Savage's plea leaves Toshack unmoved

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The Independent Football

The thing is, Toshack is not willing for Savage to play for him, as a huge yawn signified when asked about the offer last night. Toshack refused to comment further, pointing to the fact that the Blackburn midfielder has officially retired from international football. Savage, however, claimed that he had sought to speak to the Wales manager on a number of occasions this week to rescind that decision.

"I've swallowed my pride and stubbornness, and tried to contact him a few times to discuss the situation," said Savage. "Yet I have had no response at all." Neither is he likely to, despite the withdrawal of Cardiff's Paul Parry yesterday, surely underlining how dearly Toshack could do with a player of Savage's energy.

"I'll be saying the same thing to myself all the way through the game as I watch it at home ­ 'How on earth am I not in that team'?" said Savage. "The fact is I am one of only four Premiership players [Ryan Giggs, Simon Davies and Danny Gabbidon being the others], playing regularly in one of the toughest leagues in the world. So not to be even selected for the squad I find beyond me. Toshack hates me, OK I can handle that. But Welsh football is bigger than him and me."

The bitter fallout began in February when Savage ridiculed the coaching and preparation methods of Mark Hughes' successor, even going so far as to criticise the type of food available during squad sessions.

"I said things that I shouldn't have said, and I regret those comments," Savage said. "I guess I have always spoken my mind."

Many in the Principality have viewed such a seemingly uncharacteristic climbdown as nothing more than Savage's desperate attempt to face England for the first time in his career, after missing last October's 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford through suspension. But he dismisses this.

"It's not about England, it's about playing for my country," he said. "I know I can offer my experience and vigour to the Welsh camp. People might not like me, but nobody can criticise my commitment. I can play in any formation and I've proved that. At 30, I'm one of the fittest players in the Premiership, if not the fittest. Toshack has criticised the senior players that retired after Sparky [Hughes] left for not staying around to help the younger generation through. Well, I'm here and I'll toe the line for my country's sake."

But Toshack had other worries, with Parry's knee injury consigning the left-winger to join Craig Bellamy, Mark Delaney and Danny Collins on the sidelines tomorrow and for next Wednesday's match in Poland. But what he did not appear concerned with was Sven Goran Eriksson's much-mooted " revolutionary" shift to 4-5-1, playing Wayne Rooney as the lone striker.

"The way people talk about this formation now it's as if it's just been transported from outer space," Toshack said. "All the best European teams have been playing it for years. I did it years ago when I was managing Real Madrid when we had Hugo Sanchez up front on his own. We scored 107 goals that season, which is still a Spanish League record. It's nothing new, but looking at the way we play it may very well be wise."

By that, Toshack meant that he will not be changing the way Wales have played in three of his four games in charge so far. This involves a flat back four, with something resembling a diamond in front of it and Ryan Giggs and John Hartson up front.

"We've never man-marked and we're not going to start with Rooney," Toshack added.