Football: Rush may be dropped

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The Independent Online
IAN RUSH, the record goalscorer for his country, is struggling to win a place tonight in John Toshack's inaugural team. Unthinkable, perhaps, to most, but in with a new manager come new ideas and new faces, and the old order comes tumbling down.

If Rush plays in the friendly international against Norway at Ninian Park, Cardiff, it will be in an unaccustomed withdrawn role behind a one-man attack: Mark Hughes. It will be a blow to his pride and prestige, though doubtless the Liverpool captain will find it preferable to the substitutes' bench, where Dean Saunders, another big-name casualty, will start the game.

Wales give first caps to Nathan Blake and his former Cardiff colleague, Jason Perry. Others will be asked to perform different duties in a foreign system. It is a high-risk strategy for a new manager, who admits it could go wrong.

'I don't think the Welsh public will be stunned to see no Rush and no Saunders,' Toshack said. 'Don't forget Dean is suspended from the first two European Championship games. The easiest thing for me is to play Rush, Saunders, Hughes and Ryan Giggs, but it might not be in the best interests of the team. I have a decision to make about Rush, and I have reservations about playing him in a deeper role.'

Giggs, who has a hamstring injury, misses out, but he will be a major influence in the formation which Toshack uses with his Spanish club side, Real Sociedad, where it is known as 'Sistema Toshack'. It features three attacking players behind the one front man, all primed to exploit the attacking spaces.

However, Toshack has prepared the fans for sweeping changes at half-time: 'I want to use the friendly matches to look at all the players and to see what works, so that when the European Championship qualifiers start we know where we are going. I would rather have a player give us 30 minutes of what he does best than 90 minutes in a less effective position.'

WALES (v Norway, Cardiff, tonight): Southall (Everton); Perry (Cardiff), Phillips (Nottingham Forest), Melville (Sunderland), Young, Coleman (both Crystal Palace), Horne (Everton), Speed (Leeds), Blake (Sheffield United), Rush (Liverpool) or Pembridge (Derby), Hughes (Manchester United).

NORWAY: Grodas (Lillestrom); Loken (Rosenborg), T Pedersen (Oldham), Berg (Blackburn), Bjornebye (Liverpool), Flo (Sheffield United), Mykland (Start), Bohinen (Nottingham Forest), Fjortoft (Swindon), Rekdal, Jakobsen (both Lierse).

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