Robert Page’s Wales were a team trapped in between two eras | Ben Fisher

Manager introduced a new generation of players in wake of Bale’s retirement but embarrassing results cost him his job

On the morning of Poland’s match with Austria in the grand surrounds of the Olympiastadion Berlin, where supporters applied face paint to one another on the final descent to the ground before the rain moved in, it must have been impossible for those inside the Football Association of Wales to escape the sense of what might have been. Wales, of course, would have been in Poland’s shoes had things panned out differently in a typically tense penalty shootout in Cardiff in March.

Saying that, they had their minds on other things, announcing the termination of Rob Page’s contract, which had two years to run. The timing is a little strange but such had been the grim mood among supporters his position was slowly growing untenable. Wales’s failure to reach the finals did not help but it was hardly his biggest crime. That was surely the embarrassing 4-2 Euro qualifying defeat at home to Armenia, which Page himself described as haunting, or perhaps the recent stalemate against a Gibraltar team that had not kept a clean sheet since November 2022. In that time Wales have been to a World Cup and back. It was hardly overwhelming evidence of things moving in the right direction. Page had the challenge of re-energising a team – an entire nation – in this eerie post-Gareth Bale era. It always threatened to be a thankless task, and so it proved.

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