Toshack snubs Hartson in squad for Euro qualifier

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The Independent Online

Wales will start their 2008 European Championship qualifying campaign in the Czech Republic next month without the striker John Hartson or the midfielder Jason Koumas. The Wales manager, John Toshack, has also dropped the Burnley goalkeeper Danny Coyne from a 21-strong squad for the match in Teplice.

The West Bromwich marksman Hartson, 31, announced his retirement from international football last season when he was playing for the Scottish champions Celtic, citing family reasons. But the much-travelled Hartson changed his mind following his pre-season move to the Midlands and recently told Toshack of his availability.

But while welcoming the player's change of heart, Toshack also stressed to Hartson that he could offer no guarantees about picking him and that he would have to be regarded as a back-up player rather than a first choice any more. The former Real Madrid manager said: "I spoke to John Hartson about my decision and he is very comfortable with it. I also understand he's got an ankle injury which could take two weeks to clear, although my decision wasn't based on that."

Hartson has scored 15 goals in 51 international appearances but failed to find the net in the six matches he played under Toshack before announcing his retirement. His last goal for Wales was against Poland in October 2004 and Toshack sees the pace of players such as Craig Bellamy and Robert Earnshaw as being more beneficial to Wales than Hartson's out-and-out power play.

Koumas, 26, is finally available for West Bromwich having held breakthrough talks with the club's manager, Bryan Robson, recently, after the midfielder missed the entire pre-season period as he tried to arrange a transfer to Cardiff, claiming he would never play for Robson again.

"I spoke to Jason, who was comfortable about it [the decision not to include him]," said Toshack, who feels fitness is the key to the former Tranmere Rovers player's return to the international fold. "He's not been training in a group for the past three months and won't be doing so with West Brom until later this week."

Coyne has also been left out because of a lack of match practice. Toshack annoyed his Burnley counterpart, Steve Cotterill, by picking Coyne in his squad for the 15 August friendly with Bulgaria in Swansea.

Cotterill claimed that Coyne was not yet ready for a full return and Toshack seems to have agreed by leaving his former first-choice goalkeeper out of the squad and drafting in Leyton Orient's Glyn Garner.

One other squad change results in Gillingham's Andrew Crofts being promoted from the Under-21 squad, with the Bristol City striker David Cotterill moving the other way for the European Championship match with Turkey in Cardiff on 2 September.

After the Czechs, Wales' next Euro 2008 qualifying games are at the Millennium Stadium against Slovakia on 7 October and Cyprus four days later.

The other teams in Group D are the Republic of Ireland, Germany and San Marino.

The Under-21s face a Uefa Championship qualifier with Turkey in Cardiff on Saturday week, the day that the seniors start their Euro 2008 campaign away to the Czech Republic.

Wales play Brazil at White Hart Lane three days later in a friendly.