John Toshack flew to Copenhagen last night with the youngest Wales squad in history for tomorrow's friendly with Denmark. The Wales manager has lost five senior players through injury and by adding 19-year-old Darcy Blake and Shaun MacDonald, 20, to the party, the average age of the squad is now 21 years and five months. Toshack will have seven teenagers and 12 players still eligible for the Under-21s to face the Danes, and assistant manager Dean Saunders believes they should be grateful .
He believes Toshack's youth revolution has secured transfers, lucrative contracts and top-flight football for several of the squad ahead of their time. Spurs pair Chris Gunter and Gareth Bale, plus Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey, set for his first cap, have been transferred recently for a total £17m.
West Ham's Jack Collison and Manchester City's Ched Evans have also made Premier League breakthroughs after impressing on international duty. "John has done brilliantly for all of them as he gave them all a chance," said Saunders. "After playing for Wales there's a few of them who have joined massive clubs for big money because of John giving them an opportunity. John has taken a lot of criticism for what he is doing because not a lot of people could see what he was trying to do. Now everybody is starting to realise. It has taken a bit of time but there is some extremely good young talent around which bodes well for the future and our chance of qualifying for a major tournament finals in five or six years."
With nine of the 19-man squad now in the Premier League, Saunders believes they are getting the experience which will boost the national side. He said: "It was not so long ago when we had just two or three players in the Premier League. Now we have got a lot more playing against the best players in the world, who are used to the intensity and speed of top-flight football."
Toshack lost David Vaughan, Carl Fletcher, Simon Davies, Jason Koumas and Joe Ledley from the original squad. Ledley dislocated a finger playing for Cardiff against Crystal Palace on Saturday and will need an operation which could keep him out for a month.
Manchester City striker Evans tweaked a hamstring during the warm-down at Hull on Sunday, where he had been an unused substitute, so Toshack has added Swansea winger MacDonald to the squad. MacDonald impressed in the recent Under-21 side's run to the Uefa championship play-offs, as did Cardiff's Blake. The Swansea midfielder Owain Tudur Jones has also been added to the Wales squad.