Where would Wales be without Gareth Bale? Not that they are doing particularly well with him, but the Tottenham Hotspur star has almost certainly kept Chris Coleman in a job so far and as the Welsh prepare for the visit of Austria to the Liberty Stadium, the manager was as keen as anybody to talk up the wing wizard’s contribution to the cause.
Coleman has endured what could be described as a ‘difficult’ start to his tenure as Wales boss: in what was always going to be an emotional and disturbing transition from Gary Speed to whoever took over after the former manager’s tragic death, the ex-Fulham boss has nonetheless struggled badly with his young squad.
Six defeats in seven games with 16 goals conceded suggests as much, but that would be even worse were it not for Bale.
Spurs’ main man scored both goals in Wales’ only win under Coleman, a 2-1 victory over Scotland in Cardiff, the second of which was the sort of incredible, goal-out-of-nothing strike that has become the norm for the former Southampton man: just look at his stupendous winner for Tottenham at West Brom on Sunday.
And even with what Coleman is tub-thumpingly calling his ‘strongest ever squad’ (Jack Collison and, importantly, the evergreen Craig Bellamy are around for the first time since ‘Cookie’ took the reins), it is impossible to see Wales achieving anything without Bale and the visit of Austria falls into that category.
It may just be a friendly, but Coleman needs all the results he can get at the moment to get the Welsh public fully behind him and bwin go 33/20 that he picks up his second win in charge. The draw is 23/10 and Austria are 31/10, and with both teams in equally poor form, you have to going with a bet on Bale here.
I have already mentioned that Coleman has been struggling, but Austria aren’t doing much better. The Austrians have won two out of the last six, but like all but one of their six victories since October 2010, they have come on their own patch.
Away from home, Austria are dreadful, with their only win on the road since 2006 coming against Azerbaijan, a run of a single victory in 18 games on their travels.
And with the match at the Liberty rather than the Millennium Stadium (which hasn’t been sold out for a national football game for some considerable time now), Wales should have the edge – and Bale can give it to them.
He has scored 12 goals for Tottenham this season and his recent record for Wales has been excellent: with six goals in his last eight appearances for his country, three of which have been the opener, Bale has to be the bet to score on Wednesday evening.
Bale is 9/2 to score the first goal and 6/5 to notch at any time, both of which look superb value anyway but will be even more apepealing if, as has been mooted ahead of the game, Coleman decides to use him in a central striking role.
The former option potentially provides winnings of £110 for any new customers backing it with their free £20 bet after registering.
Take your pick between the two, because as Coleman will happily tell you, Bale is Wales’ true shining light.