Football: Smith sacked as Wales manager

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The Independent Online


Wales today begin the search for a new manager after sacking Mike Smith, and the priority will be a charismatic figure in the Ron Atkinson mould.

Smith, a 59-year-old Eng-lishman, was 16 months into his second spell in charge of the Welsh side. While he oversaw a Association of Wales coaching course in Cardiff yesterday, the FAW councillors were deciding to terminate his contract with "immediate effect" at Welshpool.

The post is to be advertised, although FAW council members are known to favour a high-profile appointment and to be prepared for the successful candidate to take charge on a part-time basis.

A move for Atkinson, who is already grooming Gordon Strachan as his successor at Coventry, already has support among members. The merits of Lawrie McMenemy and Howard Kendall will also be considered.

Brian Flynn, a key member of Smith's Welsh squad during his first spell, and David Williams, the former Everton No 2 who has been Smith's assistant, are the most credible internal candidates. Flynn currently combines managing Wrexham with coaching Wales' Under-21 side.

Peter Nicholas, recently named as part of Crystal Palace's new management team, may also be a contender, but Ian Rush and Neville Southall, both of whom have expressed a desire to manage their country, are regarded as non-starters.

The demise of Smith, who returned to the job following John Toshack's 47-day reign as Terry Yorath's replacement, follows a series of disastrous results. Wales prop up their group in the European Champ-ionship - the competition in which he took them to the quarter-finals in 1976 - below such nations as Albania and Moldova.

Wales won just two of his nine matches in charge, and suffered a succession of heavy defeats. Smith, the avuncular former teacher and Corin-thian- Casuals player, will also be remembered as the man who gave Vinnie Jones his chance in international football.

Alun Evans, the FAW's chief executive, said he hoped a new manager would be in place by the time Wales meet Moldova in September. Explaining the decision to ask Smith to "step down", he said: "Mike took it like a gentleman, though obviously he's disappointed. He feels it would have been possible that things could have been changed, but we're at the bottom of our section and it's time to look to the future, perhaps for a younger man to take over."

Southampton last night pre-empted any move for their manager, Alan Ball, by Manchester City. Responding to reports that City were about to ask permission to approach Ball, the Southampton chairman, Guy Askham, said: "I know nothing about this. Alan Ball signed a new contract two months ago and there is no way I will give any club permission to speak to him."

Wycombe Wanderers will announce their new manager today, with Alan Smith, sacked by Crystal Palace last month, favourite to succeed Martin O'Neill.