Football: Robson the Welsh choice as manager: Wales pursue former England manager

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The Independent Online
BOBBY ROBSON, the former England manager, is the new choice to take charge of Wales in partnership with the Bournemouth assistant manager, David Williams, who will be groomed to succeed him, writes Trevor Haylett.

Robson, sacked by Sporting Lisbon before Christmas and named last week as Portugal's coach of the year, wants to return to the game as soon as possible. Initially he was taken by surprise with the Welsh approach but admitted to relishing the prospect of working with talent like Ryan Giggs and Gary Speed.

Williams, who stood in before the start of Terry Yorath's reign, is keen to work alongside Robson. Both would be part-time posts and it is understood Robson's financial demands would not be a barrier to him taking over.

Wales switched their attention to Robson, 60, when they realised Terry Venables, the former Spurs chief executive, was out of their reach and a certainty for the England vacancy. Intriguingly, Alun Evans, the chief executive of the Football Association of Wales, talked over the list of England contenders with Venables and is reported to have said that Wales would not be appointing Kevin Keegan 'because Venables does not rate him'.

Evans explained: 'I have spoken to Robson on the phone and asked if he would be interested. There are a few people we have sounded out and he is one of them. We happen to think the most successful England manager, certainly since Alf Ramsey, is worth considering.'

It would not be the first time Wales have gone outside the country to find a manager. Mike Smith, an Englishman, held the reins in the 1970s and Evans added: 'We are not breaking with tradition. The only tradition we want to break is that of not qualifying.' Evans will speak to Robson again when he returns later this week from Estoril where he has been finalising his departure from Portugal.

The appointment has been thrown into confusion by the death on Friday of Elfed Ellis, the FAW president, from a suspected heart attack. Ellis also headed the sub-committee charged with finding a manager and a meeting scheduled for Wednesday has had to be cancelled. 'There will be a delay but hopefully not a significant delay,' Evans added. 'We would hope to have a manager by the time the European Championship draw is made on 22 January.'

It was known that Ellis opposed Yorath's re-employment but it is not thought his death will see the former manager emerge again as a contender for his old job.

Ron Atkinson, the Aston Villa manager, will today 'have something to say' about Paul McGrath, his Irish defender, who failed to meet the team bus travelling to Exeter on Friday.