Wales urged to protect Speed's coaching legacy

 

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The Independent Online

Wales are yet to play the memorial match in honour of Gary Speed, but already the process of replacing him has become controversial, if not unseemly. Last night, Speed's right-hand man was quoted as all but rejecting the Football Association of Wales' first choice for the role.

No doubt, many will view the comments of Raymond Verheijen as self-serving. But they have been given legitimacy by the criticisms of Aaron Ramsey, the Wales captain. Like Ramsey, Verheijen believes the FAW should consult with senior figures in the set-up and like Ramsey, Verheijen thinks all that is required is "a figurehead" to ensure the continuity.

"Normally when a manager is sacked, players have to adapt to a totally different way of working when someone new comes in," said the Dutchman. "This is totally different. Obviously, it is a very delicate and sensitive situation. But Gary has left behind a successful system."

Verheijen is clearly concerned the appointment of an established manager such as Chris Coleman, who is the strong favourite, would undermine all the good work which has seen Wales climb 73 places in the Fifa world rankings. With the next World Cup qualifying campaign beginning in September, the worry is all the momentum will be lost in restructuring.

"I would hope everyone would understand that all we need is a figurehead to step in," said Verheijen, a long-time aide to Guus Hiddink. "What we don't need is a manager with his own ideas and his own people because what has been built up could be destroyed over a period of months. I feel that either Ryan Giggs or Ian Rush would be perfect to fill that role. They are true Welsh footballing legends and men who can be identified with the footballing public in Wales."

What Coleman would make of that will be intriguing. The 41-year-old, who was a good friend of Speed's, left Larissa, the Greek side, last week, and has never made any secret of his desire to lead his country. Coleman has intimated he would be prepared to keep on both Verheijen and Osian Roberts, who formed Speed's backroom.

The FAW's reaction will also be of interest. It is understood an appointment is not imminent and they may well leave it until after next month's emotional fixture with Costa Rica, in memory of the manager who took his own life in November. A FAW source spoke of their bafflement at Ramsey's declaration on Wednesday that he should be consulted. "Aaron should be clear this will be an FAW appointment and not a players' appointment," said the insider.

Ramsey defended his statement on Twitter yesterday, reiterating that senior players should be asked for their opinion. Verheijen is plainly of the same view. "It's almost like people don't realise what an incredible improvement the players have made," he said, speaking on behalf of the UK Football Academy Coach Institute which has dedicated their launch to Speed. "Given that success you would expect that the FAW might consult Gary's No 2 along with his captain. We must protect and cherish this winning formula."

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