Welsh FA hopeful of holding on to Hughes

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Football Association of Wales chief David Collins insists Mark Hughes will honour his contract and take his country to a major finals.

Boss Hughes' future has been the subject of speculation after the Euro 2004 play-off defeat by Russia ended Wales' dream of playing in their first major tournament for 45 years.

Hughes had been expected to attend a planned FAW international committee meeting in Caersws today but he skipped the gathering to spend the weekend with his family in Cheshire, prompting more speculation.

The meeting was planned to discuss preparation for the finals, but the agenda clearly changed after Wednesday's defeat and Hughes asked to be excused.

FAW secretary general Collins said: "Mark's future was never on the agenda and I am confident he will manage the team through to the 2006 World Cup finals.

"Mark is contracted to Wales until the end of the World Cup in Germany. Mark is the national team manager, he has continued to say that for the past few weeks.

"He said it in Moscow before the first play-off game, he wants to see Wales get to a major finals, and I am sure he will achieve that and honour his contract."

Close friends of Hughes claim they have never seen the ex-Manchester United man as disappointed as he was after Wednesday's exit.

The 40 year-old drove straight home to Alderley Edge from the team hotel just hours after the 1-0 defeat in the Millennium Stadium.

But sources at the FAW deny there is already a list of candidates for the job if Hughes does go, and insist he will continue.

He has been encouraged to do just that by one of the obvious candidates for his job, Fulham boss Chris Coleman.

The former Wales captain claims it is far too early in his management career for him to be considered for the job.

He said: "I hope he stays with Wales, we really need him there. He has turned the country round and been a revelation in the four years he has been in the job.

"We have gone from being absolute rubbish. Anybody could have beaten us while now we can beat anybody when we have all our best players available. We have a strong team.

"But I would not be at all surprised if a top Premiership club or even a club abroad comes in for him because he he has made his mark."

Kit Symons, a squad member this week and also now caretaker manager of Crystal Palace, underlined the importance of Hughes staying.

Symons said: "Wales are now going in the right direction, the improvement in the last few years has been immense. Frankly, Wales needs him to stay on.

"He must continue, and that is the selfish view of the Welsh lads and the public.

"But of course he will be courted by a host of Premiership clubs because he has been such a success."