Mark Hughes backs Gary Speed for Wales managerial job
Gary Speed and Mark Hughes are Welsh international football greats
Mark Hughes has told potential Welsh managerial candidate Gary Speed that being Wales boss would be "fantastic grounding" for the rookie manager.
The Football Association of Wales are set to ask permission from Sheffield United to speak to their manager as the FAW seek a successor to John Toshack.
Speed was Hughes' skipper when he was Wales boss and praised his "leadership qualities" and "outstanding" captaincy.
But United insist "no approach has been made" and "no discussions" are planned.
Former Wales international and current Fulham manager Hughes started his managerial career with his national team in 1999.
And Hughes and captain Speed inspired the Welsh to the Euro 2004 qualification play-offs - losing their finals bid in a two-legged play-off against Russia.
"It's understandable that Gary is being spoken of for the job," said Hughes.
"When I left myself, I recommended that Gary speak to the Football Association of Wales. He felt that at that time it was too soon."
Midfielder Speed, Wales' most-capped outfield played, retired from international football after 85 caps when Hughes quit Wales to manager Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League.
Gary has not been approached and there are no discussions planned. This has become an intrusion into his and the club's preparations
Sheffield United chief executive Trevor Birch
Toshack succeeded Hughes in 2004 but the post is once again vacant following Toshack's exit in September in the wake of Wales' opening Euro 2012 defeat in Montenegro.
The FAW has interviewed four of the candidates on its shortlist and hopes to name their new national team coach before Christmas.
BBC Sport understands former Sweden coach Lars Lagerback, Wales' caretaker manager Brian Flynn, former Fulham boss Chris Coleman and former Wales striker John Hartson have been interviewed by the Welsh FA's managerial appointment sub-committee.
Former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and current Wrexham boss Dean Saunders, who was part of Toshack's coaching team, are also in the frame.
But the FAW are to seek permission from Championship strugglers United to speak to their boss of four months Speed about the Welsh vacancy.
The 41-year-old has won six of his 17 games in charge since replacing Kevin Blackwell in August and taking his first managerial job.
Speed is now among the favourites to suceed Toshack on a full-time basis - and he has the endorsement of managerial mentor Hughes who gave Speed his first coaching role with Wales' under-21 side.
"If Gary sees his future as a manager, then being an international coach for Wales is a fantastic grounding," said Hughes.
"It's early in his managerial career but it's a similar situation to how I found myself.
"I'd recommend it every day of the week. Most people say it's a job for an older, more experienced manager.
"Sometimes that can be the case, but for a young manager to be exposed to international football and to learn and grow, it's perfect."
Hughes could call on experienced internationals Speed, Hartson, Ryan Giggs, Paul Jones, Simon Davies, Robbie Savage, Mark Pembridge, Mark Delaney and Andy Melville when he managed Wales.
But he insists that Wales' young player base - including Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Collison - is stronger now than when he was in charge.
"There's no reason why Gary can't make a good fist of it given his standing in the game," said Hughes.
"In fairness the group of players there now is better in terms of quality than the squad I inherited.
"It's a good opportunity for whoever gets the job because there are some good young players who will develop in time.
The group of players there now is better in terms of quality than the squad I inherited
Former Wales manager Mark Hughes
"Hopefully some time in the future they'll qualify for a major championship."
Wales' youth guru Flynn has been backed by many Welsh international after he took temporary charge of Wales for their Group G qualifying defeats to Bulgaria and Switzerland in October.
But Speed has been heavily linked despite United chief executive Trevor Birch revealing the club have received no approach from the FAW.
"The speculation is very unhelpful as Gary has only one thing on his mind at the moment and that is to prepare the team for the derby game against Barnsley at the weekend," Birch said in a statement.
"Although unwelcome, the Welsh FA's interest is quite understandable as he's not only a Welshman but also a manager with a great future ahead of him.
"Gary has not been approached and there are no discussions planned. He has already stated that he is happy here and we are more than happy with him.
"This has become an intrusion into his and the club's preparations and we will not be commenting further."
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