Football: Southall demands passion

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The Independent Online
NO MANAGER, no stadium, small crowd, little hope. England and Scotland might be contemplating disappointment in the European Championship qualification, but no matter how far down you are there is always someone worse off, as Wales usually demonstrate.

Even by their bizarre standards - and remember this is the country which managed to lose John Toshack after one match - the Welsh go into tonight's Group One match against Denmark at Anfield in disarray. To lose the plot, as their defence did against Italy on Saturday, was one thing but to lose their manager was another.

Bobby Gould resigned after the 4-0 defeat in Bologna on the ground that Wales would have a better chance of defeating the Danes "without my baggage". By that he meant the crowd's antipathy to their manager, which had made the national song "Gould must go" - unlikely to encourage a team which does not exude resilience.

Now the theory that the mettle must be improved without English Gould will get a thorough testing, because Wales tonight will be led by a combination of Neville Southall and Mark Hughes, who are as Welsh as they come. Whether they can bring about a marked difference to a squad which is short of quality at international level is another matter.

Ironically tonight's opponents provided Gould with the finest result of his four-year term, a 2-1 win in Copenhagen in March that inspired hopes of qualification via the play-offs. Defeat tonight and that prospect will be over; a win will give the new manager something immediate to aim for.

Southall has said he would like to be that man and yesterday he sounded the part. "We can't do anything about Saturday's result, it's gone," he said. "Footballers never look back unless they have won something, we all have to look forward now. In training the players have shown their determination to put things right.

"Denmark are a fine side; we don't need lifting to play against them. This is a real challenge for us. They have the best goalkeeper in the world and we know we have to beat him." That goalkeeper is Peter Schmeichel, who returns to England having just marked his retirement at Manchester United by winning the treble.

Robbie Savage returns after suspension and, after a hapless night in Italy, the defence is certain to be restructured. Chris Coleman could come back after injury and his Fulham colleague, Kit Symons, will surely be recalled. But where Ryan Giggs will play is being kept a secret.

"It's extraordinary how well the lads have trained," Southall said. "They know the importance of this game. They have been passionate and committed. Their attitude has been spot on.

"If we show the same attitude and passion on Wednesday that we have seen in training, we won't be far wrong. We can promise that we will fight for every minute." Which will make a stark contrast with Bologna.

WALES (probable, v Denmark, tonight, Anfield) 3-5-2: Jones (Southampton); Coleman (Fulham), Page (Watford), Symons (Fulham); Robinson (Charlton), Savage (Leicester), Hughes (Southampton), Speed (Newcastle), Barnard (Barnsley); Giggs (Manchester United), Saunders (Benfica).