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Ludlow using Wales men to inspire women's team

Wales manager Jayne Ludlow believes the success of the men's side can be emulated when her team resume their bid to qualify for UEFA Women's EURO 2017.

Jayne Ludlow believes a late run of home games could yet take Wales to the Netherlands
Jayne Ludlow believes a late run of home games could yet take Wales to the Netherlands ©FAW

"The men are there," explained Wales women's manager Jayne Ludlow as she sat down with UEFA.com.

"They are at the point where they have had the youth coming through, and they're having all the joy from that now. We are at the beginning of that process. But everything is a little bit clear now about where we're going. There's an end goal, and hopefully in my time we'll achieve that. I am very passionate about making sure we push down barriers and achieve things people thought we were never capable of achieving. I don't like being told we can't do things, put it that way, so we'll see where we get to."

Wales currently sit third in UEFA Women's EURO 2017 qualifying Group 8 after a difficult start and return to action on Tuesday with their longest trip. "Kazakhstan away is a bit of a journey, and they are a very different outfit to the team I played against years and years ago," said Ludlow, who scored 19 goals in 61 internationals for Wales between 1996 and 2012.

"They're developing the game over there, they have an infrastructure, but it's very early days for them, which is not dissimilar to us. I'm not sure what sort of environment we're going to have when we get there. It will be a competitive fixture for us."

Ludlows's side recorded a 4-0 home victory against Kazakhstan in November following away defeats by Austria and Norway, before 2015 ended with a 2-2 draw in Israel. "When we reflect on the Austria game, there were a lot of good things," the former midfielder explained. "We just made silly errors, errors that can be easily changed from a defensive point of view. It definitely wasn't a 3-0 game.

Jayne Ludlow (right) in her playing days for Arsenal
Jayne Ludlow (right) in her playing days for Arsenal©Arsenal FC

"Norway was always going to be tough. We worked extremely hard and I was disappointed to concede four. It was probably the first time standing there on the side of the pitch that I had seen so many good things. The intensity which the girls are now getting into their game wasn't there before, the understanding in certain aspects and the group togetherness. It was positive in lots of ways even though people will look at the result and think it wasn't."

With three consecutive home matches to complete the group, Ludlow still believes her side can make an impression on the final standings. "Going forward, and this was in my thought process from the start, when we play at home we win games."

The 37-year-old succeeded Jarmo Matikainen in October 2014 after a spell in charge of Reading, with the former Finland youth coach one of a number of managerial mentors that long-time Arsenal player Ludlow has turned to. "There's a lot of coaches I pick the brains of when I have the opportunity.

"Vic [Akers, her manager at Arsenal] is one, Jarmo, Laura Harvey in Seattle is another, also Emma Hayes at Chelsea and Sue Ronan in Ireland. There's a mix there of coaches who are still very active, and older ones that have a lot of experience."

Jayne Ludlow replaced Jess Fishlock as captain
Jayne Ludlow replaced Jess Fishlock as captain©Getty Images

Jess Fishlock, 29, remains Wales's talismanic star, and Ludlow praised her "ultimate professional" when discussing the decision to replace the Seattle Reign midfielder with Sophie Ingle as team captain. "Coming into a group of players, I needed to find out what the hierarchy was, who had strengths in different areas, who were the leaders. I also had to marry up what was best for the individuals and there was a lot of thought that went into the decision.

"Obviously, the way Jess took it and the way she has played since, she has been the ultimate professional. She's been great for us. I didn't think it was a gamble because I know how much she loves playing in a Welsh shirt and how much she wants to give back to her country. I think everybody else looked at it very differently to how we looked at it internally."

Yet while men's counterpart Chris Coleman focuses on France and UEFA EURO 2016, there is a wider vision for Ludlow than the immediate success of her team. "My role is very varied," she said. "I have the responsibility to develop the whole women's and girls' game in Wales. It's the start of a holistic pathway. It's a long-term plan but an exciting one. There are so many positives you notice now that 12 months ago weren't there. It's why I'm really looking forward to the next lot of games."