Gary Speed appointed Wales manager

New Wales boss Gary Speed admitted the opportunity to manage his country was too good to turn down after being unveiled as John Toshack's successor this afternoon.

The 41-year-old was given permission yesterday by Sheffield United to speak to the Football Association of Wales after they identified him as their preferred candidate.

"It's something that's very difficult to turn down when your country comes calling. I'm a very proud man at this moment to be asked to be the manager of Wales," Speed said after being presented to the media at a press conference at the Vale of Glamorgan hotel.

On his departure from Bramall Lane, he said: "These things happen in football, where the timing's not always great.

"I was disappointed to leave Sheffield United because I feel I had a job to do there and was fully committed but obviously when your country comes calling it's a tough decision you have to make. I feel in my heart it's the right one.

"To be fair to them they've been fantastic throughout and made the decision really easy for me.

"I'd like to thank Sheffield United for the opportunity I've been given there both as a coach under Kevin Blackwell and then as a manager."

Looking ahead, Speed is relishing the task of getting the best out of Wales' young players.

"I think that's the part of the job which I'm really looking forward to," he said. "The group of players we've got, they're of an age where they can be together for a long time and improve and grow for a long time.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of putting things in place to try to be successful."

The former Wales midfielder's aim is to make his country regular contenders to qualify for major events.

"I think we need to consistently compete on a world stage and not just come close to qualifying every now and again, every 12-15 years," he said.

"It's my job to make sure the structure in Welsh football is such that we're consistently competing.

"As a player I've been part of campaigns where we've just missed out, but in between those campaigns there were gaps of eight to 10 years.

"It's my job to make sure this country develops in a way so we can consistently compete on a world stage."

Speed follows in the footsteps of his former Wales team-mate Mark Hughes, who was in charge for five years from 1999 and came close to qualifying for Euro 2004.

Wales' hopes of making the European Championships in 2012 are already over but Speed is hoping he can restore the confidence that the team exhibited under Hughes.

"We enjoyed great times under Mark and as a player it was fantastic to play in that team," he said. "We felt, on our day, we could beat anybody.

"It's important for me to try to get that feeling back. Hopefully that experience I can learn from and take the team a step further.

"It's difficult but it's a challenge and we're in this game for challenges. I'm really up for the challenge and I'm going to give it 100%."

Speed confirmed he has taken a pay cut to manage his country, but added: "I don't think that's important when a job of this magnitude comes up. I've never been in the game for money, I'm in the game because I enjoy it and love what I do."

FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford is hoping Speed can rejuvenate the game at all levels in Wales.

He said: "Gary's now the manager of footballing Wales, not just of the national team. I see him as the figurehead for football in this country, and of course we want to make sure we put football very much back on the map where it deserves to be."

Speed's appointment meant disappointment for under-21 coach Brian Flynn, who took charge on a caretaker basis following the departure of Toshack in September.

"Brian is of course disappointed and gutted not to be appointed as the national team manager," said Ford. "Brian is an existing employee of the association, he is the manager of the intermediate teams and, ultimately, I'm sure Brian will be looking to take those forward."

The departure of Speed, who only took the reins at Bramall Lane in August following the dismissal of Blackwell, has left the Blades looking for their third manager of the season.

John Carver will take temporary charge while they select their new boss.

United chief executive Trevor Birch told the club's official website: "This has been a difficult decision for Gary. After only four months in the job he felt he had very much unfinished business but ultimately was ruled by his heart and decided to take an opportunity which may never have come his way again.

"We are obviously disappointed and this would not have been entertained had it been another club side but having received the approach we felt obliged to give Gary the option of discussing the position with the Welsh FA.

"We didn't want to lose him but we have to respect Gary's decision given the uniqueness of the opportunity.

"This is a prestigious appointment and we wish him every success and thank him for his contribution to the club over the last three years.

"The club is very disappointed to lose Gary but will continue to move forward. We have started our search for a permanent replacement and are intent on getting the right man who will be aligned with our strategic aims in terms of playing style, development and recruitment, working closely with academy manager John Pemberton and myself."

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