CHRIS COLEMAN says his time as Wales manager will never be tarnished if tonight’s friendly against Panama proves to be his final game.
Coleman takes charge of Wales for the 49th time this evening with talks over a new contract set to resume after the Cardiff clash with the surprise World Cup qualifiers.
The 47-year-old wants certain guarantees over his backroom staff before signing a new deal and extending a near-six-year reign which has included taking Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
“If I am going to walk away and shake hands I know we took it to a level that was unthinkable in the time we did it,” Coleman said.
“The experiences we have had and where we have taken it that will never be spoiled.
“But I’d be more proud in two or four years’ time if the team qualified again. That’s the acid test for what’s been put in place.”
Late coach Gary Speed “got the set-up going, it was more professionally run and he put good foundations in place. We’ve built on that and tried to take it forward.
“People talk about legacy, but that’s not about me, John Toshack or Gary Speed. We’re all passing through, the legacy is Wales and the jersey — and not one man.
“I played a part but I would be really proud if the teams are qualifying for tournaments with or without me.”
Wales’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer meant that Coleman’s future had to be addressed now.
Talks were put on hold until after the November friendlies against France and Panama, but the former Fulham and Real Sociedad boss expects them to resume “pretty quickly” after today.
Already without the injured Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, who has returned to Arsenal to prepare for Saturday’s north London derby with Tottenham, Coleman is set to field an experimental team against the Central Americans.
Ben Woodburn, Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks — who came on as second-half substitutes in Friday’s 2-0 defeat to France in Paris — are set to feature in a side skippered by Chris Gunter, who will equal Speed’s 85-cap record for an outfield player.
“The plan for Aaron was always to play the one game, he’s OK and will be available for Arsenal on the weekend,” Coleman said. “The young lads have shown enough to tell us they belong here and are capable of playing on this stage.
“We need to get them on the pitch before we start playing for points again.”