The best and worst Welsh football of the decade

Wales football highlights
Highlights . . . and a low point . . . in a decade to remember for Welsh football

BBC Sport Wales takes a look at the best and worst moments of Welsh sport in the past decade.

It has been a decade with extreme highs and lows with historic footballing and rugby success, while individuals such as Geraint Thomas, Gareth Bale and Jade Jones made history.

However, 2010-19 was also a decade where a nation grieved the loss of one of their greatest, Gary Speed and Wales' rugby team twice came close to achieving the ultimate glory at the Rugby World Cup only to fall short.

Let's cast our minds back and focus on the best and worst of Welsh sport this decade.

We start with football.


Wales celebrate Ashley Williams' goal
Wales were making a first major tournament appearance since 1958

Wales shock Belgium and light up the Euros

The summer of your life as Wales shocked the whole of Europe to reach the semi-final of the 2016 European Championships.

The wait was long, the wait was worth it as Chris Coleman's men grew and grew in a tournament where they were expected to fade away after the group stage.

That first win, against Slovakia, with Ben Davies' goal-line clearance, Gareth Bale's blaster of a freekick and that beautiful scuffed winner from Hal Robson-Kanu.

It was not to be for Wales against England, but a thumping win over Russia - a performance to savour - put Wales in the knock-out stages where they edged out Northern Ireland.

Nobody believed Wales had a chance in the quarter finals against Belgium, but the greatest night in Welsh football history sent them into the last four with a 3-1 victory.

Portugal and Ronaldo proved one step too far, but Wales' dazzling display will never be forgotten.

Wales women celebrate a goal
Wales only conceded four goals in eight qualifying matches ahead of the 2019 World Cup

Jayne Ludlow's Wales change the script

While Wales' wait for their women's football team to qualify for a major tournament goes on, this decade saw Wales make giant steps forward under the watchful eye of one of their great players.

Jayne Ludlow's appointment as national team coach in 2014 has proved transformative as she has put a structure in place to improve and grow the game across all age ranges.

It took a while for success to follow on the field, but it did in the 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign when Wales were edged out in their final qualifying match against an England side that would reach the semi final.

Wales conceded just four goals in qualifying and enjoyed record crowds as interest levels soared.

The final frontier remains qualifying for a major finals, with Wales currently on-course for a play-off spot to reach Euro 2021.

Gareth Bale with Champions League trophy
Gareth Bale became the Wales men's team's record scorer in the past decade as he surpassed Ian Rush

Gareth Bale dazzles in the Champions League

Gareth Bale's relationship with Real Madrid may be souring as the decade draws to a close, but his trophy speaks of sustained success.

He became the world's most expensive player when he signed for Real from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 and in his first season he scored the goal that put Real Madrid ahead in the Champions League final as they beat city rivals Atlético 4-1.

Two-years later he did it again against the same opponents, assisting the team's only goal and scoring in the penalty shoot-out win over Atlético to add a second European Cup to his resume.

Bale won his third Champions League title the following season as Madrid beat Juventus in Cardiff, before his best final appearance in 2018 won him a fourth Champions League title.

This time Bale again played a pivotal role, scoring two fantastic goals as Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1.

Swansea at Valencia
Swansea City won the last South Wales derby of the decade, a 1-0 victory over Cardiff at the Liberty Stadium

Swansea's golden era in the top flight

Wales got a first taste of the Premier League as Swansea City completed a rise so unlikely they ended up making a film about it.

Eight years after they won their final two games of the season to avoid tumbling into non-league football, the Swans reached the top flight thanks to a thrilling play-off final win over Reading at Wembley in 2011.

The consensus was that Brendan Rodgers' team would go straight back down, yet there was further progress to come.

Rodgers' side finished 11th, then Michael Laudrup arrived to lead Swansea to another Wembley victory, this time in the 2012-13 Capital One Cup.

A first major English trophy in Swansea's history led to a Europa League adventure, the highlight of which was a 3-0 victory at Valencia which goes down as one of their greatest nights.

