Chris Coleman has applauded Welsh football’s ‘golden generation’ for handling the pressure that comes with that tag and securing their place at Euro 2016.
Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and company have long been hailed as the group who would end Wales’ agonising wait to reach a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.
But it never happened until now, Wales reaching next summer’s European Championship in France after losing only one of their 10 games to finish runners-up to Belgium in Group B.
“A lot of people said to me in the first campaign about them being described as the golden generation,” Coleman said after Wales had closed their campaign with a 2-0 victory over Andorra thanks to goals from Ramsey and Bale in Cardiff.
“I always argued against it because they hadn’t earned it, even though they had the potential to do something special.
“But now they have earned that tag and gone further than anybody since 1958.
“It’s been a bit of a burden on them at times as the tag comes with a bit of pressure – but they’ve carried it and dealt with it.
“We know they’re good players but they’ve proved it’s about the team. It’s about Wales and what we thought we could achieve, qualification for major tournament.
“They’ve bought into it and flourished, and deserve all the pats on the back.”
Coleman admitted the last few days had proved difficult after qualification was confirmed in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday.
There was a real party atmosphere inside the Cardiff City Stadium but Andorra belied their status as the 205th-ranked team in world football by being difficult to break down.
But second-half goals from Ramsey and Bale, his seventh of the campaign, finally broke Andorran resistance.
“We can celebrate now but it’s been a tough few days,” Coleman said.
“We wanted to celebrate but we knew this game was here.
“We knew the opposition were going to defend on the edge of box for most of the game and it was going to be difficult to break them down.
“But we’re delighted we got a couple of goals and the three points we wanted.
“The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant and the fans have deserved it because of the strong support they’ve given us, both home and away.
“It’s a night I’ll never forget.”
Coleman now plans to visit France in the next few weeks to finalise Wales’ Euro 2016 base ahead of December’s draw.
The 45-year-old insists it will only be an enjoyable experience if Wales do well, but he believes the nation has cleared a formidable obstacle in reaching France.
“I hope we don’t have to wait another 58 years to qualify,” Coleman said.
“My father talked about John Charles, Ivor Allchurch and Cliff Jones and it was a big psychological barrier to climb.
“The pressure become greater and greater every time you don’t make it, especially if you have a good squad which we have.
“But this group of players has done it and they will be remembered in history forever – and rightly so.”