Euro 2016: Wales inspiring a nation, says Tony Pulis

Tony Pulis
Tony Pulis was the Premier League manager of the season in 2013-14

West Brom manager Tony Pulis thinks Wales' success at the European Championship can inspire a generation.

The 58-year old Welshman was born the year Wales last reached a major championships, when they reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup.

However, Pulis believes the current crop, who have reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals, will motivate a whole new generation of Welsh football fans.

"This team can inspire people to get outside and on to the pitch," he said.

"This group of players have surpassed the achievement of that side from 1958," he said.

"I am from Newport, it is a tough area, there are a lot of working class people there.

"And the thing I hope and pray is that the next time I go into a city in Wales, instead of seeing kids sitting playing on their computers or their phones or whatever, you will see that they now have a new set of heroes - sportspeople - because of this team."

Great time to be Welsh

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Pulis, who was discovered by Bristol Rovers as a teenager playing for Newport YMCA, and who also represented Newport County, admits it is a special time to be Welsh, even though he has been based in England for more than 30 years.

Wales topped their qualification group despite losing to England and have beaten Northern Ireland and stunned Belgium, to reach the last four in France.

"It is a wonderful time to be Welsh, it has been a great past few weeks and the momentum is just continually building," he told BBC Wales as part of the Wales: Road to the Euro Semi Final, documentary.

"It has been a wonderful tournament, absolutely fantastic, for everybody concerned with Wales.

"The lads have been, well not just the lads, everyone connected with the team, with the set-up, with Welsh football, the way it has gone in the last four or five years, they deserve a hell of a lot of credit.

Wales rugby
Tony Pulis feels the Welsh national rugby and football teams have an equally important role to play in inspiring the next generation of sporting stars

"We [the Pulis family] had two weeks over there in France, went with the family and rented a house and watched two of the games.

"I had my little grandson at the games and it was special, the occasions.

"If anyone in Wales hasn't been, get on a boat and get out there and experience it as quick as you can.

"What that team have done for the country of Wales is fabulous."

Is football Wales' new national sport?

The Former Stoke, Gillingham and Bournemouth manager does not believe the success of Chris Coleman's side will impact Wales' love of rugby union and believes both sports are crucial to the nation.

"I heard Mickey Thomas on the TV saying that football is now the national sport and has massively overtaken rugby by a great margin," the former Crystal Palace manager said.

"I hope that is not the case and that they just merge so they are on the same level.

Greece in 2004 winning Euros
Tony Pulis believes Greece winning the 2004 European Championship should inspire Wales

"Because we need a great rugby team and we need a great football team.

"Hopefully kids will see what can happen when you get outside and don't just sit all day on your blinking computer!"

Can Wales do it? Yes they can

Pulis is adamant that Wales can beat Portugal in tomorrow's semi final in Lyon.

"They have got every chance, they really have," he said.

"I don't think Ronaldo has been at his best in the tournament, and I don't want to tempt fate on that, I am very superstitious.

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"But I don't see any reason why Wales wouldn't be very confident about their chances.

"Can they win the tournament? Of course.

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"Greece did it. So don't try and tell me Wales can't do it.

"It is all about momentum and Wales have loads.

"Portugal will be tough, but if we win that, and I think we have every chance of beating them, then who knows?"

Watch Wales: Road to the Euro Semi-Final on Tuesday, 5 July from 19:00 BST on BBC One Wales

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