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The Greatest Welsh Team of the Premier League Era

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterMarch 4, 2013

The Greatest Welsh Team of the Premier League Era

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    Wales international Gareth Bale is making headlines across Europe with his displays for Tottenham this season.

    The 23-year-old has been in imperious form this season for the White Hart Lane side, which moved into the Premier League top three on the back of a 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday.

    Bale would be an automatic selection for any Welsh team of the Premier League era, even if it did mean switching to a left-back berth.

    But who else would be included in a greatest Welsh team of the same period?

Neville Southall

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    Few would dispute the naming of Neville Southall as the best Welsh goalkeeper of all time, let alone during the Premier League era.

    Southall won his first senior cap in May 1982 in a home international against Northern Ireland, which Wales won 3-0.

    The former Everton goalkeeper would go on to claim a record 92 caps for his country before his last appearance for Wales in August 1997 against Turkey, just a month away from his 39th birthday.

Chris Gunter

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    Reading defender Chris Gunter might be a surprise selection to some at right-back, but his 43 caps to date for Wales are an indication of why he should be included here.

    The 23-year-old became the youngest Cardiff City player to play for Wales when he won his first cap in a friendly match against New Zealand in May 2007.

    Gunter was an ever-present at right-back during Wales' 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign and remains an integral part of the team.

    Clayton Blackmore was a possibility for the right side of defence, but his preference was always the left flank.

Chris Coleman

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    Current Wales manager Chris Coleman is chosen just ahead of Kit Symons for the central defence.

    The former Swansea City, Crystal Palace and Fulham centre-half won 32 caps for his country as a player and scored on his debut against Austria in Vienna in August 1992.

    In 1997, Coleman dropped two divisions from top-flight Blackburn to captain a Fulham side toward the Premier League. But after breaking his leg in a car accident in January 2001, Coleman was unable to feature for the Craven Cottage side in the top flight.

    Coleman was appointed Wales manager in January 2012 following the tragic death of Gary Speed.

Ashley Williams

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    Swansea City captain Ashley Williams is in the form of his life at the moment after lifting the Capital One Cup for the Liberty Stadium side last month.

    The 28-year-old has been linked with a move to Manchester United recently on the back of his displays for Michael Laudrup's team this season.

    Williams, who has 39 caps, is the current Wales skipper and represents a formidable presence in the heart of defence for club and country.

Gareth Bale

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    Tottenham winger Gareth Bale slots in at left-back, which can only mean one thing for who takes up the left wing role...

    Bale's form this season for Tottenham has been majestic. It is difficult to argue against the former Southampton player being the single most important cog in Andre Villas-Boas' team.

    The 23-year-old became the youngest player to feature for Wales at 16 years and 315 days after coming on as a substitute in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago in May 2006. He now has 39 caps for his country.

Craig Bellamy

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    Craig Bellamy remains a fierce and combative competitor on the field and is a ferociously proud Welshman.

    The 33-year-old Cardiff midfielder was originally an out-and-out striker in his early years with Norwich City, Coventry City and Newcastle United.

    Bellamy was initially reluctant to switch to the right side of the midfield under former Newcastle manager Graeme Souness as the Daily Telegraph reported in January 2005 and he was sent to Celtic on loan.

    Since then, Bellamy has played for Blackburn, Liverpool twice and Manchester City before joining Cardiff City in a full-time move in August 2012.

    Bellamy made his first appearance for Wales in March 1998 and currently has 71 caps to his name.

Gary Speed

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    Former Leeds, Everton and Newcastle player Gary Speed was a cultured midfielder with an eye for the defence-splitting pass.

    The Wales international won 85 caps for his country, the highest for an outfield player, following his debut in May 1990 against Costa Rica in a friendly international.

    Speed succeeded John Toshack as manager of the national side in December 2010 and lifted the team to 45th place in the FIFA world rankings from a low of 117th.

    Sadly, we will never know what he could have achieved as Wales manager after his tragic death in November 2011.

Mark Pembridge

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    Former midfielder Mark Pembridge might not be to everyone's taste, but his no-nonsense tackling workede well with Speed's cultured play.

    Pembridge began his Wales career in 1991 when he was playing for Luton Town, but quit the international arena in 2005 after winning 54 caps and scoring six times for his country.

    Pembridge played for Luton, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday before joining Benfica of Portugal in 1998. But he returned to the Premier League with Everton in 1999 before finishing his career with Fulham where he is currently coaching.

Ryan Giggs

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    Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs being included as the left-winger of the team will come as no surprise at all to anyone.

    The 39-year-old is still a key part of the Old Trafford squad and will make his 1000th competitive appearance against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

    Renowned for his tireless running and creativity, Giggs has just signed a new one-year deal with United which will take him beyond his 40th birthday.

    Giggs made his international debut in 1991 and went on to win 64 caps for Wales before announcing his retirement from international football in 2007.

Ian Rush

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    Former Liverpool and Wales striker Ian Rush retains a legendary status at both club and country levels after a remarkable goal-scoring career.

    Rush made 73 appearances for his country between 1980 and 1996 and scored 28 goals during that period, which is still a record for a Wales international.

    His scoring record with Wales mirrored his success at Anfield where he still holds the club record of 346 goals in all competitions following two spells at the club.

Mark Hughes

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    Former Manchester United and Barcelona striker Mark Hughes needed just 17 minutes to put his name on the international map when he scored the only goal of the game against England in May 1984.

    Hughes would go on to make 72 appearances for Wales until 1999 and scored 16 times for his country.

    Hughes' first role in football management was with Wales when he was appointed to succeed Bobby Gould alongside Southall in 1999.

    Hughes took Wales to the Euro 2004 playoffs where they lost to Russia before leaving his post to take over at Blackburn Rovers.

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