Football: Gould fails grade seven

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Netherlands 7 Wales 1

Bobby Gould decided it was time to enter the great debate. Questions needed to be asked of the teachers, he said, echoing a theme that has been repeated up and down the land over recent weeks. "In the 15 years that I have been working as a coach or a manager I have not been educated to the level I should have been."

To the classroom crisis can be added the crisis in Welsh football, brought sharply into focus by this humiliation inflicted by a Netherlands side who toyed with their opposition like a cat taunts a mouse before exacting its kill. It was grossly one-sided and not at all pleasant to watch.

Three years ago a heavy defeat at Queen's Park Rangers prompted Gould's resignation as the Coventry manager and knowing the emotions which envelop him through an intense love of his game it would not have been surprising to see him retrace those steps on Saturday night. After all, in some jobs 33 days in charge is considered too long.

He will soldier on even though there are observers who believe the scale of this capitulation made the Dutch industrial town an appropriate environment for him to get on his bike. It was the heaviest reverse Wales have suffered in either World Cup or European Championship competition. Dennis Bergkamp helped himself to a hat-trick and but for Neville Southall it would have been a lot worse.

Afterwards Gould returned to a complaint he has expressed before when dissecting British shortcomings. That the coaching of the coaches is far from satisfactory. The right players are not being produced and the national team suffers when set against the superior forces of skill and team understanding that the Dutch can seemingly call upon with every new generation.

The Welsh manager is undoubtedly right in what he says. The problem is that this line of argument goes nowhere in the short-term, which dictates that Wales have to find a way past Belgium and, starting next month, Turkey to claim the group runner's-up berth which can still provide a route to France.

Back to back defeats against the Dutch make Wales no more an inept side than successive routs at San Marino's expense left them favourites to qualify. But the clock needs to be turned back and Gould to revert to the system which promised so much more when his reign began with the defeat of Moldova and a serious test for Germany.

It cannot help when already meagre resources are stretched still further by the absence of Ryan Giggs and Mark Hughes yet certain things do not add up. Mark Bowen, a worthy sweeper in previous games, was deployed here as a wing-back while from nowhere comes Jason Bowen, hardly a regular with Birmingham, to fill one of the vital midfield positions.

Then there is the baffling question of the continued absence of the Nottingham Forest midfielder David Phillips, a consistently solid international performer of some merit. And while Ian Rush might not be finding the net regularly for Leeds, his presence in the squad would at least enhance morale. If there are personality differences between manager and player they should be sorted out now.

Wales' worst defeats

9-0 v Scotland at Glasgow 1878

9-1 v England at Cardiff 1896

8-0 v Scotland at Wrexham 1883

8-1 v Scotland at Wrexham 1885

7-0 v N Ireland at Belfast 1930

7-1 v England at Wrexham 1908

7-1 v Holland at Eindhoven 1996

Goals: Bergkamp (22) 1-0; R de Boer (33) 2-0; Jonk (34) 3-0; Saunders (40) 3-1; F de Boer (45) 4-1; Cocu (62) 5-1; Bergkamp (73) 6-1; Bergkamp (79) 7-1.

WALES (3-5-2): Southall (Everton); Melville (Sunderland), Neilson (Southampton), Symons (Manchester City); M Bowen (West Ham), V Jones (Wimbledon), J Bowen (Birmingham), Pembridge (Sheffield Wednesday), Speed (Everton); Hartson (Arsenal), Saunders (Nottingham Forest). Substitutes: Robinson (Charlton) for J Bowen, 58; Taylor (Sheffield Utd) for Hartson, 67.

NETHERLANDS (4-1-3-2): Van der Sar (Ajax); Reiziger (Milan), Stam (PSV Eindhoven), F de Boer (Ajax), Numan (PSV Eindhoven); Jonk (PSV Eindhoven); Winter (Internazionale), Seedorf (Real Madrid), Cocu (PSV Eindhoven); Bergkamp (Arsenal), R de Boer (Ajax). Substitutes: Overmars (Ajax) for R De Boer, 58; Van Hooijdonk (Celtic) for Seedorf, 69; Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) for Jonk, 82.

Referee: V Pereira (Portugal). Booking: Wales: V Jones.

Man of the match: Bergkamp. Attendance: 25,000.