From the development of the domestic game to international success, the last decade will hold a special place in the annals of Welsh football history.
To celebrate all that has been achieved during the last 10 years, we take a look back at 10 memorable highlights to welcome in the new year.
THE GARY SPEED ERA
John Toshack was coming to the end of his tenure as Cymru manager at the start of the decade, but it was the appointment of Gary Speed that moved Welsh football into a new era.
The former midfielder answered the call of his country and embraced a project that would take time and patience to put right.
A 3-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in his opening game in February 2011 emphasised the scale of the task ahead, but over the course of the next 10 games in the subsequent 10 months, significant progress saw Cymru end 2011 with three straight victories, culminating in an impressive 4-1 win over Norway at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Tragically, it was the last contribution that Speed would make to the game in Wales. But while results and performances had steadily improved to a level that offered some much-needed optimism for a long-suffering Welsh football public, it was the change in culture and demands for more professionalism off the field that was the real catalyst to the success of his work, and the legacy that laid the foundations for all that was achieved over the course of the next decade.
His untimely death hit the football world hard in December 2011, but while his contribution to the game will be remembered by many, his vision for Cymru continues to flourish through the work of his successors.
Since the first season in 1992/93, European results have been used as a yardstick for judging the standard of our national league.
Heavy defeats have brought criticism, but the last decade has seen our clubs make headlines for the right reasons. While The New Saints have consistently progressed through the opening stages of the UEFA Champions League, Prestatyn Town and Newtown have also progressed in the UEFA Europa League.
However, it is Connah’s Quay Nomads that have set a high standard for Welsh clubs in the latter part of the decade. In 2016/17, Andy Morrison’s side marked their arrival on the European stage with a memorable 1-0 aggregate victory over Norwegian side Stabeck.
Considered one of the best results by a Welsh club on the continent at the time, the side went one step better last summer as they eliminated Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock.
Gareth Bale has been a defining figure for Cyrmu over the course of the last decade. The team talisman, Bale has been pivotal to the success achieved under Chris Coleman and Ryan Giggs.
From his double strike against Scotland in 2012 that gave Coleman his first victory, to his contribution in the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign, Bale and his passionate celebrations have formed some of the most iconic images of the decade.
In the summer of 2013, Bale broke the world transfer record as he made the switch from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid.
During his time at the Santiago Bernabéu, Bale has lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy on four separate occasions, while also celebrating domestic success in the Spanish capital.
His outstanding contribution to his country was rewarded in 2018 when became Cymru’s all-time leading goalscorer, surpassing Ian Rush’s record of 28 goals with a hat-trick against China.
THAT SUMMER IN FRANCE
It will be remembered as the summer that defined a generation for Cymru and the fans that travelled to France in their thousands.
Initially, qualification for EURO 2016 was considered success in itself. However, there was a burning ambition within the group to make the right impression on the field, and reaching the semi-finals was more than many had even dared to dream possible.
The momentum increased as victories over Slovakia, Russia, Northern Ireland and Belgium were achieved, but eventual winners Portugal proved to be one challenge too far.
Without the suspended duo of Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies, Cymru succumbed to two second half-half goals to miss out on a place in the final.
It was a heartbreaking end to the tournament, but the crowds that lined the streets of Cardiff to welcome the team back to the capital a couple of days later emphasised just how pivotal the summer of 2016 was in Welsh football history.
With their place in Welsh football folklore assured, Chris Coleman and his squad will forever hold a place in the hearts of the Red Wall.
SILVERWARE FOR THE SAINTS
The most-decorated club in the history of the national league, The New Saints celebrated another decade of success.
Since 2010, the team from Oswestry have claimed nine JD Cymru Premier titles, and complimented their success by lifting the MG Nathaniel Cup on six occasions, and adding five JD Welsh Cup triumphs to their impressive roll call of success.
However, it was in December 2016 that The New Saints made headlines around the world as they eclipsed a record set by Dutch giants Ajax in 1972 by registering an incredible 27 consecutive victories.
The club continue to set a high standard in the domestic game, and manager Scott Ruscoe will be hoping to start the next decade in similar fashion.
Two of the most memorable victories for Cymru during the last decade came against the side currently ranked number one in the world.
The EURO 2016 qualification campaign was turned in our favour in June 2015 when a solitary strike from Gareth Bale earned Chris Coleman’s side a famous 1-0 win over Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium. However, the win would be surpassed against the same opponents at the finals in France the following year.
Meeting Belgium at the quarter-final stage of a major tournament would be a formidable test for any national team. Radja Nainggolan opened the scoring for Belgium in Lille, but captain Ashley Williams equalised before half-time as Cymru settled into the tie.
Hal Robson-Kanu turned the game with the turn of the decade, and Sam Vokes sent the Red Wall wild with a perfectly-placed header to take Cymru to the semi-finals with a 3-1 victory.
GROWING THE WOMEN'S GAME
While the resurgence of the men’s senior team over the course of the last decade has been well-documented, the women’s international game has also taken significant strides forward, both on and off the field.
With a ten-fold increase in attendances, the work of former manager Jarmo Matikainen has been taken forward by Jayne Ludlow, and the side narrowly missed out qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals.
The rise of the women’s national team has inspired young girls across the country to take up the sport, and participation levels in Wales have never been higher.
New initiatives like the ‘Huddle’ programme will ensure that this progress will continue well into the next decade, and there is every reason to believe that qualification for the finals of a major tournament will not be too far away as more and more Welsh players establish themselves in the professional ranks of the women’s game.
THE RED WALL
At the start of the decade, sparse crowds witnessed inevitable disappointment for Cymru. However, the Red Wall has now become a key part of our national team culture, and was recognised by UEFA at EURO 2016.
Handing over the anthem before each home game has been crucial in generating an atmosphere that has made Cardiff City Stadium a fortress during the last campaign.
Appreciated by the players, few nations can boast a bond between the team and the fans as strong as that between Cymru and the Red Wall.
The squad that qualified for EURO 2016 came through the ranks together during the previous decade as John Toshack began shaping the next generation.
The squad developed and progressed under Gary Speed and Chris Coleman, coming through the tough times together to achieve unparalleled success. However, this was part of a long-standing project, and the established Welsh football pathway system continues to produce talented young players who are now shaping the current squad.
Ryan Giggs has made some brave calls since his appointment as manager in January 2018, and his faith in youth has been rewarded.
Players like Ethan Ampadu, Harry Wilson, Connor Roberts, Chris Mepham, David Brooks, Joe Rodon and Daniel James headline a long list of talented players that have played an important part in qualifying for EURO 2020.
Working closely with intermediate team managers Paul Bodin, Rob Edwards and Richard Williams, there is a clear plan in place to ensure the pathway continues to offer opportunity to those that impress.
It was only fitting that a decade that brought so much success across the board for the game in Wales should end on a high, and qualification for EURO 2020 means that Cymru will start the next decade competing on the biggest stage once again.
An exciting new generation of players will aim to at least emulate the achievements of Chris Coleman’s squad when the action begins against Switzerland in Baku in June, and the confidence within the group could not be higher after such an impressive finish to the qualifying campaign.
Building on the foundations laid by his predecessors during the last decade, Ryan Giggs now leads Cymru into a new and exciting era, and the hopes and dreams of the Red Wall could be realised once more.
FOR AN IN DEPTH AND INTERACTIVE REVIEW OF FOOTBALL IN WALES DURING 2019, VISIT BUILTON.CYMRU.