Cymru defender Chris Gunter has announced his retirement from international football but the cult hero of the Red Wall will never be forgotten for what he delivered and achieved while representing his country on 109 occasions.
One of the heroes of Chris Coleman’s squad that reached the semi-finals of EURO 2016, Gunter played every minute of all six games at the tournament and is remembered for crossing the perfect ball for Sam Vokes to head home the third goal in the famous 3-1 quarter-final win over Belgium. His chin-up gesture to the fans following the group stage defeat to England remains an iconic image of that incredible era, while his commitment to his country saw Gunter break appearance records and make Cymru history in the process.
Currently with Wimbledon AFC, Gunter came through the youth ranks at Cardiff City and made his senior debut in August 2006 before earning a move to the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur two years later. Opportunities at White Hart Lane were limited and a loan move to Nottingham Forest was made permanent in the summer of 2009. Gunter would make over 100 appearances for Forest, but it was at Reading between 2012 and 2020 that he would play 314 competitive games during his eight seasons at the club. His club career continued at Charlton Athletic and Wimbledon, with Gunter playing over 700 competitive games for club and country.
John Toshack handed Gunter his Cymru debut in the friendly victory over New Zealand at the Racecourse, Wrexham in May 2007. He moved level with the late Gary Speed on 85 outfield caps a decade later as he captained the side against Panama, and eclipsed Neville Southall as the all-time men’s record appearance holder against Albania in November 2018 as he made his 93rd appearance. Gunter then became the first centurion in the history of the Cymru men’s national team against Mexico in March 2021. His 109th and final international appearance came as a substitute against the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League last June.
In 2017, Gunter was named FAW Player of the Year. It was a difficult time for the national team having failed to qualify for the World Cup finals that would take place in Russia the following year, and Coleman’s resignation followed soon after. The frustration and disappointment was a far cry from the celebrations of 2016, but Gunter as the most-capped player in the squad took responsibility and played a key role in galvanising the squad back together such was the respect that he had of his peers, and he continued where he left off as another new era began.
During his international career, Gunter played under Toshack, Speed, Coleman, Ryan Giggs and Rob Page. Valued, depended upon and trusted by all his Cymru managers, he will be remembered as a figure who bridged the relationship between the players and the fans more than anyone else, and there is no doubt that he will be keen supporter as the next generation emerge and try to emulate what he achieved over the course of the last 16 years. He has experienced incredible highs and devastating lows, but his dedication and consistency provided balance in even the most turbulent of times.
While EURO 2016 will remain the overriding highlight for Gunter as he reflects on his international career, his importance to the squad was reflected in his selection for both EURO 2020, where he took to the field in the defeat to Italy, and for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Although Gunter ends his Cymru career without an international goal to his name, he calls time having embodied everything about the ‘Together, Stronger’ strapline that will ultimately define his era of international football. His was an era that brought unprecedented success for his country, and one in which he played a pivotal role.