Rambo XXX – Aaron’s Top Thirty at 30
And so it came to pass that our Lord and saviour was born not long after the shortest day, many moons ago…Nah, not Jesus. He was shite. Nazareth won fuck all when he was around.
I’m talking of course about the ‘quiet balletic God’ (© Mark Ainsbury) that is one Aaron James Ramsey (b: 26.12.90).
I haven’t seen a better midfielder for Wales
says Chris Jenkins; and this fan (since 1985) totally agrees.
Much as I love Bale and wee Joe, deep down Ramsey’s the footballer I’d be if I had a choice. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be that obscenely talented, devilishly handsome and (as a result of those two) outrageously confident/bordering on fearless?
As his old under 21 coach Brian Flynn said ‘he ticks all the boxes – he even speaks Welsh!’
Having put out a Twitter call to The Red Wall I was bombarded with declarations of man-love, for example:
‘I’ve never rooted for a player more…I just adore him’ – Gethin Morgan
‘I love him so much my dog is called Ramsey’ – Liam Owen
‘I think it needs a mention how he overcame a ton of crap from Arsenal fans (despite some massive, trophy winning goals) then walked into the Juventus team and bagged a Scudetto’ thinks Tom Addiscott, a comment that deserves sharing, but this is unapologetically all about Wales.
So, as I did a little birthday celebration piece when Bale entered his fourth decade I thought I would do the same for Rambo. Here – in descending order – are my top thirty Aaron Ramsey Wales moments.
30. Pass to Bale leading to the winning (own) goal vs Northern Ireland, 2016
Something I’ve realised while putting this together is one of Ramsey’s specialities is the assist for the assist, the pass before the pass. This pass might not look like much, but it opened up Northern Ireland’s defence for the only time in this arm-wrestle of a match, inviting Bale to whip in a wicked cross which lead to the game’s only goal, and Wales’s third tournament quarter final appearance.
29. Laughing at Olivia the sex doll in Brussels, 2014
Following the intensity of this hard-fought 0-0 draw, the sight of our two superstars – Bale and Ramsey – pointing and laughing at Olivia provided a moment of comic relief that’s ingrained in the collective memories of the red wall. Nathan Jones tells me Olivia has since retired from #WalesAway duty…
‘I think Aaron misses her’ – Nathan Jones
28. No look pass for Jermaine Easter vs Liechtenstein, 2009
Following his first senior Wales goal, he had the confidence to set up Easter with an impudent piece of play, which really should have made the scoreline 3-0. Easter would never have a better opportunity to find the net at international level.
27. Goal vs Andorra followed by the ‘Ledley dance’, 2015
Okay, so having qualified the goal wasn’t that important, but I’d forgotten just how joyous and wonderful he celebration was. Watch it again now. It’ll put a smile on your face.
26. Goal vs Northern Ireland in Dublin, 2011
A poor game against a terrible team in front of a handful of people in an appalling competition (the Carling Nations Cup) that nobody ever wants to see revived. But following his long injury layoff with that broken leg, it was great to see Ramsey on the scoresheet for Wales again. The first win of Gary Speed’s reign and Ramsey’s first goal as captain.
25. Pass for Ledley to set up Church goal vs Scotland, 2009
The pass before the pass #2. He ran riot in this game (the other two big moments to come…). The timing and precision of this pass is sublime.
24. Goal and new baby celebration vs Republic of Ireland, 2018
It is perhaps a sign of how wonderful our attacking play in that 4-1 win was that this was the least memorable goal of the four. Still, a very tidy finish following some exemplary work from the outstanding Ethan Ampadu.
23. Assist for David Edwards vs Scotland, 2009
Lovely play from Sam Ricketts and Ramsey down the right to set up David Edwards’ fantastic volley in a comprehensive 3-0 victory.
22. Goal vs Liechtenstein, 2009
Ramsey’s first senior international goal came in freezing temperatures in Vaduz, October 2009. A lovely curling free kick which was probably the highlight of a pretty turgid evening’s ‘entertainment’.
21. Free kick pass to Darcy Blake to set up Earnshaw chance vs England, 2011
The pass before the pass #3. This fantastic free kick to his big mate Darcy Blake (remember him?) really should have resulted in a much deserved 1-1 draw. How did Earnie miss?!?
20. Assist for Bale vs Israel, 2015
In the immortal words of The Chordettes; ‘Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli, lolli, lolli…’
19. Equalizer at the death vs Belgium, 2013
He was. And we did
18. Assist for Church for the under 21s vs England, 2008
Ok, so England got the result they needed to qualify but it really didn’t feel important. What felt huge was the emergence of Ramsey as the genuine playmaker that Wales had conspicuously lacked for so long. This subtle pass followed by Church’s excellent finish sent the Welsh corner of Villa Park into raptures. I still have ‘2-1 to the sheepshaggers’ ringing in my ears.
17. Pass to Jazz Richards leading to Bale winner vs Cyprus, 2015
The pass before the pass #4. Again, it might not look like much, but this is a prime example of something that Steve Claridge noticed about Ramsey when he wrote a scouting report for The Guardian way back in early 2008.
‘When a team-mate received the ball from him, the pass almost told him where his opponent was. It had all the information on it that you would need’.
This was a pass which almost spoke to its receiver. It said something like ‘get this football into the box ‘cos Bale’s hanging in the air there to power it home’. Which Richards did expertly. Love this goal.
A fantastic, iconic game in the Hampden snow in which Wales somehow found themselves a goal down despite dominating. The match turned following an excellent run and pass from Ramsey to his best mate Chris Gunter. The full back overhit his cross but fortunately Robert Snodgrass had unnecessarily steamed into him anyway, leading to a penalty (and red card following a second booking). Ramsey stepped up to smash the resulting spot kick home via the underside of the crossbar (an unfit Bale had been substituted at half time). Minutes later Hal Robson-Kanu headed home the winner to complete the comeback.
