WHAT TOSHACK HAS TO DO NEXT
by Paul Abbandonato, Western Mail
Oct 15 2007
You’re right, that was unacceptable – let’s keep a sense of perspective
JOHN TOSHACK got it right. Wales versus Cyprus was a debacle, although
you could throw in pathetic, abject and embarrassing when discussing
the performance of his team in Nicosia.
I know those are strong words, but there is no point in beating about
the bush here, because the Welsh soccer public are not stupid.
They know when they have seen a display that was totally unacceptable
and Saturday’s Euro 2008 horror show fell comfortably into that
To be brutally frank, Wales were lucky it was only 3-1 rather than
6-1, so out-of-sorts, disorganised, clueless, devoid of motivation
and passionless did they look.
Toshack, as the manager who picks the team and chooses the tactics,
clearly has to take his share of responsibility for that.
But so too do the players.Will they?
At least it appears the manager has held up his hands by stating
candidly that he needs to look at himself, what he is doing right,
what he is doing wrong with the Wales team.
"And after what I have seen in this match, I am obviously doing
something wrong," he asserted.
In the immediate aftermath of the chaos we had just seen, many
interpreted that as Toshack considering resigning from his Wales post.
It was even the lead football item on Radio Five yesterday morning
… and it’s not often you can say that about Welsh football!
Toshack WON’T be going, though. Not unless we do the unthinkable and
lose to San Marino, anyway.
Toshack was here for the big, five-year haul when he took over as
manager and he is still here for the big, five-year haul.
He is under no pressure whatsoever from his FAW bosses to go, so if
he does leave it will be entirely of Toshack’s own making.
Such a decision will not sit well with the majority of the Welsh
public who patiently accept and trust the rebuilding job Toshack is
doing and expect to see him follow it through.
Not to mention the Welsh youngsters in whom Toshack has placed such
confidence, but who would be left high and dry by him suddenly walking
away from them and the Wales job.
It was the manner of Saturday night’s horror show, rather than
the actual result, which appears to have made Toshack so angry and
However, he as well as everyone else, just needs to keep a little
sense of perspective here.
Toshack’s No 2 Dean Saunders said before the game that Wales hadn’t
become Brazil overnight as a result of slamming Slovakia 5-2 away.
Equally, we haven’t become the Faroe Islands this weekend as a result
of losing a Euro 2008 game in Cyprus.
To continue the above theme further, Toshack’s men went into the
Nicosia game looking to become the first Wales side in 26 years,
and only the second in our 131-year history, to win three successive
You can’t suddenly go from being on the threshold of the record books
to losing the manager overnight as a consequence of one poor result.
I know we like a rollercoaster sporting ride here in Wales, but come
on, what is this, Welsh rugby or something?
Wales have not qualified for anything since 1958, so we haven’t
suddenly gone from massive success story to huge failures.
Toshack is still in the middle of a major rebuilding programme and our
current run of form – played 11, won five, drawn three, lost three –
is one of the better Welsh ones of recent times.
To put things in perspective further, in Mark Hughes’ first full
qualifying campaign in charge, Wales only won one game in 10 –
their last one against Belarus – finished second from bottom of a
weak group and twice failed to beat Armenia.
Sparky turned things around dramatically for his next shot at
qualifying, Euro 2004, and fully deserved that opportunity in charge.
Toshack too needs to be afforded that time and opportunity for World
More significantly, as he is under no pressure from the FAW, Toshack
needs to afford himself that time and opportunity because ultimately
his future is down to himself.
However, there is little doubt that a lot of things are going wrong
and it is up to Toshack to put them right.
His team sat far too deep and were too negative against Cyprus.
The gap between the defence, the midfield and the isolated pair of
Craig Bellamy and Freddy Eastwood up front has to be closed.
Those two need support and cannot be expected to rely on scraps game
Toshack’s decision to pick Danny Coyne ahead of the younger, more
athletic Lewis Price in goal, was the wrong one in my eyes.