Domestically, Swansea toppled almost all England's heavyweight clubs - some on numerous occasions - during a seven-year stay in the top division in which their best finish was eighth.

As the spell among the elite went on, results became harder to come by. Relegation had been a concern for a couple of seasons before Swansea succumbed to the drop in 2018.

Cardiff City celebrate promotion
Cardiff City secured their promotion with a 0-0 draw at Reading

Warnock unites Cardiff and earns promotion

Though the decade began for Cardiff with a penalty shoot-out defeat by Liverpool in the League Cup final and a season in the Premier League, there will be few Bluebirds fans who fondly remember that period of time.

A disastrous re-branding to red, the Malky Mackay sacking and subsequent fall-out, relegation to the Championship and more failure under Paul Trollope put Cardiff at the lowest of ebbs, but salvation arrived in the form of Neil Warnock.

Something just clicked from the first day Warnock arrived in South Wales, fitting the Bluebirds perfectly as he masterminded an incredible improvement in the Welsh capital.

Cardiff achieved automatic promotion under Warnock - his record ninth promotion - in 2017-18 and though he could not keep the Bluebirds up and has since left the club, the work he did in healing the rift between the boardroom and the fans assures his legacy among Cardiff City supporters.

Newport promoted at Wembley
Newport won at Wembley to achieve promotion with a side that featured midfielder Michael Flynn, who would go on to be the Exiles' manager and mastermind their Great Escape and FA Cup heroics

Newport return and become cup upset kings

Promoted to the National League in 2010, Newport County's decade has been thrilling for their supporters as their ascent back to the Football League finally came to fruition under the late Justin Edinburgh in 2013 via a play-off win at Wembley stadium.

Rather than just treading water since, Newport fans must feel like they have been on a rollercoaster.

Edinburgh's departure to Northampton saw results suffer and with the Exiles 11 points adrift at the bottom of League Two with 12 games remaining in 2016-17, Newport's Football League tenure looked set to be a short one.

However, an incredible revival under hometown hero Michael Flynn saw them survive with a winning goal deep into injury time on the final day of the season as they incredibly stayed up.

Since then, the Exiles have barely looked back as they have improved and become FA Cup giant-killers two seasons in a row, with the likes of Leeds, Leicester and Middlesbrough dispatched.

Thought Newport lost out in the 2019 League Two play-off final, it has been an incredible decade for the former non-league side.

The New Saints
The New Saints received champagne from Ajax after breaking the Netherlands' club's winning run record

The New Saints' decade of dominance

The New Saints began the decade as the defending champions in the Welsh Premier League, only to see Bangor take their crown in 2010-11.

However, that would be the only time in the entire decade that the New Saints were to be denied, as they have won eight leagues titles and eight domestic cup competitions in the past eight years.

However, perhaps their best achievement was a record breaking winning run. The Welsh Premier champions broke a 44-year-old world record held by Ajax after recording a 27th consecutive win in 2017.


Gary Speed
Gary Speed made 85 appearances for Wales as a player

A nation mourns an icon

Eight years have passed since the death of Wales manager Gary Speed, a death that devastated a nation as the all-time Wales great was found dead at his home aged just 42.

Speed was steering Wales in the right direction for the first time in a long time, and his death left a black cloud that hangs over Welsh football to this day.

A great player, a great man, Speed's loss lingers still.

Emiliano Sala
Emiliano Sala was Nantes' top goalscorer for three successsive seasons before the club agreed to sell him to Cardiff

Emiliano Sala's death

Tragedy struck two days after Cardiff City announced the record signing of Argentine striker Emiliano Sala from French club Nantes.

He and pilot David Ibbotson were killed after their plane crashed into the English Channel.

Sala's body was found after a private search as Cardiff's subsequent relegation and struggles on the field were put firmly in perspective by the tragedy.

A row over the finances over the deal between Cardiff and Nantes is ongoing.