Chris Coleman has come under increased pressure to end a run of four consecutive defeats after Jonathan Ford, the Football Association of Wales chief executive, described getting the first World Cup qualifying points on the board in the upcoming fixtures against Scotland and Croatia as "a must".
Ford said that the FAW were "100%" behind Coleman and acknowledged "it was always going to be a difficult task" for the former Fulham manager, who took charge of the national team following the death of Gary Speed, but he also made it clear that it is imperative results improve. "Some points on the board is a bit of a must in my mind," Ford said.
Coleman risks making history for all the wrong reasons if Wales are defeated by Scotland at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday. Wales have not lost their first three World Cup qualifiers since the 1968- 69 campaign and never has a manager of the national team suffered defeat in his opening five matches.
His hopes of avoiding that unwanted record have hardly been helped by the absence of key players, including Craig Bellamy, Neil Taylor and Wayne Hennessey, all of whom are injured, as well as James Collins, who is suspended following his dismissal in the home defeat against Belgium last month. Coleman has also endured an injury scare over Gareth Bale, who has been in some discomfort with a heel problem and was forced to miss training on Wednesday.
Coleman badly needs the Tottenham Hotspur winger available for a game when he believes the team will carry his own stamp for the first time. In the wake of the 6-1 hammering in Serbia last month, Coleman announced last Friday that he had taken the rather surprising step of removing the captaincy from Aaron Ramsey and appointing Ashley Williams, the Swansea City defender, in his place. He also issued Bellamy with an ultimatum after becoming exasperated with the continued uncertainty that surrounds the Cardiff City striker's availability for the national team.
In what could be construed as mixed messages, given his insistence that Wales needed to pick up some points, Ford said that the FAW were behind Coleman and the recent decisions he has made. "Absolutely 100% we back him," he said. "We sat down with Chris after the shock defeat away in Serbia. Nobody wanted to come away from that match in the way we did and Chris took some time to reflect on what he saw and what he was trying to do with the legacy that Gary had left us. But at the end of the day, the manager has to make his own decisions. Chris has made some fundamental changes and we support him and wish our team all of the best success for the match coming [against Scotland]."
Adam Matthews, the Celtic full-back, has picked up a knock and is rated as doubtful for the Scotland game, although the main concern in the Wales camp is that Bale is declared fit. "We feel he will be OK," said John Hartson, the Wales coach. "It's a case of getting him ready. He's got a slight problem with his heel. It's something that Gareth has been carrying for a while. It's a case of nursing him through. He will probably take part in training [on Thursday]."