Sport: Shameful treatment of Yorath

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The Independent Online
THIS week, a compatriot for whom I have a great deal of affection and respect, telephoned to register his disgust at the way Terry Yorath has been treated by the Football Association of Wales. 'What they have done to that man is pathetic,' he said.

He believes that the matter should not be allowed to rest, which is my view precisely, even though Wales now have a new man in place, John Toshack of Real Sociedad, having introduced him in Cardiff yesterday.

When Yorath speaks of feeling humiliated by the behaviour of his former employers, especially since no word of rejection was received from them, he sounds like a model of discretion. In such circumstances a flood of invective would have been understandable.

While bearing the effect of a personal tragedy, Yorath almost qualified Wales for this year's World Cup finals, a feat they have only accomplished once and not since 1958 when Matt Busby's assistant, Jimmy Murphy, a redoubtable man from the Rhondda, was robustly in charge.

As my compatriot points out, setting people up and then knocking them down is an unfortunate Welsh characteristic, but considering Yorath had performed well and was popular on all fronts, it was assumed that his contract which expired at the end of last year would be renewed automatically.

Instead, claiming an impasse over terms, the Welsh FA advised Yorath to reapply for the post and clumsily entered into negotiations with Terry Venables (as I understand it, the new England manager was approached three times) and Bobby Robson, before persuading Toshack to take over the team on a part- time basis.

If Toshack is by no means a bad choice, his appointment to manage at long range, a difficult task and fraught with conflicts of interest emphasised by a fleeting visit to his homeland, unavoidably suggests that the Welsh FA was determined to regain importance lost to the esteem in which Yorath was unquestionably held.

Bearing that in mind, suspecting it to be at the heart of the matter, I have to find for the plaintiff.

Historically speaking, not a lot changes. Once, the entire committee of the Welsh FA, all probably now deceased, which appeared to be their state at the time, abandoned a player at London's Heathrow Airport when travelling to East Germany for a World Cup qualifying tie.

No Welsh official was prepared to give up his seat on an overbooked aircraft to a late replacement, Gilbert Reece, of Sheffield United, who had to find his own way to Leipzig.

'I pleaded with them,' said the Welsh manager, Dave Bowen, 'but it had no effect. They just sat there, all of them. No one budged. It was typical.'

Nobody raised a murmur in committee. If there had been any comment, it would have been praise for the officials for keeping their wits about them and their status securely in place.

That digression is relevant not only to the character of Welsh football authority, but football authority generally.

Before agreeing to become the England manager, Alf Ramsey made it abundantly clear that he would brook no interference. His team, his policies. Major Wilson Keys, of West Bromwich Albion, was the only official to gain his respect. 'The Major contributes,' Ramsey said. 'He does something useful.'

As to Yorath, any number of people will tell you that he did an excellent job and was heavily committed to the future of Welsh football for a salary no manager in the Premiership would have looked at.

Going back to his growing-up days, Yorath's passion for sport was more or less divided between football and rugby. When this was communicated to teachers at a rugby-playing grammar school they scandalously issued an ultimatum. Give up football or else. Sometimes Yorath must wonder whether he made the right choice, though pettiness is everywhere in Welsh sport.