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Williams explains Welsh international blueprint

Geraint Williams, who oversees Wales's U17, U19 and U21 sides, tells UEFA.com about the "clear pathway" that exists for his players to progress at international level.

Inspirations: Aaron Ramsey (left) and Gareth Bale
Inspirations: Aaron Ramsey (left) and Gareth Bale ©AFP/Getty Images

Players like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are the international inspiration for Wales's aspiring youngsters, and in Geraint Williams the principality has a man who is playing his part to ensure their dreams become reality.

Overseeing Wales at Under-17, U19 and U21 levels, Williams and his coaching staff have a busy March ahead as the U17s start their elite round campaign and qualifying for the 2017 UEFA European U21 Championship begins. 

A midfielder who made over 800 appearances in the English league system, Williams earned 13 caps for Wales between 1988 and 1996, and was appointed to his current role in July 2012. "It's been a long process," the 53-year-old told UEFA.com. "Things were put in place by Gary [Speed] with regard to having a Wales way of playing, and that's been taken on magnificently by Chris Coleman and Osian Roberts [Football Association of Wales technical director], who are at the bottom and top of it.

Wales U17, U19 and U21 coach Geraint Williams
Wales U17, U19 and U21 coach Geraint Williams©Getty Images

"The U16s have been successful and the intermediate teams [U17s and U19s] have qualified for their [European Championship] elite round from three of the last four attempts. It's ongoing, but the success is not just at the bottom and the top, it's right through Welsh football."

Wales play Austria, Iceland and mini-tournament hosts Russia in U17 elite round Group 5 between 21 and 26 March. "We know it's going to be tough," said Williams of the fixtures in Krasnodar. "But this group of young men are really excited about the prospect of getting to a finals with Wales.

"They've got all the qualities you need to be a good team. They are very professional for young men, they want to learn, and they've got a pride and a work ethic. But not only that, they've also got ability. They can pass the ball, play good football, and if needs be they can stand up to other systems. So they do have a good all-round package."

Williams's post enables him to take a holistic view of the bigger Welsh football picture, and the U17 elite round is just the start of a longer road for many members of the party. "There were 15 boys eligible for the U21 team who went into Chris Coleman's senior squad during the last qualifying campaign," he explained.

"It's fantastic that we can give that back-up of players, because we know from the past how much withdrawals have hurt the national team. We've got to create a pool of players with talent, attitude and ability. What that then does is give the opportunity for U19 players to step in [to the U21s]. That's the opportunity for Welsh players. We now have a clear pathway, and if players deserve it, they will get through to the national team."

Wales came fourth in their 2013−15 qualifying round group
Wales came fourth in their 2013−15 qualifying round group©Getty Images

Attention will quickly turn to 2017 U21 qualifying when Williams returns from Russia. Wales's opening match in a U21 section also containing Luxembourg, Denmark, Armenia and Romania is a home game against Bulgaria on 31 March.

"We know it's going to be a tough group, but the boys who have come through to the U21s have also come through the U19s and qualified for their elite round, so they have no fear of any team," he said. "We also respect every team and we treat every team the same. We need to make sure we concentrate on our own game defensively, and when we get the ball down and go forward, we can get results against anyone."

Williams is also aware of the importance of beginning the campaign with a positive result. "You want to achieve that feel-good factor and get the players desperate to come back for the next camp."