Joe Allen insists Wales are heading in the right direction under Ryan Giggs despite a sour end to their year.
Wales suffered a shock 1-0 friendly defeat to Albania – 42 places below them in the FIFA world rankings – in Elbasan on Tuesday as Giggs’ side badly ran out of attacking ideas.
The defeat came on the back of missing promotion to the top tier of the Nations League and put a further dampener on a year that promised much with the emergence of several exciting youngsters.
Giggs has been praised for promoting youth and Wales have played exciting football in patches since his appointment in January.
But back-to-back defeats against Denmark and Albania have provided a note of caution before next month’s 2020 European Championship qualifying draw.
Stoke midfielder Allen, though, applauded Giggs’ impact on the squad, saying: “It’s been a great experience for everyone since he’s come in.
“A lot of new ideas have come into the camp and many players have had the chance to get game time and try and impress.
“We’ve spoken a lot about the youngsters that have come into the set up, and that’s what has given us a lot of confidence about the future.
“We can’t wait for the (Euro) qualifiers in March, it’s a few months away and this was our last chance to be together before then.
“Our task now as players is to make sure we’re ready to fire when those games come around. We’re excited to see who we’ll be up against.”
Wales will be in the second pot of seeds when the European Championship draw is made in Dublin on December 2.
They had hoped to finish the year on a high and star men Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey both featured in Elbasan as second-half substitutes.
But Bekim Balaj’s 59th-minute penalty condemned Wales to a first-ever defeat to Albania, and tarnished what was a historic evening with Chris Gunter becoming the country’s most-capped player.
Gunter’s 93rd cap took him past former goalkeeper Neville Southall and the Reading full-back was handed the captaincy to mark the occasion.
“We all love him in that dressing room,” Allen said.
“He always gives everything for his country, he’s always here and puts in the performances.
“To get 93 caps at the age of 29 says it all really. We wanted to get that victory for him and he deserves better to be honest.
“Let’s hope when he gets 100 caps that will be a better night, and a better result.”
Gunter, himself, is confident that Wales can recover from a fifth defeat in nine games under Giggs.
“On the whole the calendar year has been a good one for us,” Gunter said.
“We’ll come back now in March and we’ll be ready to go for the European qualifiers, which is a very important time.
“We’re confident that we will have a good go at qualification. We’re hurting right now, but I think we’re in a good position for the Euros.”