Symons looks for better times

Trevor Haylett talks to the Wales defender who is glad for a break from club pressures
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The Independent Online
It has been the kind of season so far where Kit Symons must have yearned for the chance to pull the plug and start all over again. Back to August's warm sunshine, the outlook looked bright for both he and Manchester City and for Alan Ball, the manager who entrusted him with the captain's armband and the responsibility to lead their promotion assault.

That was then. Now it is somewhat different. There have been dark clouds over Maine Road almost from day one and the storm quickly blew the bouncing Ball away. City are nearer the bottom than the top, the comedians have enjoyed a field day at Francis Lee's expense - and then there was Lincoln City and a double Coca-Cola Cup humiliation.

For Symons, international football proved less a compensation than an additional source of frustration. City's Premiership drop last May saw him take a step back in Bobby Gould's plans, with no more than a watching brief as Wales' World Cup campaign opened with a flourish, twice gorging themselves on San Marino to put six easy points on the board.

Now, however, fate has taken a kinder turn. Not this time for Blackburn's Chris Coleman, whose Achilles injury has put him out for the best part of the season, but instead for the Basingstoke-born Symons, who wins back his defensive place as Wales promise another uncomfortable British reception for the Dutch tomorrow.

It is just the kind of occasion he assumed he was guaranteeing himself when he left Portsmouth for Manchester's "other club" 14 months ago. A big Cardiff Arms Park crowd, loads of atmosphere, an outcome which will mean an awful lot to an awful lot of people.

"These are the games you want to be involved in and, even though I always look forward to coming away with Wales, I must admit it is especially nice to have a break from all the attention that is focused on the club at the moment," said Symons yesterday, after learning of his recall.

Naturally the video machine has taken a bashing this week, replaying the meaningful action from that balmy, almost barmy, European Championship evening when the Netherlands' inferiority was laid bare in a 4-1 England extravaganza. Bobby Gould and Terry Venables might not be bosom pals, but the glorious manifestation of the England coach's methods on that night might just do Wales a favour if it plants seeds of insecurity in fragile Dutch minds.

"We won't be fooled into thinking they are a poor side, but the summer showed that they are not invincible and it is up to us to find their weaknesses and exploit them," Symons said.

"If we can beat them, it would make other people believe in the quality of the squad. We believe in ourselves, but it's a question of convincing others. If we can't win, it's important we don't get beat. Who knows, a draw might be seen as a good result by the end of the campaign. There have been so many near misses that we are determined to make it this time."

It would have been cruel to suggest that - by City's definition - a "good result" is a defeat by only a single goal. Doubtless Symons would have shrugged that off in the same phlegmatic, laid-back fashion that makes him the ideal man in a crisis. A useful quality at City this season, perhaps...

"Obviously, it's not a bed of roses there at the moment, but neither is it as bad as is painted. The City fans are so passionate and it's for them that you want to do well. I'm certain that, once the new manager is installed, we can turn things around."