Rob Page’s Wales reign comes to an end after disappointing 18 months

The 49-year-old was backed by the Football Association of Wales to continue in the role following Euro 2024 elimination in March.

Rob Page was sacked as Wales manager on Friday after three-and-a-half years in charge
Rob Page was sacked as Wales manager on Friday after three-and-a-half years in charge (Ben Birchall/PA)

Rob Page’s Wales reign came to a conclusion after an unhappy 18 months that ended with a double dose of embarrassment against Gibraltar and Slovakia.

Page, who was first appointed manager on an interim basis in November 2020 after Ryan Giggs took leave and led Wales to the delayed European Championships the following summer, was sacked almost halfway through a four-year contract he signed in September 2022.

By that stage, the 49-year-old had guided Wales to their first World Cup in 64 years and everything appeared rosy heading to Qatar two months later.

But Wales’ World Cup excursion would mark the beginning of the end for Page: poor team selection, tactical mistakes and a torrid campaign that saw the Dragons finish bottom of their group with one point and one goal – a Gareth Bale penalty.

Bale announced his retirement from football six weeks after the World Cup exit, and Page had to begin plotting Euro 2024 qualification without Wales’ long-time talisman.

It was a mixed campaign that saw Wales take four points from 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Croatia but was ultimately undone by picking up just one against Armenia, who were barely ranked inside the world’s top hundred.

Wales were consigned to the play-offs and, having registered a semi-final win over Finland, missed out on the Euros as Poland prevailed in a penalty shoot-out contest in Cardiff and attention now turns to the Nations League campaign that starts in September.

Football Association of Wales president Steve Williams took less than 24 hours to give Page his full backing after an agonising defeat that hit Welsh football’s finances hard.

Gareth Bale (left) retired from football in January 2023 to leave Rob Page (right) without Wales’ talisman
Gareth Bale (left) retired from football in January 2023 to leave Rob Page (right) without Wales’ talisman (Nick Potts/PA)

But that support evaporated after two June friendlies, a goalless draw against Gibraltar – opponents ranked 203rd in the world – and a 4-0 hammering to Euros-bound Slovakia.

Even without a host of senior players, the FAW hierarchy could not escape the fact Wales had won only five times in 22 games since qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Nor could they ignore the loud calls of fans – both inside the stadiums after the Gibraltar and Slovakia games and on social media – to replace someone whose only previous managerial experience came at Port Vale and Northampton.

Williams said: “I am incredibly grateful for all that Rob has done in his role as Cymru men’s national team manager and I want to put on record my gratitude for taking Cymru to EURO 2020 and the FIFA World Cup.”

“Rob’s passion for the country shone through in his visits to schools, clubs and communities across the breadth of Wales.

“I know Rob was incredibly proud of taking the World Cup squad announcement to his hometown of Tylorstown.”

Chief executive Noel Mooney – who was reportedly keen on appointing fellow Irishman Roy Keane in the autumn as Wales’ Euro campaign stuttered – expressed “heartfelt gratitude” to Page for his “commitment and dedication”.

FAW chief football officer Dave Adams thanked Page for his seven-year stay as Under-21 and head coach and promoting 18 pathway players into the senior set-up.

More tellingly, Adams added that Wales would use this experience “to support our objective to consistently qualify our men’s national team to major tournaments”.

The bottom line is the FAW expect to reach major tournaments having qualified for the 2016 and 2020 European Championships and the 2022 World Cup.

Page was a very popular figure with staff at the FAW offices in the Vale of Glamorgan and among his squad, as evidenced when senior players Ben Davies and Harry Wilson spoke out strongly amid the Keane links in October.

But the FAW felt Page was not getting the most from a talented squad featuring the likes of captain Aaron Ramsey, Brennan Johnson, Ethan Ampadu and Wilson.

Ramsey reacted to Page’s dismissal by writing on X: “I personally just want to thank you for all you have done for me. You have been a privilege to work with, a gentleman and true family man.

“Myself and the team will forever be grateful for your guidance. These past few years are years we will treasure. Thank you, Rambo.”