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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 15:38 GMT
Time for Toshack to deliver
By Dewi Hughes

New Wales manager John Toshack

If there is one thing for certain, John Toshack's second spell as Wales manager will last longer than his first.

The former Real Madrid boss lasted 47 days and one game as a part-time manager before walking out on his country 10 years and eight months ago.

Toshack was alarmed by the strength of support that remained among the fans for former manager Terry Yorath - discarded by Wales despite just missing out on World Cup qualification.

Also unimpressed by the skill levels of the players, he retreated to the more comfortable climes of Real Sociedad.

This time, however, the former Liverpool and Wales striker's appointment comes free of any political baggage, and with the blessing of the majority of Welsh supporters.

He also inherits a squad with greater strength in depth - never before has a Wales manager been able to call upon so many players who ply their trade in top-flight club football.

JOHN TOSHACK FACTFILE
1949: Born in Cardiff
1966: Joins Cardiff City
1970: Joins Liverpool, wins 3 league titles, 2 Uefa Cups and 1 FA Cup
1978-1981: Takes Swansea from 4th to 1st Division
1984: Moves to Sporting Lisbon
1985: 1st spell at Real Sociedad
1989: Goes to Real Madrid
1994: Back at Sociedad, takes part-time role with Wales but resigns after one game - a 3-1 defat to Norway
1995: Moves to Deportivo
2000: Given St Etienne job after 2nd Real Madrid spell ends
2002: Third spell at Sociedad ends, takes job with Italian Serie B side Catania
2003: Leaves Catania
2004: Takes part-time role at Real Murcia until the end of the 2003/4 season
2004: Appointed Wales manager on five-year contract

It could be argued that Toshack was the supporters' choice merely because there was no other obvious alternative.

But only a stubborn and unforgiving few would insist he does not deserve another shot at the job.

Unlike 10 years ago also, the 55-year-old will be able to give his full attention to Wales.

And after publicly criticising the team's performances under Mark Hughes, he should feel he has a point to prove.

His third spell in charge of Real Sociedad ended two years ago.

Since then, Toshack has managed Italian Serie B side Catania - where he quit after just three months in January 2003 - and had a four-month stint as caretaker manager of Spanish side Murcia last season.

According to Alan Curtis, who played under Toshack for Swansea at the turn of the 1980s as they climbed from Division Four to the top of Division One, this is exactly the type of challenge his former boss has been craving.

"Possibly 10 years ago it wasn't right for him," he told BBC Wales Sport. "He might have felt that club management was still the route he wanted to go down.

"But now that he's available, his batteries will be re-recharged and I'm sure he can't wait to get stuck into it."

And there certainly will be plenty for Toshack to get his teeth into.

As a BBC pundit on Wales international matches over the last five years, he has never been shy to speak his mind.

Robbie Savage has been particularly offended by some of Toshack's criticisms. So much so, that the Birmingham midfielder threatened to end his Wales career if Toshack succeeded Mark Hughes.

Whatever criticisms the players might have received from John, it's up to them to prove they are good players
Former Wales and Swansea team-mate Alan Curtis

Striker Craig Bellamy, meanwhile, said the prospect of having Toshack in charge did not "touch a button" for him.

Understandable, in a way, since the current Wales players have never worked with Toshack and have few points of reference.

Savage later retracted his comments and declared he would play for his country under any manager, but the perception remains that bridges will need mending.

"That's not Tosh's way to be honest," warned Curtis. "But I think the players will soon respond to his way of thinking.

"He's an excellent coach and fantastic manager. Whatever criticisms the players might have received from John, it's up to them to prove they are good players."

And if recent performances are anything to go by, the players certainly have their work cut out.

Despite the major strides taken under Hughes, Wales are a team on an alarming downward spiral. As a group of players, they appear to have peaked two years ago.

The 3-2 home defeat to Poland in October, which leaves Wales one from bottom of their World Cup qualifying group with two points from four games, was their 10th successive competitive game without victory.

Thoughts of qualification for Germany 2006 can realistically be discarded even at this early stage, giving Toshack the luxury of a 'honeymoon' period to introduce his own style of play.

Three senior players - including former captain Gary Speed - have made themselves unavailable, and there appears to be few youngsters waiting in the wings to step in.

But, as Liverpool's Xabi Alonso can testify after being nurtured by the Welshman at Real Sociedad, Toshack has always been prepared to give youth a chance providing they have the ability.

But after so many years away from the British game and without an obvious ally among the squad, it remains to be seen how long Toshack will need to earn the respect of the players.

He has been talking a good game as a pundit for some time, but now is the time for him to deliver... and stay the course.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Wales boss John Toshack




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