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Friday, March 25, 2011

Is Ramsey ready to lead Wales?

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsay will be handed the honour of leading his side out at Millennium Stadium on Saturday against England, and with it will be become the youngest player to have ever worn the arm-band for Wales. But is he the right man?

The 20-year-old started his first game in ten months when he turned out for Nottingham Forest in December while on loan at the Championship club, and since returning to Arsenal has gradually increased his match-fitness as he looks to cement a regular first team spot. He may well sell plenty of new football kits over the coming years but before he has a chance to make a name for himself, he has to contend with the small task of leading his country into battle against their arch enemies.

The talented midfielder faces criticism from within, as former Wales skipper Kevin Ratcliffe questioned his ability to do the job.

“For somebody who hasn't played a great deal of football at his club, I think he's shown great faith in the lad.” He said of Gary Speed’s decision.

"I know his qualities as a player, but is he a leader? For me at the moment he is very immature I think to be a captain.”

Ramsey will face a tough task when he comes up against an England team intent on repairing the damage done to their reputation over the past 12 months, and in his first international game in 16 months he could have done without the added attention the job inevitably brings.

The former Cardiff man needs to focus on his own game for the time being as he looks to establish himself as a force in the Premier League, and could have done without the added burden.

Although Ramsey is an extremely talented and promising midfielder, it says a lot about the state of Welsh football that they are forced to rely on a 20-year-old to lead the charge.

Craig Bellamy would have been expected to skipper the side, but passed over the armband after knee-problems prevent him from playing every game for his country. The situation bears a similarity with the England captaincy issue, where regular injuries to Rio Ferdinand meaning John Terry has been handed the job.

Both countries look to have botched the handling of the situation, but England will claim they have the right man for the job eventually, can Wales?

James Collins has been excellent for the past two seasons at Villa and is one of the most consistent centre backs in the Premier League; Speed would have been better off handing the captaincy to someone who will be able to stand strong against England, and not a youngster looking to work his way back into the side.

The Wales boss will stick by the old adage that if he is good enough he is old enough, and Ramsey does carry himself in a manner that betrays his young age. He will not be relied on to give an inspirational speech as any player not motivated to face England is probably in the wrong job and will look to lead by example as possibly the most talented member of the squad.

The Wales team does have the look of a young team that needs time to gel together, with the likes of Joe Ledley, Gareth Bale, Chris Gunter, Ashley Williams and Ramsey himself forming the core of the team expected to face England. As the leader of the new wave of Welsh talent, Ramsey is relishing the chance to captain the side and his determination to do the job has to be admired.

If the game goes against Ramsey and Wales, all eyes will be on Speed and the lack of protection he has given to the young Arsenal midfielder.

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