New Wales manager Chris Coleman (right) watched the Gary Speed Memorial match with Costa Rica alongside Speed's mother and father (Press Association)

Wales’ defeat to Costa Rica in the Gary Speed Memorial game Wednesday was a wonderful and emotionally charged occasion – the score excepted – in which Welsh football paid its last respects to a man who over the past twelve months had transformed the fortunes of the Wales national side. The maturity of Speed’s sons, 14-year-old Ed and his brother, 13-year-old Tommy, was moving to witness and personified the class and dignity of their father, who tragically took his own life last November.

In his post-game press conference, new manager Chris Coleman, who attended this game as an observer to the Welsh squad following his appointment last month, spoke equally touchingly of Ed’s addresses to the Wales players and to an assembled audience of more than 400 of Speed’s former footballing friends, colleagues and mentors.

The whole event served as a fine and fitting occasion on which Welsh football can begin to draw a line under the Speed tragedy and move forward in its ambitions to continue its climb under the rankings and get back to pushing for qualification to major tournaments.

The problem is, Coleman may well find that progress difficult to sustain.

Think about it – how many managers come into a squad moulded by their predecessor and maintain the other man’s period of success? None of the Chelsea managers who have followed from either Jose Mourinho or Guus Hiddink have managed to draw the same levels of performance out of very similar squads. Mourinho’s successor at Inter Milan, Rafa Benitez, was nowhere near replicating the Portuguese maestro’s accomplishments there.

It can very often be the case that one manager’s specific blend of tactics and attitude when coaching a squad cannot be replicated by his successor. At the national level, this can be even more of a problem, because Coleman will inevitably select slightly different squads than Speed did and will have to re-establish team chemistry in his new selections. He will be particularly concerned over the future of captain Craig Bellamy, who came out of international retirement specifically to play for Speed and may now opt against continuing for former Wales teammate Coleman.

Further holes are left in the former Fulham chief’s preparations by the recent departure of outspoken coach Raymond Verheijen. A popular part of Speed’s coaching staff, the Dutchman has not held back in voicing his displeasure with the Football  Association of Wales’ decision-making in the process of selecting a new boss, and seemed to have an eye on the job himself at one stage. Last week, when he said he wasn’t told he would be co-managing the side in the Costa Rica game and found out from a journalist, Verheijen stepped down.

That leaves only Osian Roberts, another coach extremely popular with the squad, from Speed’s senior staff, while Coleman has appointed former Wales and Fulham teammate Kit Symons to his backroom team. Further appointments are possible but won’t necessarily be made any time soon – the team has six months until its next competitive match so Coleman is not under any time pressure.

Despite the multiple challenges facing him, however, ex-Sociedad and Larissa boss Coleman can look forward to working with a young and talented squad which has been given new impetus and direction in the last twelve months. The likes of Joe Ledley, Gareth Bale and captain Aaron Ramsey can be a solid foundation for Wales for years to come. If he can mesh together his new-look staff, introduce the right new faces to the squad – or, for that matter, stick with the current successful blend – Coleman has the ability to sustain Wales’ charge up the FIFA rankings after being the most-improved nation of 2011. It won’t be straight-forward, but the future can still be bright for Wales in the post-Speed era.

Chris Coleman post-match interview (Wales 0-1 Costa Rica)

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