Chris Gunter: Defender backing Wales evolution under Ryan Giggs

Chris Gunter has witnessed Ryan Giggs' Wales evolution at first hand.
 
Giggs' overhaul continues apace, with another four uncapped youngsters in the squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers in Croatia and Hungary this month.
 
The 29-year-old Reading defender has no complaints about the continued influx of younger players, even if it is making him feel a little old.
 
"Over the last 12 months, 29 has turned into [feeling like] 49 because of all these youngsters coming through," said Wales' most capped male football player, who has played 94 times for his country.
 
"I think it is good. When you are young that is how you get your chance, either through injuries or that type of manager who wants to go and give young players a chance.
 
"But they have come in and now, almost, there is another group coming through to the ones you would have called the young group 12 months ago. They are probably the middle group now.
 
Chris Mepham (L) and Connor Roberts are two of the players to have made debuts under Wales boss Ryan Giggs
 
"They have gained some valuable experience in the last 12 months - have played in some big games - but not just that, they have performed and done well.
 
"It's alright giving players chances but they have got into the squad and have stayed there and made an impact in the games.
 
"It bodes well for the future and that mix of more experienced and younger ones coming through is brilliant."
 
Giggs has capped 12 newcomers during his 11-game reign to date. More than half were 22 or under when they made their debuts.
 
One to emerge was Swansea City full-back Connor Roberts, whose form for club and country has ensured Gunter is no longer a fixture in the starting line-up as he was for so long.
 
Until September's 4-1 Nations League victory over the Republic of Ireland, Gunter had started an astonishing 63 consecutive matches for Wales, a sequence which began in 2010.
 
"Connor is one in terms of the next 10 years for Wales, but when I am gone in however long, he will then have what he is now to me. Nobody has a divine right to be in the team or in the squad," Gunter said.
 
"Games are so spread out internationally but then when you have two in three or four days, that is where the manager must be happy he has competition [for places]."
 

GIGGS' DEBUTANTS

  • Chris Mepham - CHINA (A) 22/03/18 Won 6-0 substitute
  • Connor Roberts - URUGUAY (A) 26/03/18 Lost 1-0 substitute
  • Billy Bodin - URUGUAY (A) 26/03/18 Lost 1-0 substitute
  • George Thomas - MEXICO - (A) 28/05/18 D0-0 substitute
  • Matt Smith -MEXICO (A) 28/05/18 Drew 0-0 substitute
  • Tyler Roberts - REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (H) 06/09/18 Won 4-1 substitute
  • Keiron Freeman -ALBANIA (A) 20/11/18 Lost 1-0 substitute
  • James Lawrence - ALBANIA (A) 20/11/18 Lost 1-0
  • Daniel James - ALBANIA (A) 20/11/18 Lost 1-0
  • Rabbi Matondo - ALBANIA (A) 20/11/18 Lost 1-0 substitute
  • Will Vaulks - TRINIDAD & TOBAGO (H) 20/03/19 Won 1-0
  • Adam Davies - TRINIDAD & TOBAGO (H) 20/03/19 Won 1-0 substitute
 
The overhaul of Chris Coleman's squad, which reached the heights of the Euro 2016 semi-finals, has been gradual but tangible and has accelerated under Giggs.
 
Even captain Ashley Williams was on the bench alongside Gunter for Wales' 1-0 win over Slovakia in the Group E opener at the Cardiff City Stadium.
 
Despite Manchester United target Roberts seemingly being the first choice right-back for Giggs, Gunter is edging closer to the historic 100 cap mark - passed only by Wales women internationals Jess Fishlock and Loren Dykes.
 
Gunter has failed to feature in only two games during Giggs' reign, but just as age does not seem to be a consideration for his manager, the cap figure is not paramount to the Wales men's record holder.
 
"I always said its alright getting high caps but you want to be in some sort of success and have some really good experiences," he said.
 
"We have a good chance to get back to a major tournament and that is the only aim. There's no point looking at numbers or statistics.
 
"We want to be qualifying from this group because now we have been there and everyone knows what it's like, it makes you a little bit more hungry to experience it again.
 
"That is the only aim, to try and help in any way to get this country back to another major tournament."
 
Gunter's Welsh fire still burns strongly. For him the more things change the more they stay the same, whatever his age.
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