This job means so much to me, but I don't know what the future might hold, admits Chris Coleman
CHRIS Coleman refused to be drawn on his future ahead of Wales's final two World Cup qualifiers — but insisted nothing means more than representing his country.
Wales sign off from a dismal campaign with a home match against Macedonia tonight (7.45) before visiting Belgium on Tuesday.
Their attempts to reach Brazil never got off the ground.
Beaten at home by Belgium in their opening match, Wales were then thumped 6-1 by Serbia. After that they had a mountain to climb.
A victory over Scotland followed, and Wales triumphed again against their British rivals in Glasgow, but those wins were scant consolation from a campaign in which every other match ended in defeat.
Despite such uninspiring form, Coleman had looked set to remain in position, with talks held over a new two-year deal.
But the mood has changed in the last six weeks and suddenly the former Swansea City defender looks to be fighting for his job.
Chief executive Jonathan Ford revealed contract discussions will be shelved until after Group A matches are concluded.
And Coleman suggested he may not even want to stay on if the performances in the next two games prove to be all-important.
But ahead of Macedonia's visit to the Cardiff City Stadium this evening he said: "This job more than any other one is closest to my heart, for obvious reasons.
"I played for some good clubs, but as a player, playing for Wales meant more to me.
"Wales is different. It hits you harder when you don't win and, equally, when it's going well the highs are incredible.
"Whether I like it or not you're always judged on results. That's how it's always been.
"I know the contract situation is still there, but I don't think it's the time or place for that. We've got to concentrate on playing Macedonia and trying to get a result.
"I always said I'd see this campaign through. What happens after that is another story. Soon enough we'll find out, but I'm thinking about Macedonia."
If these matches are to be definitive for Coleman, his chances to impress have not been helped by a raft of withdrawals.
Ashley Williams has been ruled out with an ankle injury meaning Aaron Ramsey will skipper the side for the next couple of games.
Williams is one of ten players missing, the other nine being Adam Matthews, Ben Davies, Gareth Bale, Danny Gabbidon, Sam Ricketts, Jack Collison, Joe Allen, Jonathan Williams and Joe Ledley
Among those drafted in are 16-year-old Liverpool academy winger Harry Wilson and uncapped Swansea City youngster Daniel Alfei.
Five of the regulars missing are defenders, leaving Wales painfully short of options at the back.
Talk in the week was that Hibernian midfielder Owain Tudur Jones would play alongside full-back Chris Gunter in a makeshift central pairing, but the situation has been improved slightly with the arrival of James Collins.
The West Ham defender failed to make the initial squad after falling out with Coleman before the 3-0 home defeat to Serbia last month.
Coleman claimed Collins turned down the chance to play in that match when called upon because he was unhappy about being left out of the original group.
Collins denied that and a rift seemed to have developed between the two.
But Coleman held talks with Collins on Tuesday and the former Cardiff City man is expected to start at the home of his former club.
"It was a chat that we needed to have across a table together," said Coleman.
"It wasn't the type of conversation where we were having a cuddle and a joke, but he told me what was on his mind and I did the same.
"It was fine. It was good.
"I think James thought he was being singled out, which I wasn't doing by not including him.
"You're not going to agree on everything, but the important thing is, can we move forward? We can and I'm delighted that he's here.
"If he didn't want to play for Wales he wouldn't be here. He wouldn't have driven down to thrash it out."
Coleman's men are rooted to the bottom of their group, and will surely finish there unless they win tonight.
Anything less than victory would mean Wales having to triumph away to Group A leaders Belgium on Tuesday to avoid such an ignominy.
Such a position leads to another bottom pot seeding ahead of the Euro 2016 qualification group draw.
A small crowd is expected tonight, with interest in Wales arguably at a decade-long low.
Such a muted atmosphere will provide an unspectacular send off for Craig Bellamy, who plays his last home international, having this week announced he will retire after Tuesday's match in Brussels.
"I think Craig's made the right decision in calling it a day now," said Coleman.
"I think he's been a good servant and the next campaign will be a tough one, no doubt.
"If you look at him with Cardiff at the moment he's here and there and that comes to everyone. It's age. It's wear and tear.
"His last home game for Wales is in Cardiff, it's his town, he'll be in front of his fans and I'm sure he'll enjoy the night.
"As a player you know when enough is enough. You keep coming until you can't do what you want to do. You can't perform as you want to perform.
"When that point comes you know it, you don't need to be told."
Lose again and Coleman's time could also soon be up — and he knows it.