Football: Hughes happy to take advice

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The Independent Online
MARK HUGHES may be approaching today's vital European Championship qualifier against Belarus here as a coaching novice, but he will have a wealth of experience to lean on in his new job at the helm of Wales.

The Southampton striker, who has been handed the job of reviving the fortunes of his country after the aborted reign of Bobby Gould, has turned to his former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson for assistance. "I have had quite a few people phoning to offer me advice and support," he said. "I've spoken to Sir Alex Ferguson and he's been extremely supportive.

"It's nice to know people like that are in the background with offers of help if I need it. Qualifying for the finals of a major tournament is something I've not been able to achieve as a player, so maybe I can do that as a manager."

Wales' senior players are also rallying around Hughes and predicting that he will make a success of his role as coach of the national side. Dean Saunders, who is set to earn his 70th cap for Wales in the intimidating Dynamo Stadium, said: "These first few days with him have been excellent and we've all enjoyed it. He asks the senior players for their advice and whether we like what is being done. The coaches, Eddie Niedzwiecki and Eric Harrison, have been the same and what has happened so far has left the lads very impressed."

The Wales captain, Gary Speed, can also see the blossoming of Hughes the manager. "You could see straight away that his ideas were constructive and his experience as a player all over Europe will hopefully make the whole thing a great success," the Newcastle midfielder said. "Mark doesn't say a lot but what he does say makes sense. If he says something then you listen and that's a good quality to have.

"Whatever happens in these next two games, I'd like to see Mark get the job permanently. The players aren't looking that far ahead but I think Mark takes it that he has the job full-time. If you have it in your mind that it's only temporary, you can't do your job. But he has it clearly in his mind that he's the manager and he's taking it from there."

Two of Wales' brightest young talents are likely to make their international debuts. Aston Villa's Mark Delaney, 23, is expected to play at right-back after being plucked from the League of Wales side, Carmarthen Town, 18 months ago by John Gregory. Leeds' 19-year-old Matthew Jones was withdrawn from the Under-21 squad that he was due to captain and will be on the substitutes' bench today.

WALES (probable): Jones (Southampton), Delaney (Aston Villa), Page (Watford), Coleman (Fulham), Barnard (Barnsley), Robinson (Charlton), Speed (Newcastle, capt), Pembridge (Everton), Giggs (Manchester United), Blake (Blackburn), Saunders (Bradford City).

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