The Welsh national team: What next?

It was today announced that John Toshack is to step down after six years in his role of manager of the Welsh national team.

After a defeat to European Championship debutants Montenegro, Toshack claims to have taken the team ‘as far as he can,’ – which on facts is backwards.

Wales were ranked at 63rd when Toshack took charge back in November 2004. But, take a look at the rankings today and after you’ve filtered through the Latvia’s, Gabon’s, Malawi’s and Costa Rica’s of this world to 84th, you will find a nation who not so long ago beat Denmark away and gave Germany and Russia a close encounter.

The team was hailed as the future of Welsh football. It contained promising youngsters fast-tracked into the first-team from the under-21’s to help them gain vital experience.

However, as we know, if working with youth guarantees one thing, ironically, it is inconsistency.

In Toshack’s 53 games as manager, Wales have lost 24 and won 21 – leading for calls for his resignation from former captain Robbie Savage, with whom Toshack fell out with in 2005.

“Judge him on his qualifying campaigns – they haven’t qualified yet and they have got off to a terrible start again.

“Toshack has to go,” Savage told BBC Five Live on his weekly show.

Fans have called for someone with a more modern approach, but former Real Madrid man Toshack must be given credit for sticking with his policy of bringing through youth talent. I feel it could be a few years before fans see the fruits of Toshack’s labour and, ultimately, will be grateful to him.

Maybe the prime example of this is the new-found form of Gareth Bale. Obviously, most the credit has to go to Harry Redknapp for helping the left-back, but there is no doubt that his big-game experience against the Germans, along with playing in countries such as Georgia and Azerbaijan will stand him in good stead for Spurs’ Champiosn league campaign.

Wales will be hoping that talents such as Wayne Hennessey, Chris Gunter, Simon Church and Ched Evans can also make the step-up that Bale has, and if they do,  Toshack can feel vindicated by his policy.

But for those players to make the progression, a new manager must be installed.

Wales legend John Hartson has expressed an interest in the post, but after his rollercoaster and successful battle against cancer, coupled with a lack of any coaching experience, it may be a too strenuous post for him right now.

Perhaps Savage himself, after talking such a good game, could put into practice what he has been dictating to managers all his career. However, his love of being centre of attention and in front of a camera means that he is likely to stick with his media career instead. Shame, as the move could really give him the chance to be closer to his Welsh roots, as he has wanted since the day he left Birmingham City.

My stand-out candidate, although the timing is poor, would be Gary Speed.

Speed has only just taken over the reigns at Sheffield United, so juggling both jobs would be too much for him at this early stage in his career.

However, he has all the attributes needed to really make the role his for a long time.  An ex-captain of the team, he would instantly command the respect of all the players, many of whom would have grown-up idolising him.

A thinker of the game, Speed has learnt from the best. He spent time under the late Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle, played alongside Gordon Strachan at Leeds and learnt a more direct approach under Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers.

As stated earlier, had the post become available a couple of months ago, then Speed would have been my outstanding candidate.

According to Ladbrokes, Chris Coleman is the favourite for the job, followed by the legendary Dean Saunders and Ryan Giggs.

Coleman has found it difficult at Championship level, whilst Saunders is currently at non-league Saunders. Giggs is still playing which leaves the country bereft of any home-grown potential managers.

If Speed was to get the role, it could be the catapult to the Premier League he needs, just like Mark Hughes before Toshack.

So, to me, they either need to break the bank to get Speed in or look at a foreign coach – but where has that got England, ay?


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