Wales look to Toshack as job decision looms

The Football Association of Wales will take a major step forward today in appointing a successor to Mark Hughes. And if everything goes to plan the FAW will unveil their new man in Cardiff tomorrow.

It has been widely tipped that John Toshack will be installed but, despite the former Real Madrid manager's obvious credentials, this may just prove nothing more than speculation as an 11-man FAW sub-committee meet at a hotel near Heathrow Airport to interview four candidates.

The Newcastle coach Dean Saunders, the Frenchmen Gerard Houllier and Phillipe Troussier are also expected to put their case forward. It is understood the new manager will receive a four-year contract worth £1m, plus bonuses for reaching a major tournament. The recommendations from the sub-committee will then be forwarded to the full council, which is scheduled to meet tomorrow. Troussier's situation, however, is confused as he is deep in talks with Ghana about taking charge there.

Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson said: "Given the people who have been linked with the job, Toshack would be an ideal Welsh manager. He could take the team forward and hopefully achieve that final elusive step."

The new manager's first task is clear - to get Wales back on track in their World Cup qualifying campaign. With two points from four games they have slipped to second bottom behind England, Poland, Austria and Northern Ireland. Only Azerbaijan have a poorer record. As a result, Wales have slipped six places to 63 in the Fifa rankings announced yesterday.

The new manager will also be disadvantaged by not having the services of Andy Johnson at his disposal after the West Bromwich midfielder yesterday joined the list of players retiring from international duty.

Johnson made his debut for Wales against Italy in August 1998 and won 15 caps, the last coming in a 2-0 win in Latvia three months ago. The 30-year-old, who missed the World Cup qualifiers against England and Poland through injury, said: "I've really enjoyed my time with Wales - it has been a real honour to play. But I now feel it is the right time to retire from the international scene and concentrate on my club football. This is not a decision I've made overnight."

He joins the former captain Gary Speed and the central defender Andy Melville, who both retired after last month's defeat to England.