Wales are determined to build on the fairytale success of Euro 2016 and prevent future Gareth Bales falling into the hands of fallen football giants England, Welsh FA boss told The Times.
Dai Griffiths, who will be on hand to watch superstar Bale lead Wales against his Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Wednesday’s semi-final, said England scouts had been on the hunt for talented youngsters in the Under-17 side.
“We have a good squad of under-17s and it’s England who are looking at those players all the time to see if they can come along and pinch them,” Griffiths told The Times on Tuesday.
“These things come back to us so we know it’s going on. It’s up to us to keep hold of them and make sure they play for us and not England.”
Griffiths acknowledged that previously Welsh scouts had researched into the backgrounds of English talent to see if they had Welsh antecedents but he added times had changed.
Nine of the Wales squad on duty at the finals in France were born in England including inspirational captain Ashley Williams, who qualified for the Welsh through a maternal grandfather.
Players are eligible to play for another country — provided they have not yet won a senior cap — if they have either a parent or a grandparent born there.
“Yes, we have looked to see if players in England have Welsh parents or grandparents but now it’s the other way around as often as not,” he said.
Griffiths insisted they weren’t simply going out and seeking guns for hire — something that Ireland were accused of when Jack Charlton was in charge.
The rules and checks were so slack then that Ireland striker Tony Cascarino admitted he wasn’t in fact eligible after winning 89 caps.
Griffiths said all players at every level were obliged to learn the words of the Welsh anthem ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’.
“Ashley Williams’s children now even speak Welsh in school,” said Griffiths.
“Ashley didn’t come through the system but many of the others have even if they are not born or bred in Wales.”