Coyne slots in to keep out England

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The Independent Football

In Wales's last competitive fixture, in Austria in March, after his side had come so close to fanfaring their finest performance in two years or more, Danny Coyne made a howler that would have had James himself drawing donkey's ears on the North Walian's photograph.

There were just a few minutes left and Rene Aufhauser's shot was doing a decidedly limp impression of a back-pass. But then Coyne somehow contrived to allow a ball that had everything but a handle on it to squeeze under his body and legs. Goodnight Vienna, cheerio Danny.

Except John Toshack did a very odd thing in the immediate aftermath. Instead of schmoozing up to Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs to extol a pair of displays that were as good as, if not better than, any in Europe that night, the first player he sought out was Coyne. And this week he highlighted why. "David James did something very similar and it cost him his position in the England team," said the Wales manager, still chasing his first win after two qualifying games and two friendlies in charge. "But we don't do things like that. I certainly will not be leaving Danny out. We aren't as harsh on people as that."

More fool Toshack and more fools for Wales, the English cynics will doubtless say, and they might also make a justifiable case in pointing out that, with Ipswich Town's Lewis Price still too green to expose to such a glare, there were no other options. But that was not clouding Coyne's appreciation yesterday as he prepared in Cardiff for a 10th cap that has taken as many years to win.

"It was nice of Tosh to come out and back me," said the 32-year-old. "That's all you want from your manager as a keeper. I feel for David, because I know what he's been through. Strikers miss six, put one away and they're a hero. A keeper makes six great saves, lets one in and he's the villain. But that's just my strange profession, I guess."

Such stoicism will no doubt help Coyne at the Millennium Stadium and beyond as he is in little doubt as to the nature of his role. "Tosh knows that I can't be in for the long haul," he said, "and I know he's looking for another keeper. He has to with the European Championship qualifiers coming up next year. I'm aware of all that. But even one cap for Wales against England is the biggest thrill imaginable."

Never will a stopgap be expected to stop so much. But then, never will a stopgap consider it such an honour.