FOOTBALL; Toshack glad to be back

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The Independent Online
NEARLY A decade after being fired, John Toshack returned to Spain yesterday as Real Madrid's fourth coach in a year, charged with restoring pride at the famous old club and reviving their hopes of winning the domestic league and a record eighth European Cup.

"My attitude is the same now as it was 10 years ago," an obviously cheerful Toshack told a packed press conference at Santiago Bernabeu stadium. "With the years and the experience, I supposed I have learned some things from my mistakes."

Toshack, who coached Real Madrid in 1989-90, was coaxed away from the Turkish club, Besiktas, to take charge of the Spanish Primera Division club for the remainder of the season and the 1999-2000 campaign. He takes over from the Dutchman, Guus Hiddink.

The former Liverpool and Wales centre-forward arrived in Madrid from Istanbul yesterday afternoon and had a brief meeting with the players before being formally presented to the press. The Real president, Lorenzo Sanz, said that Toshack was given the job because the club thought he was the most capable of producing the results demanded, and restoring control of the players.

Toshack is Madrid's fourth coach in less than a year and the sixth in three years, following the German, Jupp Heynckes, the Spaniard, Jose Antonio Camacho, and, most recently, Hiddink.

"In the last three years there has been more trainers than normal but that still hasn't stopped the team winning leagues and cups and I hope that continues," Toshack said. "I know the expectations are very high here, being second is not sufficient and if we don't get at least one title nobody will be more disappointed than I."

Toshack refused to talk about the club's summer arrival, Steve McManaman of Liverpool, saying that was a matter for next season and, for the moment, he was only thinking of tomorrow's game against Real Betis.

Hiddink, who coached the Netherlands to fourth place in last year's World Cup, was criticised for failing to lay down the law among players whose egos reportedly ballooned after winning a record seventh European Cup last season.

On announcing Hiddink's removal, Sanz told reporters that he had a choice of firing the coach or half the team - and that he took the easier option.

Toshack, 48, was hired after negotiations to persuade the Italian coach, Fabio Capello, to return to the Bernabeu collapsed earlier this week. His arrival comes as Real lie sixth in the 20-team Spanish League, seven points behind the leaders, Barcelona.

"I don't believe there is any other team in as good condition as Real Madrid, given that we can win three titles, being sixth in the League, in the semi-finals of the [Spanish] Cup and the quarter-finals of the European Cup," the former Swansea City manager said.

His appointment took many by surprise - and the media were quick to point out that his previous spells in Spain at Real and Deportivo La Coruna were not trouble-free.

The newspaper El Pais documented how Toshack dismantled a successful team built around the striker Emilio Butragueno straight after winning the Spanish title in 1990.

El Pais recalled that he fell out with many of the players, including the veteran captain Manuel Sanchis who, apart from Fernando Hierro, is the only player from Toshack's first spell still at the club.