International Football: Wales waiting on Smith's second coming

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER game, another era. Mike Smith, former teacher and Corinthian-Casual, becomes Wales' third manager in three matches tonight when Sweden continue their build-up to the World Cup finals with a friendly at Wrexham.

Following the bitter termination of Terry Yorath's tenure and an embarrassingly brief interregnum under John Toshack, Smith, who ran the Welsh side with some success between 1974 and '79, has the unenviable task of picking up the pieces. What is more, he has been forced to name a makeshift line-up to take on a team drawn from some of Europe's top clubs.

Alan Neilson, the German-born Newcastle centre-back, will start an international for the first time, while the absence of Giggs, Hughes and Saunders means that Leicester's Iwan Roberts partners Ian Rush, two years after being sent off against Japan on his last appearance.

Barry Horne, the captain, is set to switch from midfield to right-back, putting him in direct opposition to his new club colleague, Anders Limpar. In the circumstances, Smith was particularly relieved to be able to award Neville Southall his 73rd cap.

The Everton goalkeeper thus joins Peter Nicholas as the most-capped Welshman, with Smith maintaining that his standards are as high as ever. 'When we were all relaxing after lunch, Nev was out training,' he said. 'Tony Roberts (Southall's understudy) is swept along and says: 'Oh no, we've got to go training again,' but he's learning from a great 'keeper.'

Southall's opposite number, Thomas Ravelli, wins his 107th cap tonight in a side captained by Roland Nilsson. The Sheffield Wednesday defender took a full part in training at the Racecourse Ground yesterday, despite having stepped gingerly off the coach because of an ankle the colour of an Aston Villa jersey.

Tommy Svensson, Sweden's manager, also includes Thomas Brolin, who will be in Parma's attack against Arsenal in next month's Cup-Winners' Cup final. After Wales' 3-1 home drubbing by Norway, when the Cardiff crowd's pro-Yorath sentiments prompted Toshack's hasty exit, Smith might have wished for a gentler reintroduction.

An equable, learned character, nicknamed 'The Verger' by the media, he has already proved once that being an Englishman and a former amateur among professionals are no impediment to managing at the highest level. But that was nearly two decades ago. The environment into which he is returning, where resentment is liable to resurface if Wales struggle, may prove altogether less friendly.

WALES (4-4-2): Southall (Everton); Horne (Everton), Neilson (Newcastle), Melville (Sunderland), Bodin (Swindon); Phillips (Nottingham Forest), Goss (Norwich), Speed (Leeds), Bowen (Norwich); Rush (Liverpool), I Roberts (Leicester).

SWEDEN (4-4-2): Ravelli (Gothenburg); R Nilsson (Sheffield Wednesday), P Andersson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Bjorklund (Gothenburg), Ljung (Galatasaray); Larsson (Feyernoord), Schwarz (Benfica), Ingesson (PSV Eindhoven), Limpar (Everton); K Andersson (Lille), Brolin (Parma).

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