Gareth Bale has dismissed Roy Hodgson’s claim that he was being disrespectful when he said Wales had more passion and pride than England, ahead of their Euro 2016 showdown.
Bale also said before Wales’ opening Group B victory over Slovakia that England “big themselves up before they’ve done anything”, and Three Lions manager Hodgson responded by describing those remarks as “disrespectful”.
But Bale said he stood by his comments as he addressed the media ahead of the England and Wales game in Lens tomorrow.
“It’s good that they bit,” said Bale. “People can say what they want.
“Someone said I disrespected England, which wasn’t the case.
“I never said that they didn’t have passion and pride, I just feel that we have more.
“Whether it’s football or rugby or whatever sport it is, in Wales we seem to have that next level.
“We really feel it on the pitch, watching the games. I’m just giving my opinion. I’m happy with my comments. I feel we’ve got a massive team spirit, one of the best I’ve seen.”
Wales have the early advantage in Group B after winning their first-ever game at the Euros, while England were stunned by Russia’s stoppage-time equaliser in Marseille.
But Bale said he was not interested in playing mind games and that Wales’ focus was only on themselves and not their neighbours.
“For me there are no mind games,” said Bale.
“Nothing’s fazing us, we don’t feel any pressure, we just want to enjoy the occasion.
“It’s going to be a derby, a big atmosphere. We know that, we’re ready for it, we’re going to enjoy it.
“We know we’re going to give 100 per cent, and we know that when we give everything for the Welsh shirt and our nation we can’t do any more.”
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere added more spice to the game when he said England had the edge as they have a better squad than Wales.
But Bale – who quipped that no England players would get in the Wales team – said: “If they feel they have the better squad, good for them.
“We know they’re a bigger nation with more players to choose from, but we’ve closed the gap massively.
“They’re a good team and, I’m sure if they put in a good performance, they’ll feel they can beat us.
“But we’re exactly the same. If we work well as a team, we feel we can win.”
Joe Ledley, meanwhile, has revealed how early morning trips to an oxygen chamber saved his Euro 2016 dream.
Ledley suffered a fractured leg playing for Crystal Palace on May 7 and admitted he shed a tear when he felt his hopes of playing in France were over.
But Ledley made a remarkable recovery to play for Wales just five weeks later, coming off the bench in the 2-1 victory over Slovakia and starting the move that led to Hal Robson-Kanu’s winner.
“I did everything I had to do, supplements, whatever I could do to make my body better I’ve done,” said Ledley.
“Obviously positive thinking helped and I used an oxygen chamber.
“I left my house at 6am to be there for 7am for an hour and 45 minutes, for two weeks.
“Then it was on to the training ground to start the work, then back home, recover and use machines, it was non-stop.
“I used an Exogen machine, which creates the bone cells quicker, at night just for 20 minutes.
“By the time I got through the door it was time for bed.”
Ledley said he was devastated when an x-ray revealed the true nature of the injury, believing he had suffered a calf injury at first.
“I thought that was game over as it was only three weeks before the squad was going to be named,” said Ledley.
“I did shed a tear because I have worked my socks off and been in every single qualification game when available.
“I wanted to be part of the history of making that squad after making the first tournament for 50-odd years.
“It was hard to get my head around it, but I tried everything I could to get into that team and it has paid off.”
Ledley is now in contention to start against England in Lenstomorrow.
But he admits that 90 minutes may be beyond him at this stage of his recovery.
“I wrote off the first game against Slovakia as I didn’t think I was going to make that,” continued Ledley.
“But I managed to get 20 minutes and it was like playing football in school again.
“I was excited to be out there and emotional.
“Everything was going through my head and then I had to be out there and play football again.
“To start passing the ball and playing with the team again, it was one of the best feelings ever – so hopefully I will be in the starting line-up against England.”