Southall left frustrated by Welsh 'fundamental flaws'

Wales 1 Belgium 2

So many years, so much disappointment. As the realisation that he would never make it to a major finals crept up on Neville Southall frustration dripped out of him like water from a burst pipe. Anger followed as he confronted the enormity of the wasted effort.

His first instinct was to retire from international football after 15 years and 91 caps for guarding the goal for his country. His next, once he realised that Wales still have a razor-thin chance of reaching the World Cup's climax next year, was to have one last hurrah.

The player-coach did not join the growing chorus questioning Bobby Gould's worth - indeed he said he would go too if his manager was dismissed - but lambasted an infrastructure that has overseen 40 years of failure since Wales last reached the World Cup proper.

"I would love to be able to say that Bobby was shit," he said, "or the players are too old and the youngsters coming in are rubbish. But it's not the case. There are no simple excuses. We are talking about years of incompetence.

"Sacking Bobby Gould would be the easy option. I don't think you should dismiss someone now because of the inability of Welsh football for the past 10 years. Whoever was in charge would have had a tough job on his hands. We have a fundamental flaw in our game and its called bureaucracy. Once we sort that side of it we might have a chance.''

Southall had a litany of grievances: an unwieldy Welsh FA council of 26 members; an inability to market the game properly to bring desperately needed finance; the lack of top coaches to nurture young talent. "The manager of Hartlepool has more resources than we have," he lamented.

"We are playing at being a nation of footballers. The days have gone when you could tell youngsters to go round the back with Uncle Fred and he will teach you how to kick a ball. It has moved on from there. The game's professional now.''

As a platform to launch this diatribe, this match was rock rigid. In many ways Wales had improved on their pathetic showings against the Netherlands last autumn but their failings were still manifest. Belgium had also succumbed to the Dutch and arrived with a patched-up team in transition with a coach, George Leekens, whose one match in charge had been a lame 3-0 defeat by Northern Ireland.

Yet once Ryan Giggs' sporadic bursts of trickery had been corralled into cul-de-sacs by the wise old head of Franky Van Der Elst, the visitors enlightened the last football match at Cardiff Arms Park.

If anyone embodied the differences between the wealth of nations it was Dominique Lemoine. The Mouscron midfielder is 31 and was making his first start for his country, yet his perception of a pass was light years away from that of Barry Horne and Vinnie Jones.

He found gaps that the Welsh would not imagine, never mind see, and with two eager, quick front runners like Lokonda M'Penza and Luis Oliveira to profit from his craft, the home defence was distorted horribly. The latter had three chances to add to Betrand Crasson's and Lorenzo Staelens' goals.

Lemoine would have a half century of caps if he was Welsh, while the home side has scarcely the depth of quality to allow the talents of someone like Enzo Scifo just a cameo performance as the Belgians did. This was a team in transition, remember. Wales, with six players in the side over 30, have this painful process to go through.

They have Giggs, of course, and in Gary Speed, whose excellent display was garnished by a headed goal from Clayton Blackmore's 68th-minute corner, they have a sweeper of growing reputation. Their future, like where they will play while the National Stadium is being rebuilt, is uncertain.

"I sometimes wish we could have a real crisis," Southall said, his head bowed with the weight of what he was wishing upon his beloved country. "Maybe then people will address what's wrong." For him it was a sad night, and, for Wales, a sadder way to bid farewell to a ground of fond memory.

Goals: Crasson (24 min) 0-1; Staelens (44) 0-2; Speed (67) 1-2.

WALES (3-4-1-2): Southall (Everton); Page (Watford), Speed (Everton), Symons (Manchester City); Blackmore (Middlesbrough), Jones (Wimbledon), Horne (Birmingham), Pembridge (Sheffield Wed); Giggs (Manchester Utd); M Hughes (Chelsea), Saunders (Nottingham Forest). Substitute: Hartson (West Ham) for Saunders, 64.

BELGIUM (3-5-2): De Wilde (Sporting Lisbon); De Roover (Lierse), Van Meir (Lierse), Smidts (Antwerp); Crasson (Napoli), Van der Elst (Bruges), Staelens (Bruges), Lemoine (Mouscron), Van Kerckhoven (Lierse); L M'Penza (Mouscron), Oliveira (Fiorentina). Substitutes: M M'Penza (Mouscron) for L M'Penza, 64; Scifo (Monaco) for Oliveira, 79.

Bookings: Wales: Page, Hughes, Horne; Belgium: L M'Penza.

Referee: C Faellstrom (Sweden).

Man of the match: Lemoine.

Attendance: 15,000.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones