Chris Gunter will always be remembered for his insubordination. Across a 16-year, 109-cap, zero-goal career of pure, unwavering servitude to his country, Gunter will be eternalised in the five seconds of football he flouted his manager’s instructions and dared to “cross the f*cking ball.”

It’s a good catchphrase. As good as any for a superhero, not that many outside the immediate Wales fanbase would consciously categorise the Newport boy with such Herculean terminology. Gunter himself, it should be noted, certainly wouldn’t.

That, of course, was always the stubborn paradox of Gunter: the national superhero venerated for being, on the immediate face of things, anything but super. For simply turning up and turning out with unerring, unnerving commitment.

READ MORE: Wales legend Chris Gunter retires from international football with touching statement

In the 16 years Gunter donned the Wales crest, he missed just two matches: a 3-0 friendly victory over Scotland in November 2009 and the 4-1 European qualifier loss to Switzerland in 2010.

For every other match, Chris Gunter was there: when Wales were steeped in international tragicomedy – a 6-1 loss to Serbia, a draw to Albania in Albania –, sat right on the cusp of reaching greatness and then when they finally did, and that interminable and infamous 64-year World Cup hunt came to its skidding, all-coveted halt. Gunter was there for it all.

For supporters, he was all you could ask for in a non-superstar. No, Gunter was no talisman. He didn’t arrive on the scene with lightning strikes intimating a legend in the making (His debut saw Wales draw to New Zealand, a result that elicited a chagrined chuckle from Gunter when asked about it before his 100th cap).

Wales legend Chris Gunter delivered an emotional speech to the Welsh dressing room on the night of his 100th cap.

Gunter didn’t wield carnage. He never launched Wales into international acclaim. In the last four years, he hardly made a challenge for the starting XI. Throughout his career, Gunter possessed a lovable but at times parodic allergy to scoring or assisting, except for, of course, that one moment of unimaginable on-pitch brilliance to the soundtrack of Chris Coleman’s totally ballistic touchline shouts.

And yet, in a football generation filled with Welsh icons, Gunter was one of the most adored. The fan's proxy on the pitch, the everyday man, Wales’ cult hero. By definition, cult heroes never threaten to actually do anything. They hover right on the brink of it. So as his retirement settles on the fanbase, Gunter won’t incite pulsing calls for statues erected around the country in his honour, nor shouts for currency with his face plastered on it.

Yet, should Gunter’s hyper-loyalty be so trivialised? His very essence raises the question of why indefatigable fidelity to one’s country doesn’t merit a more valued place in the footballing pantheon. Loyalty cannot be quantified in goals, no. Such an intangible isn’t nearly as titillating or sensually all-consuming as a perfect free-kick or a blistering strike from outside the area or mazy, confounding dribbles.

Perhaps, however, loyalty should be seen with equal weight. Gunter certainly cut the convincing argument.

Especially now, the feat feels even more remarkable. Gunter’s final jaunt in his international career was anything but glamorous. The final years can be boiled down to a slow drip feed of appearances that eventually distilled into a total cap void.

But Gunter never railed against the treatment, howling angrily yet vainly at time.

His very last appearance arrived in a forgettable 23-minute cameo in the 3-2 loss to the Netherlands in the Nations League last summer. Afterwards Gunter returned, with no riposte from fans or himself, to his spot on the bench, resuming his position as Wales’ good character to have in the dressing room. As Wales approached their first World Cup in 64 years, even this element of involvement became too much. As squad lists continued to emerge, it was Gunter’s name that was routinely called to be scrubbed.

Gunter and Ramsey celebrate World Cup qualification.

The mentality was fair. Gunter had outgrown the squad and the squad had outgrown Gunter. Such is the brutal but natural order of football, particularly in the quest for success. Football has no room for nostalgia players.

But to adequately assess Wales’ position on the current football spectrum, Gunter’s influence is inextricable, if not for the fundamental reason that Gunter provided the very blueprint for how to succeed on the pitch for Wales: give everything to the shirt.

The most cruel aspect of Gunter’s international career is not that he didn’t find the back of the net against France at Euro 2016, or that he never found the back of the net at all. Or even that Gunter never actually stepped onto the competitive pitch in Qatar for one last Welsh catharsis, a scene that would’ve invariably led many fans to call for manager Rob Page’s head.

It is that on Gunter’s 100th cap in the hollowed-out echo chamber that was Cardiff City Stadium post-Covid, there was not the collective salute from the fanbase for the man who had never once led them astray. As Rhydian Bowen Phillips' bellowed the line-ups into the empty metal cavern, announcing 'y capten yn ennill ei canfed cap' , Chris Gunter, a two-second silence followed before Phillips, regretfully, moved on to the next name knowing no crowd was there to properly commemorate the occasion.

Indeed, on a silent, ultimately inconsequential night in a friendly against Mexico – a match played by an experimental team of kids and fringe players, and squished between two very significant World Cup qualifiers – there was only Gunter’s voice. Barking orders, shouting warnings, demanding a flawless performance out of Wales against a tin of total silence in a match that ultimately didn’t technically matter.

Yet for Gunter, it did. So on the day when Gunter deserved the full Red Wall to lift his chin up, he was once again performing the duty for everyone.

It was Gunter in a microcosm. When asked about what it would be like to make his 100th cap for Wales, his sheepish, utterly normal persona spilled to the fore. He’d be speechless. The word lucky was used more than once. He was, after all, the lucky Newport lad who stumbled into this historic, epochal Wales squad.

As Gunter hangs up his boots, though, it’s important to note just how two-way the luck worked.