Toshack gambles on appointing Bellamy captain

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The Independent Online

John Toshack has controversially appointed Craig Bellamy to captain Wales in their two Euro 2008 qualifiers over the next week, despite the fact that the Liverpool striker faces a possible three-day court appearance on assault charges between the games.

Bellamy, 27, was named as captain by the Wales manager yesterday, replacing injured Ryan Giggs for the matches with Slovakia and Cyprus in the Millennium Stadium. But on Monday he will be in Cardiff magistrates' court to answer charges, which he denies, of assaulting a teenage girl in the city's No 10 bar-restaurant in February.

The case is scheduled to last until Wednesday, so there is a possibility that the former Celtic, Newcastle and Blackburn player will not be able to train with his colleagues before leading them against the Cypriots. Toshack is understood to believe that giving Bellamy the armband will help him to focus on football during a difficult time.

The claims of Paul Jones, the veteran Queen's Park Rangers goalkeeper, and West Ham's central defender Danny Gabbidon were overlooked in the choice of Bellamy. Jones said: "It's a decision we all accept and respect. John prefers outfield players as captain, which I suppose rules me out, even though the Slovakia game should be my 50th cap."

Kevin Ratcliffe, the former Wales captain, was confident Bellamy would thrive on the responsibility. He said: "Paul and Danny have done the job, but they are too quiet. You could never accuse Craig of being quiet."

Toshack has described Bellamy as being "as good as gold", saying he had never caused him any problems.

Wales's injury crisis has also cost them the services of James Collins, Mark Delaney and Sam Ricketts, making Gabbidon the only survivor from the back four in the opening group match against the Czech Republic. Toshack expects Giggs, a hamstring victim, to resume full-time training two days before the Cyprus game, but conceded: "That would probably mean he'd miss out."

Craig Morgan, the uncapped Milton Keynes Dons defender, has been called into the squad, as has the Yeovil winger Arron Davies.

Gary Speed, the former captain and 37-year-old Bolton Wanderers midfielder, told the South Wales Echo that he would "seriously consider" rescinding his two-year international retirement if asked to help his country.

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