Football: Smith returns as manager of Wales: Yorath ignored as FAW turns to the past to replace disgruntled Toshack

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MIKE SMITH took an unlikely step up last night when he succeeded John Toshack as manager of Wales, with a brief to end the turmoil that surrounded his predecessor's abrupt departure this week.

Smith, a 56-year-old Englishman, is returning to a post he first had in the 1970s. At a meeting of the general committee of the Football Association of Wales in Caersws, he was given a contract 'for at least the next two years'.

The executive wanted to make a quick appointment to put behind them the fiasco of Toshack's 48-day reign. That they have turned to Smith, a former schoolteacher, who was chosen by Toshack to be his assistant, is a further blow to Terry Yorath. The manager who led Wales in their ultimately vain qualifying campaign for this year's World Cup finals had hoped to reclaim his throne, and was willing to abandon a claim for unfair dismissal against the FAW to get it.

'It was unfortunate that John Toshack decided to resign, but life must go on,' John Evans, the chairman of the FAW senior international committee, said. 'Welsh football in particular must go on, and we are looking to Mike to maintain our progress. Terry Yorath does not figure in our immediate plans.'

Smith, genial and good-humoured, has a difficult task to stabilise a squad which has been disturbed and unsettled by recent events. That was all too evident in a tame display resulting in a 3-1 defeat by Norway last week, Toshack's one and only game at the helm.

'I thought they were going to put me in charge as caretaker for one game, but they said that was no good to them,' Smith said. 'These offers don't come along very often so you have to take them.' After his earlier five-year reign, which ended in 1979, Smith managed Hull City. He left them after two years and later took charge of the Egyptian national side between 1985 and 1988.

To criticism that it is a backward step and that he has been too long away from the game, Smith countered: 'I have been in charge of 207 internationals, 100 of them at senior level, and if I did not think I could do the job I would not have taken it.'

Brian Flynn, the manager of Wrexham, will take charge of the Under-21 team. Smith hopes to name assistant managers at both levels as soon as possible.

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