5 defining moments of Chris Coleman's Wales
An incredible era came to a close last week as manager Chris Coleman stepped down after achieving unprecedented success with Wales.
Chris Coleman was the inspiration behind one of football's greatest romance stories and the culture of the modern game suggests that it is a story that is unlikely to be repeated. The qualifying campaign for UEFA EURO 2016 proved successful, and a number of generations would finally have the opportunity to watch Wales compete in the finals of a major tournament.
Only winning the European Championships would have trumped what Wales did achieve, and the side was not far away from doing just that. Reaching the semi-finals was more than Coleman could have realistically dreamt of achieving when he took the job after the late Gary Speed in such difficult circumstances, and he achieved redemption after a difficult start through fundamentally believing in himself.
Everything came together at the right time for Wales, and last summer made memories for tens of thousands of fans that may never be repeated. But what made the success so special was the fact that Coleman is as much a passionate Welsh fan as anyone. He wore his heart on his sleeve throughout his tenure, and he celebrated with the same intensity as those that followed his players across Europe.
A new era will now begin for Wales under the guidance of a new manager. He will inherit a professional setup and a squad of young and talented players hungry to emulate the achievements of last summer. Few managers receive the same gratitude that has been offered to Coleman on social media this week, and that is as much a mark of the man as it is the manager.
To celebrate his success, we take a look back at the five defining moments of his managerial tenure with Wales. A reign that would confirm his status as the greatest manager in the history of the Welsh national team, and leave his successor with an incredibly difficult job to follow.
#5 The first win
It was a long time coming, but it would prove to be a pivotal night in Cardiff when two late goals from Gareth Bale earned Chris Coleman his first victory as his side came from behind to beat Scotland 2-1 in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Almost 10 months since his appointment, and coming on the back of a 6-1 reverse in Serbia, it was the perfectly-timed tonic for a squad desperate to celebrate.
The euphoria of the winning goal meant more than three points. It also meant the start of finding closure to the horrendous circumstances that had caused the position to become vacant almost a year earlier. Gary Speed was the inspirational leader to this group of impressionable young players, but his death had affected the group in a deeply emotional way.
For the first time, Coleman, his players and the supporters had a reason to celebrate. A superb long-range strike from Bale was a fitting way to win the match, and the torrential rain only added to the effect. The outpouring of joy was significant and marked the dawn of a new era, but also acted as a sign that things were about to get better for a team that had suffered such a deep human tragedy.
There was still much to do, and the victory only papered over the clear cracks that had been exposed in the heavy 6-1 defeat to Serbia the month before. But this was a sign that there was hope for this generation of players, and also offered Coleman the opportunity to show that he could turn things around given the right amount of time and support.