Coyne was arguably at fault with the three goals and, while it is
understandable to go with an experienced keeper, from this point on
Toshack needs to make Price his permanent back-up to Wayne Hennessey.
Toshack also needs to genuinely look at the international futures
of right-back Sam Ricketts and midfield holding player Carl Robinson
and work out whether there are viable, younger alternatives out there.
Maybe, in planning for the World Cup, it is time to go even more
youthful with either Chris Gunter or Neil Eardley chosen as Toshack’s
If he is playing five defenders, could Toshack not utilise Jason
Koumas in the midfield holding role instead of Robinson?
With the extra cover at the back, does Toshack really need a dog of
war in that role?
Or does he require a craftsman who can orchestrate play, pass the ball,
get it back and keep Wales ticking over?
They say possession is everything in international football. In which
case Wales are nowhere, because they gave the ball away far too easily
on Saturday night.
Even when Wales have previously lost games under Toshack, they have
often played some superb pass-and-move football which offered real
hope for the future.
Toshack needs to ask why there was not a shred of evidence of that
against Cyprus, with hoof ball being the norm.
The players may have been under instructions to do that on this
occasion to utilise Craig Bellamy’s pace and get him behind the
But the game-plan was sussed early on and, in any case, James Collins
is not Pele and lacks the precision needed to carry out those plans.
As for Wales’ general approach under Toshack, there are plenty who
would prefer a more typically Welsh in-your-faces, hwyl and passion
attitude from the team.
But Toshack’s whole management style isn’t about that.
He says Wales have tried it that way, and failed, for 49 years and
need to adopt a more patient, continental-type approach if they are
to finally achieve success.
The trouble is, though, that when things go as wrong as they did on
Saturday night, that sort of tactic makes it look as if the players
You don’t have to be up and at ’em to show passion.
Wales can still play the way Toshack wants when in possession of the
ball, but close down the opposition much quicker, deny them space
and hassle them into mistakes.
None of that happened on Saturday. It didn’t happen against Germany.
It didn’t happen against the Republic of Ireland at Croke Park.
Each of those Euro displays were awful and in stark contrast to the
vibrant, dynamic, energetic showings we have had against the Czech
Republic, Slovakia and Cyprus at home in this campaign.
As we warned in Saturday’s match preview in the Western Mail, it’s
been that sort of roller-coaster campaign.
Huge highs, demoralising lows, with very little in between.
We didn’t know which Wales team would turn up in Cyprus.
Unfortunately, it was Mr Hyde.
Particularly when it came to the defending when, the commendable
Gareth Bale apart, everyone had a shocker.
Preposterous though this sounds, if Danny Gabbidon is going to play
as poorly as he has done in the last three games, then maybe Toshack
needs to leave him out against San Marino and hope he comes back
refreshed and with a point to prove against Ireland.
Gabbidon was by no means the worst culprit, although as a senior
player, he needs to start taking more responsibility.
Wales desperately need Dan the Man back to his brilliant best.
Someone asked me whether we had Craig Morgan or Rhodri Morgan on the
pitch on Saturday.
Is it really unrealistic for Toshack to expect the Morgan that did
play to mark his man properly and head the ball away when it comes
into his zone?
It is meat and drink for a centre-half … whether you are John Terry
of Chelsea or an MK Dons defender.
And, while on that subject, how can a team with so many men behind
the ball leave so many gaping gaps for the Cypriots to run onto?
As for what happens next, the probability is that Toshack will turn
it around against San Marino because the evidence is already there
from these Euro double-headers.
Wales had a nightmare defensively at home to Slovakia, only to thump
Cyprus at the Millennium Stadium four days on.
They were woeful in Ireland, but beat San Marino 3-0 in Cardiff.
They were abject against the Germans, scintillating in Slovakia.
So if the pattern is to be followed, expect a comfortable win down
by the Italian Adriatic Riviera on Wednesday night and this talk of
Toshack going to be put to bed for good.
On the other hand, should Wales inexplicably fail …