Football: Wales wait on Giggs' fitness for Swiss date

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The Independent Online
THE WALES manager, Bobby Gould, is praying that Ryan Giggs comes through his two big games for Manchester United this week so that he can make his comeback in his country's crucial Euro 2000 qualifier in Switzerland on 31 March.

Giggs, in action against Internazionale tonight and Everton in the Premiership on Sunday, played in Wales' opening Group One fixture against Italy in September, a 2-0 defeat at Anfield.

But the United player was ruled out through injury from the two victories in Denmark and at home to Belarus which have given Wales a genuine chance of qualifying for their first major finals since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

There is no question that if he stays fit Wales' most talented player will be on the team sheet against the Swiss. That would give Gould a difficult decision over who to leave out from the side that played so well in the two October victories, culminating in a night of national pride and passion at Ninian Park when Belarus were beaten 3-2.

However, there is a question mark over Giggs' fitness following his recent return from another Achilles problem for an Old Trafford side now chasing the Premiership, Champions' League and FA Cup treble, and Gould will not rest until he actually joins up with his Wales team-mates on Thursday week.

Gary Speed, who missed the Belarus game through suspension, will return to the side as captain to win his 50th cap.

There is also a recall for Sunderland's Andy Melville after a fine season with the Nationwide First Division leaders, while the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley comes back after a long absence through injury.

Wimbledon's pounds 7.5m striker John Hartson, who has recovered from persistent injury and suspension problems to claim a place in the Dons' side, is included for the first time since last summer's games in Malta and Tunisia.

The Norwich youngster Craig Bellamy, who scored a superb winning goal in Denmark, is also named in the squad, while Mark Delaney, Aston Villa's recent signing from Cardiff, is in the stand-by party along with Preston's Kurt Nogan.

The under-21 side, who play in Winterthur on 30 March, includes the Liverpool 19-year-old youth player Layton Maxwell for the first time, while Everton's John Oster also makes his comeback at international level after suspension.

WALES SQUAD (for European Championship Qualifying Group One match against Switzerland in Zurich, 31 March): Jones (Southampton), Ward (Notts County), Crossley (Nottm Forest), Robinson (Charlton), Jenkins (Huddersfield), Barnard (Barnsley), Trollope, Symons, Coleman (all Fulham), Melville (Sunderland), Williams (Wolves), Johnson (Nottm Forest), Savage (Leicester), Speed (Newcastle), Hughes (Southampton), Pembridge, Saunders (both Benfica), Blake (Blackburn), Hartson (Wimbledon), Giggs (Man Utd), Bellamy (Norwich). Standby: Coyne (Tranmere), Marriott (Sunderland), Delaney (Aston Villa), Page (Watford), Edwards (Nottm Forest), Coates (Swansea), Nogan (Preston), Roberts (Norwich).