Speed - Wales players have nothing to lose

Andrew Baldock,Pa
Tuesday 14 December 2010 18:48

New Wales boss Gary Speed believes his players will be in a "no-lose" position when they resume their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign against England in March.

The Millennium Stadium clash will be Speed's second game in charge of Wales following a Carling Nations Cup appointment with the Republic of Ireland on February 8.

Although Wales currently prop up Group G, 10 points behind leaders Montenegro after suffering three successive defeats, Speed has no intention of throwing in the towel.

The 41-year-old, today confirmed as John Toshack's full-time successor, admits qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is "a big target."

But Flintshire-born Speed, who won 85 caps during a 14-year international career, wants his players to make an impression from the outset of his reign.

"We want to consistently compete on an international basis," said Speed, who quit his role as Sheffield United manager after just three months in charge.

"The England game is going to be tough because they are a good team.

"Results in the group so far haven't been as good as we would have wanted, but in a way that gives us a good chance to start again and wipe the slate clean.

"We haven't had the best start to the group, and all the pressure will be on them (England), as such.

"It's a no-lose situation and it is something which could really kickstart us.

"It's up to me to impress on the players how much enjoyment they can get out of playing for Wales. When you are playing well for Wales, and the team is playing well, there is no greater feeling.

"What we haven't done over the last four or five years is beat anyone of stature, beat anyone who we weren't supposed to.

"In this (Euro 2012) qualifying campaign, can we get into fourth spot, then third spot? It's targets all the way. And if we win the next five games, you never know what might happen."

Speed was only linked with the Wales post in recent days.

Brian Flynn, who had been handed caretaker control for Euro 2012 defeats against Bulgaria and Switzerland in October, Chris Coleman, John Hartson and ex-Sweden manager Lans Lagerback reportedly comprised the Football Association of Wales' shortlist until Speed became available.

After being given permission by the Blades to open talks, Speed's appointment was today confirmed by the 28-strong FAW Council.

It had, as he readily admitted, been a whirlwind couple of days.

"It's something that is very difficult to turn down when your country comes calling," Speed added. "I'm a very proud man at this moment to be asked to be the manager of Wales.

"I was disappointed to leave Sheffield United because I feel I had a job to do there and was fully committed, but obviously when your country comes calling it's a tough decision you have to make. I feel in my heart it's the right one.

"To be fair to them, they've been fantastic throughout and made the decision really easy for me.

"I would like to thank Sheffield United for the opportunity I've been given there, both as a coach under Kevin Blackwell and then as a manager."

Looking ahead, Speed is relishing the task of getting the best out of Wales' young players.

"I think that's the part of the job which I'm really looking forward to," he said.

"The group of players we've got, they are of an age where they can be together for a long time and improve and grow for a long time.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of putting things in place to try to be successful.

"It's my job to make sure the structure in Welsh football is such that we are consistently competing.

"As a player I've been part of campaigns where we've just missed out, but in between those campaigns there were gaps of eight to 10 years."

Sheffield United, meanwhile, have put Speed's former assistant John Carver in charge while they select their new manager.

United chief executive Trevor Birch told the club's official website: "This has been a difficult decision for Gary.

"We are obviously disappointed, and this would not have been entertained had it been another club side, but having received the approach we felt obliged to give Gary the option of discussing the position with the Welsh FA.

"We didn't want to lose him, but we have to respect Gary's decision given the uniqueness of the opportunity."

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