Ever since the final whistle against Bosnia in Sarajevo just over a month ago and the Welsh qualification celebrations ensued, the conversation almost immediately turned towards which players still needed to prove their worthiness of a place on the plane to France next summer.
James Chester was not one of the players considered as having to fight for his spot. The former Hull centre-back has been a revelation for Wales ever since he received a call from Chris Coleman back in June 2014 asking the 26-year-old to commit his international future to them rather than England.
But having played only five games since signing on the dotted line for West Brom in the summer, Chester revealed he’s concerned that his lack of club action might ruin his Euro 2016 dream.
Speaking following Wales’ 3-2 friendly defeat by Holland, he admitted: “I know to be playing at this level I’m going to have to be playing at my club. It is impossible to come to this level and be at your sharpest without playing for your club week in, week out.
“I know myself that I need to be playing at my club to give me the best chance of going to France and playing, regardless of whether or not I think my ability is good enough to be playing or not.”
Chester started six of Wales’ 10 Euro 2016 qualifiers, missing two through injury and was then on the bench for the other two games. He has gelled very well with the likes of Ashley Williams at the heart of the Welsh defence, which has an incredible defensive record – only conceding four goals in the qualifiers.
While playing as a centre-back in either a back four or back five, Chester has become known for his adaptability. But he was asked to play a new role after signing for the Midlands club in the summer as Tony Pulis saw the opportunity to use him at right-back.
Despite the lack of game time, featuring only three times in the league and twice in the Capital One Cup, the former Manchester United kid is focused on taking his chance when it comes to him and regardless of the position he’s expected to play.
Chester said: “I believe in the ability that I have and I’m trying to stay as professional as possible and keep myself right for when I get the chance. When I get in, I feel I’m good enough to be in the West Brom side.”
Having approached Chester last year, it is obvious that Coleman thinks very highly of the defender and he admitted the Wales boss has offered him some words of reassurance regarding his international career.
Chester added: “Coleman has said if I’m fit then I’ve got a really good chance of playing, so it is up to me to go back and play.”
But it can’t be easy to go from not playing to stopping the likes of Holland legend Arjen Robben? “It’s nearly impossible to go from training and not playing to coming in at this level and expecting to be 100 per cent, but that’s what you need to be to stop players like Robben and Wesley Sneijder.”
Wales performed well against Holland and there were a lot of positives to take from the game. Despite Coleman’s attacking trinity of Hal Robson-Kanu, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale being missing, the Dragons still managed to score twice.
Although Holland failed to qualify for Euro 2016, Chester insists their quality is up there with the top teams in the world.
He added: “There’s been a lot made about Holland not qualifying, but you could see the quality they’ve got. They’re still one of the best teams in the world so it’s a good test because we know every game out in France will be at that level.”
Read more from Jamie Thomas here!