A sad thought about Wales is that by the turn of the century it will be marooned as a fourth-rate football nation on a par with Cyprus and San Marino

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There was a time when if you imagined a Great Britain team there would have been some serious contenders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Without going too far back in time how about George Best, John Charles, Denis Law, Dave Mackay, Danny Blanchflower, Jim Baxter, Cliff Jones and Ivor Allchurch.

The situation now, and I speak as a Welshman, is that with the exception of Ryan Giggs there is not a representative of the home Celtic nations with enough talent to make Glenn Hoddle envious.

Sadly, this is unlikely to change because the experience of important clubs in the Premiership is there is no longer much point in sending scouts across the borders.

A sad thought about Wales is that by the turn of the century it will be marooned as a fourth-rate football nation on a par with Cyprus and San Marino. Apparently, there was evidence to suggest this at Ebbw Vale last Friday when the Wales Under-21 team was outplayed and defeated 3- 0 by Turkey. "There wasn't a Welsh lad out there who looked as though he had a future in the game," I was told.

The programme for Saturday's World Cup qualifying match against Turkey at Cardiff Arms Park contained the fact that in the 1930s Wales won the home international championship three times outright in four years, and over a seven-year period had a much better record than England. All we (the Welsh) are left with is nostalgia.

Apart from just about putting paid to hopes of reaching the 1988 World Cup finals, what Saturday's goalless encounter against Turkey proved, I think, is that Welsh football is going nowhere. No great expertise was required to see that the Turks were technically superior and in the main better athletes. It was a cold day, and as John Toshack said, Wales did very little to warm up the audience.

If a decline in Welsh football, as in Welsh rugby, is linked to socio- economic factors, the collapse of the mining industry for example, there is absolutely no doubt that a historically based, pathetically fragmented committee system is the main problem.

Three years ago when Terry Yorath managed the Welsh team there was still some cause for optimism. Yorath had a structure in place and only the width of a crossbar prevented Wales from reaching the 1994 World Cup finals. Yorath left after a disagreement with the Welsh Football Association, some of whose members could not accept the idea of his autonomy. Things have been going downhill ever since.

The eventual appointment of Bobby Gould did not improve matters. Gould is not to blame for the dearth of Welsh talent and, as Neville Southall suggested on Saturday, who would want the job anyway. "Only Forrest Gump," he said, "because he wouldn't know what he was getting into." Gould, however, has not inspired any confidence in the Welsh public.

One of Gould's first moves was to announce that he was learning the Welsh language. What on earth was he going on about? As I remember it, Jimmy Murphy who took Wales to the 1958 World Cup, their only appearance in the finals, did not speak any Welsh, neither did most of the heroes. I would be surprised if any of Gould's squad on Saturday know more than a word or two. The mistake Gould makes, unwittingly, is to suppose that culture is more important than the disabling fact that many Welsh communities have 80 per cent unemployment and as a result are turning inwards.

Another mistake is to suppose that spirit and tactical nous can compensate fully for alarming technical shortcomings. What can often work at club level, as it did for Gould when he won the FA Cup with Wimbledon is not much of an option in international football.

That Wales were anxious against Turkey was understandable. Who would not be after being hammered 7-1 by the Netherlands? But for the captain, Barry Horne, to suggest that they were happy with 0-0 at half-time just about sums up the extent of Welsh aspirations.

A well organised Turkish team in which the midfielder Abdullah Ercan was outstanding, by a distance the best player out there, made it difficult for Wales to get going, but in the circumstances a lot more adventure was called for. Giggs performed fitfully, playing as though the lack of atmosphere was an insult to his reputation.

Having survived a few scares - Neville Southall made an outstanding save from the lively substitute, Derelioglu - left their best efforts until late in the proceedings. Mark Hughes went close and when John Hartson came on for Dean Saunders the Turkish defence looked less comfortable.

Apparently, Gould seldom attends the post-match inquests. Perhaps he finds it difficult to come up with excuses. This time he gave the chore to Southall. "We can still qualify," the great goalkeeper said. Show me a Welsh supporter who believes it.

WALES (3-5-3): Southall (Everton); Melville (Sunderland), Speed (Everton), Page (Watford); Jenkins ( Huddersfield), Horne (Birmingham City), Jones (Wimbledon), Pembridge (Sheffield Wednesday), Giggs (Manchester United); Saunders (Nottingham Forest), Hughes (Chelsea). Substitute: Hartson (Arsenal) for Saunders, 81.

TURKEY (1-3-4-2): Ipekoglu (C Dardanel); Temizkanoglu (Trabzonspor), R Cetin (Beskitas), Ozalan (Besiktas), Korkmaz,Yapcioglu (both Galatasaray), Senturk (Fenerbahce), Kerimoglu (Galatasaray), Ercan (Trabzonspor), Erdem, Sukur (both Galatasaray). Substitutes: Derelioglu (Besiktas) for Erdem, 70; Kafkas (Trabzonspor) for Senturk, 87; Akbas (Istanbulspor) for Yapcioglu, 87.

Bookings: Turkey: R Cetin. Wales: Jenkins, Melville, Pembridge.

Referee: N Grigorescu (Romania)

Man of the match: Ercan.

Attendance: 14,206.