennan Johnson has worked his way into a starting spot at Tottenham Hotspur and led the Wales line admirably against Turkey, but Page will hope to have the option of starting with all his best players on the big occasions, not just one or the other.

“We are fortunate enough at this time that we’ve got a pool of players, certainly at the top of the pitch, that are competing for those places, and it’s good competition,” Page added.

“So to have Brennan as a replacement is incredible for us.”

Wales’ missing minutes

*Club minutes played by Wales players between 15 October and 18 November

  • Danny Ward (Leicester City goalkeeper) – 0 mins
  • Wayne Hennessey (Nottingham Forest goalkeeper) – 0 mins
  • Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest defender) – 13 mins; no starts
  • Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth striker) – 14 mins; no starts
  • David Brooks (Bournemouth forward) – 73 mins; one start
  • Connor Roberts (Burnley defender) – 85 mins; one start (sent off)
  • Chris Mepham (Bournemouth defender) – 225 mins; three starts

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