Penarth’s own soccer hero – Wales international Joe Ledley WILL – after all – get married this weekend, thanks to not having to play in what might have been a Wales v France Euro 2016 final.
Joe had thought he’d have to cancel plans to marry his fiancée Ruby May Ridgeway when the Welsh team beat Belgium and won through to this week’s semi-finals of the prestigious international soccer tournament.
The celebrations after the victory over Belgium were highlighted by Joe Ledley on a YouTube video after the match in the Wales dressing room when Joe performed his famous Penguin Dance for the team. (Press the arrow to play)
Everything changed though after Wales were knocked out of the competition by Portugal this week after putting in a performance that’s been the talk of the football world.
Joe Ledley (29) has now hired a private jet to get to Ibiza where his on-off wedding ceremony had already been arranged – and to which scores of friends and family had already been invited.
Meanwhile a big home-coming reception has been arranged for the Welsh team in Cardiff today including a open top bus tour to salute the faithful fans – giving Joe an awkward choice to have to make – but, like his on-field decisions, he made up his mind in a heartbeat.
He said “I already know, deep-down, how much the fans support from back home meant to me. I just feel devastated. I’ve been in situations like this before and it does hurt. It will – for a few days – but that’s life.You just need to get on with it with the help of strong people behind you and we know we’ve done the nation proud and we’ve done ourselves proud.”
But Joe is now looking ahead. He said “I’ ve got a wedding to think about. It’s Ibiza for me now.” So whilst his team mates will be celebrating in Cardiff, Joe and Ruby will be jetting to Ibiza and their wedding.
After that it’ll be back home to Penarth where he and Ruby are renovating a classic art-deco house Sea Roads in Cliff Parade as their future family home.
But after the wedding there are still other soccer goals on the horizon – including the World Cup qualifying campaign in September against Moldova in Cardiff which Joe sees as “a stepping stone to Russia”.
Joe says “We have a taste of this – and we now want to keep going. “
The rest of the Welsh team is touching down at Cardiff Airport at 14:30 to be met by First Minister Carwyn Jones . Once the team has cleared customs the players will step out of the airport entrance and board two coaches, each sporting the words ‘Diolch, Together Stronger.’
They will thenl be given a police escort as they head into Cardiff past Barry, towards Culverhouse Cross and then up the Ely link road (A4232) onto the M4. They will exit at the next junction, the Coryton interchange (junction 32), and from there the team will head up Manor Way and into North Road. Once they reach the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama at Blackweir, the coaches will take a right turn and head up a path which ends around the back of Cardiff Castle.
The players will then have a private walk through the grounds of the Castle, before emerging through the front entrance onto Castle Street to begin their tour.
Wales on Line reports that two further buses will be waiting outside the Castle entrance for the players to board at 16:00 The planned tour will see the team start along Castle Street, circule the city centre, head past the Principality Stadium to the top of Westgate Street and then west towards Canton heading towards Cardiff City football stadium, where the homecoming party will take place.