Wales hand Toshack second chance

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John Toshack will leave no stone unturned in his quest to build a Wales team capable of qualifying for the World Cup and European Championships.

John Toshack will leave no stone unturned in his quest to build a Wales team capable of qualifying for the World Cup and European Championships.

The 55-year-old was today officially unveiled as successor to Mark Hughes - and the former Real Madrid boss wasted little time in declaring his intentions to take the Principality forwards.

Wales were on the verge of reaching the 2004 European Championships, only to lose out in a two-legged play-off with Russia, and they have since endured a frustrating start to their qualifying campaign for the next World Cup.

Hughes joined Barclays Premiership strugglers Blackburn, with Wales currently second bottom of their group after picking up only two points from four games.

Former Liverpool striker Toshack - who became part-time Wales boss in 1994 but soon resigned to focus on his duties at Real Sociedad - was part of a three-man Football Association of Wales short-list to replace Hughes.

After being given the job - agreeing a five-year deal, ahead of Dean Saunders and Phillipe Troussier - Toshack maintained this time he feels he can make a difference.

"I think 10 years ago I felt I was helping out in a difficult moment," said the ex-Swansea boss.

"I was under contract with Real Sociedad and was given permission by the club to take up the offer with the FAW, where I did not have a contract and was paid on a match-by-match basis.

"When I was here I saw there were greater difficulties and issues I could not address under those circumstances.

It was probably a mistake upon my behalf.

"The time was right for a change, but unfortunately it was not to be for me.

"This time it is different in the fact that I don't have any further commitments.

We are 10 years further on, and I have more knowledge of the game.

I feel inside now it is the right time for me.

"After 26 years in six different countries, I have won honours as a player and manager - but taking a national team to a European finals or World Cup finals is something I haven't been able to do.

"It is one of the few things left which motivates me, and I hope this time around I will be able to do it.

"I would be bitterly disappointed if I was not able to produce the goods this time around."

Given Wales' current predicament in their World Cup qualifying group following back-to-back defeats against England and Poland, Toshack admits his country face an uphill battle to reach the finals in Germany.

While the Wales boss admits there has to be a "balance" between remaining competitive in face of such a daunting task, he concedes it could be time to prepare with future campaigns in mind.

"It won't be easy," he said.

"I can't make any promises, and there are no guarantees.

"I have to strike a balance between winning matches - up until it is mathematically impossible (to qualify) - but also having one eye on the side that will begin the European campaign in September 2006 and trying to bring the average age of the side down.

"We are only as good as the young players we have got.

We can't buy players, or get them on loan.

So we have to push them through.

"That doesn't bother me.

I have had experience of that before and I hope that will stand me in good stead over the next few years.

"I need to see the under-21s play in competitive matches, to be close to the fringe players."

With under-21s coach Glyn Hodges likely to join Hughes at Ewood Park, Toshack will spend the next few weeks finalising plans for his back-up team.

"I have to look at my own back-room staff now," he said.

"I am going to have to sit down and look to put together a balanced group of two or three people whom I can work with and am comfortable with."

Fulham midfielder Mark Pembridge today joined the likes of Andy Johnson and Gary Speed from the current crop of Welshmen to retire from international football.

Toshack makes no secret of his desire to bring developing players through to fill the void.

But the one-time Cardiff trainee maintains he will not be wielding the axe unnecessarily, giving the likes of out-spoken midfielder Robbie Savage every chance to impress.

He said: "I think the time is right to start introducing younger players, getting those who are still around to see that they have an important part to play and just taking it from there.

"The side hasn't won for 10 competitive matches - so we have to try and improve that, to get that winning mentality some way or other.

"We would all like to be sat here saying we have won eight and drawn two, are in the World Cup and the European Championships - but we are not.

"But you can't go into it like a bull in a china shop - I need to have a look at it and speak to the players."

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