Saunders For Wales?

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I clearly have no journalistic instinct whatsoever. If I did, I surely would have picked up on the torment of the man sitting directly behind me at Newport last Sunday. For that man was John Toshack, who would announce a couple of hours later that his time as Wales manager was drawing to an end.

I’m afraid I picked up nothing of the inner turmoil he must have been experiencing as he mulled over his decision. I didn’t detect the angst of giving up something he’d put years of hard work in, or even the angst of having to sit through a Wrexham game!

For the record, I’m one of what seems like a very small band, the Toshack sympathisers, but that’s by the way. Of more relevance to us is the immediate link made by the media between Dean Saunders and the post of Welsh manager. Frankly, it’s not as preposterous as the other jobs he’s been linked with over the last year.

The very fact that he’s a contender tells us a lot about the realities facing Wales as a footballing nation. We know we have very few players to choose from, but there’s an even more narrow field of coaches to consider if we decide to appoint a Welshman. It seems highly likely we will go native. Never mind Fabio Capello and Sven-Goran Eriksson with England, or Berti Vogts in Scotland; when it comes to disastrous foreign appointments, Bobby Gould just blows them out of the water!

However, if you are to look at the fact that a manager of a mid-table side in the fifth level of league competition is under consideration for the national post, it does suggest the choice is a touch limited!

Saunders’ critics might be bemused, but , just try to come up with a serious all-Welsh shortlist which doesn’t include candidates who are likely to be ruled out by the cost of compensating their clubs or silly names like Ryan Giggs, whom Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t even give time off for friendlies, never mind to coach the side! All of a sudden Saunders is up there, isn’t he?

Of course, that’s not the full story. If Saunders is indeed a genuine candidate, it’s not through his work at The Racecourse, it’s because he has been a valued part of the Welsh coaching set-up for some time. Indeed, there was speculation in the past that the plan was for him to succeed Toshack once he decided to call it a day.

The argument for appointing Saunders must run that being Wrexham manager has purely been an opportunity to gain experience. His coaching skills would be given more chance to flourish when he gets to work with Premiership players who are able to absorb his coaching, his frustration at players who failing to take his ideas on board at an end, and perhaps his results at Wrexham aren’t totally relevant. I mean, does anyone really think Conference football and the international game are all that similar?

Not that Saunders is a certainty to be appointed though. Firstly, he has worked hard at Wrexham, and might decide he doesn’t want to leave until he has fulfilled his desire to get us back into the Football League. Perhaps that would be his dream scenario; if he is able to add success to his CV, he’d have a very strong case the next time the job became available.

Also, when it comes to working out who fulfils the required criteria for the next Welsh manager, there seems to be a very logical fit. We need someone who can get the most out of the talented crop of young players who have come through over the last couple of years, so why not appoint the man who helped to bring them through? Brian Flynn has enjoyed terrific success as coach of the Under-21 side, so why not let him supervise their transition to becoming the national team?

Anyway, when the inevitable happens and the papers begin reporting that Robbie Savage has declared his interest in the job, Saunders will begin to look like a superb appointment!

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