‘I was just like Gareth Bale but better looking!’: ORIGINAL Welsh wonderkid who helped take Wales to World Cup finals 64 years ago pokes fun at the Man of the Match
- Cliff Jones, 87, helped Wales reach the 1958 World Cup quarter finals in Sweden
- He poked fun at current superstar Gareth Bale, saying he was ‘better looking’
- Bale hailed a ‘legend’ after giving Wales their first World Cup point for 64 years
- Mr Jones, meanwhile, has recalled only other time nation reached tournament
A former Welsh wonderkid who helped take his nation to the 1958 World Cup quarter finals has told of how he was ‘just like Gareth Bale but better looking’.
Cliff Jones, 87, poked fun at the winger whose equalising goal against the USA last night gave Wales their first World Cup point for 64 years.
Bale, 33, was hailed a ‘legend’ yesterday after first winning and then stepping up to convert a penalty in the 82nd minute of his World Cup debut.
Wales had earlier secured draws against Hungary, Mexico and hosts Sweden before winning a play-off match against the Hungarians.
Asked which modern player he resembled, Mr Jones told ITV: ‘I was like Gareth Bale, except I was better looking!’
Mr Jones also recalled playing against a 17-year-old Pele, who scored the only goal in their narrow defeat.
Cliff Jones, 87, played for Wales in their only other appearance at the major tournament in 1958 – when they were knocked out following a 1-0 defeat to Pele’s Brazil in the quarter-final
Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side’s equalising goal during against the United States the World Cup
Cliff Jones in his Tottenham Hotspur uniform
Tottenham Hotspur captain Danny Blanchflower holding the FA Cup aloft after winning the 1961 final against Leicester City (2-0) to win the league and cup double. Left to right: Ron Henry, Bill Brown, Cliff Jones, Peter Baker (1931-2016), Blanchflower, Terry Dyson, Bobby Smith, Les Allen and John White.
He said: ‘Of course we’d heard of Didi and Garrincha and Vavá. And we knew their qualities. But nobody had heard about Pelé.
‘And of course we played, and I can always remember vividly Pelé picking the ball up deep in his own half and going past three, four Welsh defenders and cracking this ball and Jack Kelsey managed to tip it over the bar.
‘And we all looked at each other and said, “who is this kid?”‘
The ex-footballer also said he is filled with hope that the current Welsh team can replicate his side’s success.
He added: ‘They’ll take a little bit of beating in this World Cup. They’ll be going there full of confidence that they can do something and achieve what we achieved all those years ago.
‘That would be something, wouldn’t it?’
Wales appeared to be heading for defeat after Timothy Weah gave USA a deserved lead before half time yesterday, but Rob Page’s side fought back, and Bale won a late penalty and then converted it to earn his side a draw.
Sportsmail’s Ian Herbert has admitted that Bale was anonymous for most of the game, and looked like he might be replaced at one stage, but he produced the goods at a crucial point in the match to keep his side in the hunt to qualify from Group B.
Wales and USA are now level on one point each following their stalemate, while England top the group after thrashing Iran 6-2 on Monday afternoon.
Speaking after his man of the match performance, Bail hailed his father who ‘sacrificed everything’ for his career.
Bale (pictured celebrating) won a late penalty and then converted it to earn his side a draw last night
Wales and USA are now level on one point each following their stalemate on Monday night
He said: ‘My dad sacrificed everything when I was younger, took me everywhere.
‘Without my dad and my parents I wouldn’t be where I am today.’
His manager Rob Page, meanwhile, proclaimed that the way Bale has adapted his football with age and brings the wisdom which secured the team a World Cup lifeline against the USA.
‘We’ve evolved Gareth’s position,’ Page said. ‘He can still play wide, but I like to give him the freedom to come inside and play off a front man.
‘He’s good at finding those spaces. He’s a wise head. He used all of his wisdom in winning the penalty. He’s intelligent, he puts himself in those positions in the box, defenders commit themselves and, if they don’t get the timing right, it can be a foul.
‘He looks after himself, too. He manages himself. He manages himself through games. If he’d have gone full-tilt from the first whistle, he probably wouldn’t have lasted until half-time. But he’s very experienced and clever at managing his body.’