NEWPORT’S Chris Gunter admits Wales must make a fast start in their bid to reach Euro 2016, but he doesn’t want all the pressure to be on Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
Speaking with the Argus after leading his Reading side to a 3-1 Capital One Cup victory over Newport County, Gunter, amazingly capped 54-times at the tender age of 25, spelled out the need for the Dragons to make an early impression in qualifying Group B where Wales are pitted against Belgium, Bosnia, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra.
The top two teams qualify outright and the team that finishes third has a better than 50% chance of reaching a play-off tie, as the switch from 16 to 24 teams in France gives Wales their best mathematical chance of progression in decades.
However, Gunter knows that momentum will be all important for Chris Coleman’s side.
“We take a lot of positives at the moment, we had no friendly at the beginning of the season which felt strange, we go straight into the qualifiers, but the last time we met up we put in a really good performance against Holland,” he said.
“We ended the season well; we need to carry that on when we join up for the qualifiers, because we need to start well.
“We always say it, but we should begin confidently. The aim is to qualify and a fast start will be a big help to that.
“We always say this is the time, but this is the best chance we’ve had, but we have to take advantage, it won’t be any easier than it has been before, they are good teams we are up against, but it’s definitely a decent opportunity.
“We have to give ourselves a good chance and momentum will be a massive factor in that. It’s been a while since we’ve given ourselves a chance.”
The form of Arsenal’s Ramsey and Real Madrid’s Bale, the most expensive player in the world, is another boost for Wales, but Gunter doesn’t think the Dragons can rely totally on the duo to fire them to Paris.
“ Gareth (Bale) and Aaron (Ramsey) in such great form, but we can’t get drawn on putting all the pressure on those two, it is going to take a whole squad of players, because history tells us you won’t have all the players available over what is quite a long campaign,” he explained.
“But we’ve got a good squad now, we’ve been together a few years and everything has been made clear about more teams qualifying for the tournament and the opportunity to qualify being increased.
“We start at Andorra on a plastic pitch, but we’ve got plenty of time to prepare for it and win, lose or draw, it can’t be used as any sort of excuse after the game. We’ve got more than enough time to get our heads around it.
“In the short term, Gareth and Aaron’s form is a big help for us. I went to the Community Shield game at Wembley to support Aaron and he played really well, they both seem to be stepping up to new levels and keep pushing on and on.
“They’ve been in great form for a long while and it gives them and us great confidence, they are raising the profile of Welsh football and will play alongside a squad desperate to make history and bring tournament football back to Wales.”