As he contemplated facing England in qualifying for Euro 2012, John Toshack pointed out that he and Fabio Capello were the only two men in Real Madrid's history to manage the Spanish club on two separate occasions. After that, however, it is difficult to spot any more similarities.
Capello earns a basic salary of £4.8m a year and has some of the most famous players in the Premier League at his disposal. Toshack had to look to the Championship for some of his squad. England expects their team to cruise through qualifying for Euro 2012 after the failure to make it to Euro 2008. Wales have not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup.
But at least Toshack has one of the brightest young generations of Welsh footballers in a long time, chief among them Aaron Ramsey, the brilliant 19-year-old playmaker who is getting a foothold in the Arsenal first team. Behind him is Gareth Bale at Tottenham, Jack Collison (West Ham), Joe Ledley (Cardiff City), Chris Gunter (Nottingham Forest) and Dave Edwards (Wolverhampton).
"We only have 10 players in the Premier League and two of them are goalkeepers, Wayne Hennessey at Wolves and Boaz Myhill [Hull]," Toshack said. "We just have to hope that when these [qualifying] games come around our lads have a little bit more luck with injuries than we have had in the past and that they are playing at club level.
"With all due respect to the Championship teams it is very difficult to get through these groups with six or seven players from the Championship as hard as they try and well as they do. We really do need youngsters like David Edwards at Wolves; Aaron Ramsey at Arsenal; Jack Collison at West Ham or Bale at Tottenham to be playing regularly if we are going to stand a chance of getting anywhere."
Toshack credits Brian Flynn for the work that has been done to develop these players and he can look back to the games against England in the 2006 World Cup qualifying in which the Wales team held their own. In Cardiff, in September 2005 they lost by a Joe Cole goal in a game which might have been different had Paul Robinson not made an excellent save from John Hartson with the game scoreless. England's 2-0 win at Old Trafford 11 months earlier had been a lot more comfortable.
"When we took over we had a lot of retirements," Toshack said. "Players finished for one reason or another and we started to push a lot of the younger ones on. The two recent games with England at under-21 level really were terrific matches and I am sure these young lads will be motivated. Although we realise that England are a top side, probably one of the favourites for the World Cup this summer."
When asked if the draw with England would be well received among the Welsh public, he said: "Without doubt, drawing England will please all the Welsh fans – plenty of history there and we like nothing better than another chance against the old enemy."
Toshack believes his side will be involved in an almighty scrap for second place. "We have had recent experience against both Bulgaria and Montenegro, and Switzerland are a good mid-ranking European side," he said. "I imagine that all three sides would feel that second place is possible, it will be up to us to try and go one better than that."Reuse content