World Cup Football / Welsh Worries: Yorath's critique of grass roots: A defeat, a tragedy and uncertainty over the future in the Principality. Phil Shaw reports

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The Independent Online
WITH his scathing critique of the 'Thatcherite' motives behind the FA Premiership and a call for the British game to go 'back to basics', Terry Yorath sounded more like a politician than a football manager yesterday as he reflected on the reasons for Wales's ninth consecutive failure to reach the World Cup finals.

Yorath, whose contract expired following Romania's deserved 2-1 victory at the Arms Park in Cardiff, also made a veiled threat that he might get on his bike - in the manner recommended by one of Mrs Thatcher's closest allies - if a deal addressing Welsh football's problems from the grass roots upwards was not forthcoming from the FA of Wales. He had already received offers from abroad.

The end of the Welsh dream was overshadowed by the death of a spectator, who was killed by a maritime distress signal fired seconds after the final whistle. Yorath, whose son Daniel died from a rare heart defect, was perhaps better able than most to put Wales's disappointment into perspective.

'My players gave it their best shot, and we could have won the game with the penalty,' Yorath said, ruing Paul Bodin's miss immediately after Dean Saunders' equaliser. 'I don't think Romania would have come back from that, but technically they will always be better with the ball at their feet. Our football relies too much on set-pieces now.

'The biggest problem in Britain is the Thatcherite Premier League. They're breeding greed, and eventually you get found out. That has now happened. They had a chance a couple of years ago to reduce the top division from 22 clubs to 18 and have fewer matches, but they didn't take it.

'In our home game against the RCS (Representation of Czechs and Slovaks), the statistics showed that their players passed the ball something like 100 times more than we did. It's not knocking my players, it's a fact. The answer is to get back to basics.'

Passing, control, movement of the ball: in each elementary area, Romania were superior to what is, after all, Wales's best team for 35 years. It was a sobering thought that Ryan Giggs, who is coveted by Milan, looked far less the finished article than Florin Raducioiu, who can hardly get a game with the Italian champions.

Wales had no one in midfield remotely comparable with the sublimely skilled Gheorghe Hagi, who plays in Serie B. And the contrast between the respective sets of defenders, notably in terms of composure in possession, was often embarrassing.

What is more, the likes of Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Neville Southall and David Phillips will, in all probability be past their sell-by date when the next campaign commences. However, whether Yorath will be around to bring on the next generation is a much more pertinent question.

He would dearly like to continue, but is disappointed that the Welsh FA have not yet resolved his future. In the meantime, there have been tempting approaches from clubs in Greece and Turkey which were 'still on the table'.

'The one offer I really wanted hasn't come. I've got a wife and kids and a home in Leeds to pay the mortgage on. If an approach came that I thought was right for me, I'd take it.

'I love everything about my work with Wales, but pie in the sky doesn't get you anywhere. If anyone wants to do the job properly they would have to have a long-term contract, a youth scheme and to be able to dictate rather than be dictated to - that's how it should be in football.'

It is unthinkable that the sub-committee deliberating over Yorath's contract might decide not to offer him improved terms. But whether it will satisfy his belief in the need for absolute control of development may prove a sticking point.

Yorath even went so far as to nominate his possible successor. The only other person who could do the job, he suggested, was John Toshack. Currently coaching Real Sociedad in Spain, the former Liverpool and Wales striker was at the Arms Park as a television pundit.

Alas, the Welsh FA find themselves with the weightier matter of a horrific fatality to consider. Alun Evans, the secretary, yesterday promised full co-operation with police and Fifa, although there must be a possibility that the game's world governing body may order Wales to stage future fixtures elsewhere and/or fine them.

The financial implications of events on Wednesday go far beyond any potential punishment - and not just for football. Wales could have expected a windfall from Fifa of pounds 350,000 per match from the finals, not to mention revenue from spin-offs and endorsements.

The Welsh Tourist Board had estimated that the coverage Wales would have received in the United States alone would have been equivalent to a pounds 100m advertising campaign. The Welsh Development Agency were quoted as saying it would have helped attract investment in industry. For all of them - with the possible and worrying exception of Yorath - it is now back to the drawing board.