Rob Page keen to focus on football after clearing air with FAW chief Noel Mooney

By Sports Desk November 08, 2023

Rob Page says he has cleared the air with Football Association of Wales chief Noel Mooney after their public spat last month.

Mooney put Page’s future in the spotlight four days before the Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia by saying the manager’s position would be reviewed if Wales did not qualify for Euro 2024 automatically.

Subsequent media reports suggested Mooney had wanted fellow Irishman Roy Keane, the former Sunderland and Ipswich manager and TV pundit, to replace Page following June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.

Page is just over 12 months into a four-year contract and promised to “ignore the noise” during the build-up to a game that Wales eventually won 2-1 to move into the second automatic qualifying place in Group D.

Captain Ben Davies described Mooney’s comments as “not helpful”, and Page said the issue has since been addressed at a meeting between himself, the chief executive and FAW president Steve Williams.

“It was a conversation all three of us needed,” Page said when announcing his squad on Wednesday for this month’s final Euro 2024 qualifiers against Armenia and Turkey.

“I’m not going to go into details of what was said. It needed to be done and only positives will come from it.

“I’m due to meet him (Mooney) after the press conference and we’ll have a coffee and a chat.

“Things were said and that was it. We all move forward in the same direction. Full focus is now on the football.

“It was frustrating, unnecessary. But I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about it. We’re all on the same page.

“We all know what we’ve got to do. It would be disrespectful from me now to the players to keep going on about it.”

Tottenham forward Brennan Johnson returns to a 23-man squad after missing the win over Croatia with a hamstring injury.

Page maintains stand-in skipper Davies will be fit for both qualifiers, despite the defender missing Spurs’ 4-1 Premier League defeat against Chelsea on Monday and also being in danger of sitting out his club’s weekend game at Wolves.

Sunderland defender Niall Huggins has won his first senior call-up and Portsmouth midfielder Joe Morrell returns after a two-match suspension.

But Aaron Ramsey is again ruled out with the knee injury he sustained in September, and Page says the Cardiff midfielder has suffered a “setback” in his recovery.

He said: “It’s disappointing, I found out on Friday last week. As we all know Aaron was pushing and pushing to be part of this camp.

“Unfortunately it’s come a little too soon for him. He’s had a setback. He got up to about 90 per cent. If you’d seen him on the grass, straight lines, everything was fine.

“But there was something stopping him from going to that last step. So it’s not great for us, but it gives others an opportunity.

“He’ll be a part of it (the squad). I had that conversation with him last camp. He knew he wasn’t going to play any minutes in regards to the changing room, but to have Aaron around the lads is definitely beneficial.”

Wales can avoid the play-offs in March by beating Armenia in Yerevan on November 18 and Turkey in Cardiff three days later.

Dropped points in either game will leave them relying on other results to join already-qualified Turkey at next summer’s European Championship in Germany.

“June was a bump in the road,” Page said of damaging defeats to Armenia and Turkey in the space of four days.

“We didn’t like it. We didn’t appreciate it. We didn’t like what we saw, but we put it right in September (by beating Latvia) – and some.

“We built on that in October and capped it off with arguably one of the best performances that I’ve seen.

“We have to build on that. It will count for nothing if we don’t follow it up.”

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