15. Under 21 goal vs Italy, 2009
Perhaps the best performance in Welsh under 21 history was won by perhaps the best goal in Welsh under 21 history. Skill, determination, anticipation and imagination combined. Bellissimo!
14. Assist for Ashley Williams vs Belgium, 2016
The greatest performance in Welsh football history featured two Ramsey assists. This pinpoint corner delivery was the first.
13. Pass for Bellamy leading to Church goal vs Macedonia, 2013
The pass before the pass #5. The way he motions with his hand where he wants Bellamy to run, pauses (to make sure his teammate understood him) then places a defence splitting pass perfectly into Bellamy’s path is pure footballing genius and I can think of no other way to describe it. Perhaps the goal that saved Chris Coleman’s job…
Fantastic diagonal long ball from Ashley Williams, great take, run and pass from Bale and a superb run and finish from Ramsey to put Wales 2-0 up (it finished 2-1). Perhaps the goal that saved Gary Speed’s job…
11. Assist for Hal Robson-Kanu vs Slovakia, 2016
At first it might not look like much, but to poke it through to Robson-Kanu (who scuffed home the winner) while off balance and getting crowded out by defenders was a superb piece of awareness in a high pressure situation.
A Panenka penalty in a high pressure game taken from the very same penalty spot where Antonin Panenka invented the ‘Panenka’ 41 years earlier? To quote the commentator:
‘How cool is that?’
After running riot, Ramsey decided he quite fancied a goal himself…so off he went on a Giggs-esque mazy run and slammed the ball home to make it 3-0. The game was still less than 35 minutes young.
Great header to start the rout. As Buzz Boncath says about that game: ‘Ramsey and Bale decided we were going to fucking qualify – end of’.
7. Another day to dye, 2016
Ramsey showed his blonde ambition by bleaching for the stars ahead of Euro 2016. To quote Elis James, ‘the guts to do that ahead of a tournament… what if he’d played badly!’ Thankfully, he was outstanding. ‘I’m in awe of his confidence’ says Jake Owen.
6. First goal vs Hungary, 2019
Fantastic header to put us firmly on the path to Euro 2020/1. Does Ramsey get enough credit for his aerial prowess? The crowd at the CCS assumed Kieffer Moore had scored.
5. Welsh language interview with Ian Gwyn Hughes, 2019
Despite being educated at Welsh-medium Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni Ramsey has never felt particularly comfortable giving Welsh-language interviews. Indeed, prior to last year, the only example was a short feature for S4C as a 17 year old just breaking into the team at Cardiff City. So, this, to quote Mark Ainsbury was.
a transformational, beautiful moment. The surge of pride, delight, gratitude we all felt was immense, even non-Welsh speakers ❤🏴— Chasing The Dragon 🏴 (@chsingthedragon) December 2, 2020
Like Bale not forgotten where he comes from. Family man who has done his family proud. Also visits and donates to his school when he is home.— Kevin Davies (@CCFCGrapes) December 3, 2020
His support for the Urdd and the Welsh language has been valuable and consistent since he was young.— Dylan Rhys Jones (@drjdylan) December 3, 2020
In fact, while writing this it struck me that Ramsey is probably the most high profile Welsh speaker since Richard Burton. And across the whole world he’s very possibly more famous than Burton ever was.
4. Second goal vs Hungary, 2019
The goal that basically sealed qualification for the Euros (if it ever happens…). A cool, confident finish celebrated by holding up the name on his shirt to let the crowd know exactly who’d scored! (see 6)
3. Assist for Hal Robson-Kanu vs Belgium, 2016
Plenty has been said about the turn and finish of course but the nonchalant way Ramsey controlled Bale’s raking long ball, turned in a tight spot and picked out Robson-Kanu in the box is sheer quality of the highest order. He was irrepressible that night – a big game player relishing his leading role on the big stage. Hazard and De Bruyne were left in the shadows as the best player on the pitch was a Welshman.
When he smashed @kevinwowen in the face with a monster pre-match warm up shot before the Russia match in Toulouse 😂. Smashed his shades and nose!— Rhodri Llwyd (@RLlwyd) December 3, 2020
Perhaps this incident was an early sign that he was determined to make a mark that night? 11 minutes in he deftly chipped home following Joe Allen’s stupendous pass, and as the sun set amid truly magical scenes in Toulouse, Europe’s biggest nation was well and truly brought to its knees by little old Wales. ‘Don’t take me home’ filled the warm air as delirium reigned. Whenever I feel a bit down I think about that night and it puts a smile on my face.
1. Under 21 goal vs England, 2008
Considering his considerable impact at senior level it might seem strange to pick an under 21 goal as Ramsey’s most memorable Wales moment but listen up and I’ll try and justify it. He was 17 years old and most of the best youngsters (Bale, Gunter, Hennessey etc) were with the seniors. England had lots of experienced Premier league players in their team, including highly rated goalkeeper Joe Hart. Wales were 4-2 down in the tie, needing an unlikely three goals to go through, nothing seemed to be happening on the pitch and then… with the ball bouncing around on his ‘weaker’ left side, he decides to have a pop. It was all so unexpected (check the sharp intake of breath from the England fans). More than the goal itself though, it was the promise which felt pivotal. The promise of – at long last – a goalscoring midfield magician emerging to provide the moments of breathtaking ingenuity and inspiration more often than not needed for a team to make an impact at international level. Promise that’s since been fulfilled and then some.
Penblwydd hapus Aaron.