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Thursday, 03 February 2005

1629: Wales: New era begins for Tosh

by : Alex Wolstenholme

John Toshack ends the long wait for his first game as Wales boss next Wednesday with a friendly against Hungary and the make up of his first squad reveals some of the problems that the new manager will face.

Two of Wales’s big-name players of course have been involved in transfer window sagas but the faith that Toshack has shown in Robbie Savage and Craig Bellamy may actually be rewarded by a new commitment to the Welsh cause from the pair.

Bellamy said upon joining Celtic on Monday that as well as playing out of position for Newcastle he had often done the same for Wales and Toshack could well reap the benefit of a Hartson/Bellamy strike partnership playing up front for both club and country.

Savage has healed his relationship with the new manager to such an extent that he may be handed the captaincy and the Blackburn man will need to be at his best to compensate for the loss of Gary Speed and Mark Pembridge (both still doing good jobs in the Premiership) through retirement.

Some new faces have appeared in the squad with both Gavin Williams and Danny Collins capping a rise from League Two to the Championship with West Ham and Sunderland respectively but new Welsh faces in the Premiership are thin on the ground.

Robert Earnshaw has found life in the top flight difficult with struggling West Brom while on the goalkeeping front Mark Crossley (who has pulled out of the squad due to a family bereavement) is back on the bench at Fulham and facing an uncertain future with Edwin Van der Sar signing a new deal at Craven Cottage.

Crossley’s opponents for the goalkeeper’s jersey, Paul Jones and Danny Coyne have lost their places at club level through poor form and injury respectively.

Ryan Giggs remains in good form for Manchester United but Simon Davies has suffered with injuries since that heady night against Italy in Cardiff and faces a real battle to get into the Spurs team after their spate of January signings.

Wales’s first choice midfield and attack though remain a potent-looking unit. Toshack’s real work may come at the back where he is without Mark Delaney through injury and where he was most critical of his predecessor’s tactics.

Toshack’s previous reign as Wales boss ended almost before it had begun with the shambolic nature of the set-up too much for a man who had played for Liverpool and coached some of Europe’s top sides.

Wales certainly have a better squad and infrastructure now and the country will be hoping that the new man can organise them in a way that brings that elusive qualification for a major championship.

Alex Wolstenholme

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