Since the death of Gary Speed, Welsh football’s attentions have turned to the possible successor for the role of manager of the national side. Due to the tragic circumstances of the vancancy, there was a long and respectful period of silence which was broken by the outspoken Ray Verheijen when he tweeted on December 12th.
“Tomorrow FAW meet about future of Wales. Hopefully the board will respect Gary’s wish so Osian Roberts and myself can lead the team to Brazil. There is no need for new manager with new ideas. Our success was based on Gary’s clear structure. Everybody knows what to do for mission Brazil 2014.”
There was an immediate reaction to Dutch Ray’s posting, notably from Iwan Roberts and John Hartson who criticised what they saw as Verheijen touting for the job. Personally, I don’t think it was that straightforward and that the term ‘Gary’s wishes’ was jumped on as a particularly undignified claim to the manager’s position. I would prefer to think that Verheijem was referring to Speed’s system – to his philosophy. I don’t want to believe that he was was claiming that Speed would have named the Dutchman as his successor.
Verheijen had threatened to walk out of his duties as a consultant to the FAW unless they backed his ambitions back in November. This public warning may have seemed wise while he had the backing of Speed, but now that Verheijen is looking towards those very FAW members he criticised back in November, it doesn’t look so clever, especially since his consultancy contract with Wales has ended. Verheijen also works with the Turkish and Australian FA’s and these lucrative contracts would cease were he to be appointed as national team manager with Wales. This gives us a good understanding why Verheijen wouldn’t actually want the manager’s role “My objective with the Tweets was not to put myself forward for the job,” said Verheijen, and I believe him. But he does want to keep his conultancy role with Wales while working elsewhere.
“It was not me putting my name forward, I am more than happy to continue with Osian Roberts with a figurehead in place, a Welsh legend like Ryan Giggs or Ian Rush to protect the identity of Welsh football.” Said Verheijen. This seems to be a statement made in reaction to the arrival of Chris Coleman on the scene. It is believed that Coleman would bring in his own backup team and release Roberts and Verheijen from their duties. If he’d work with Rush or Giggs, why not Coleman? Because he doesn’t believe that Coleman would work with him.
There were claims too, that Speed himself had been disgruntled with the way that the FAW had treated his well-respected sports science colleague with the national side, Damien Roden, who had been accused of supplying drinks to the FAW from a company in which he had an interest. I believe it could have been the Roden issue which led Verheijen to come out in public and pressurise the FAW in November. It’s really sad that Speed’s successor is being appointed in this atmosphere of accusation and mistrust. Things were going so well and so smoothly that it just seems obtuse to rip the whole thing up and start again. But has Verheijen burned his bridges with his aggressive stance earlier in the year? He seems to have upset somebody at the FAW, or surely we would be talking about a seamless change now.
One of the most surprising and disturbing developments of recent days has been the emergence of the Welsh captain, Aaron Ramsey as a public critic of the FAW via the English media, and then his twitter feed. And of course as soon as he spoke up, he received a torrent of praise and congratulation for his outburst. But then Aaron is the most talented Welsh footballer of a generation, and the public are inclined to back him over any anonymous geriatric administrator . But it is my understanding that Ramsey was in fact spoken to somebody at the FAW about the appointment, which makes his complaints even more intriguing.
Less intriguing, maybe, when Craig Bellamy became the next player to warn of the consequences were Verheijen was not appointed. Bellamy’s relationship with his personal physio is well documented, but coming so soon after Ramsey’s dramatic and unprecedented appearance in the English media this began to look like a political campaign, especially when Mr Bale spoke up. Following on from their TeamGB kick-in-the-nuts, Messrs Ramsey and Bale are becoming the pin-up boys for any strategic anti-FAW PR campign. We’ve seen this before of course, when Mark Hughes’s pals backed their man after Toshack’s appointment. And the fallout from that mess was disastrous. The question is; who is orchestrating this campaign against the appointment of Coleman? Welsh football is such a melting pot of machavellian self-interest that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions as to the most obvious suspect.
The voice that is missing from this disagreeable mess is that of Jonathan Ford. It helps nobody when ‘an un-named FAW source’ is the vehicle for the association’s defence from the attack by its captain and its best players. Ford should be clear and strong in his statements, and above all honest in his explanations, but he has been unusually quiet. Did he speak to Ramsey? Then why not say so. Did he not? Then why not? We know that Ford picked out Speed as the marketing man’s dream, and now that he is gone, who is there to meet the Chief-Executives requirements?
At the end of all this, we need to find a manager. And as much as it displeases me to back down to player pressure, I’m afraid we have no choice. We should appoint Ramsey’s pet labrador as manager if that’s what he wants. We don’t win games with a strong association, we win it with committed high-quality players. There is a reason why the players want Verheijen and Roberts to continue. They must be popular, and their methods must be approved. I expect the players are being mollycoddled, and their club duties are being prioritised, but this is where we are with our national side. I’m sure the FAW would like to keep its dignity and stand up to the players with Coleman’s appointment, but I fear the worst if they do.
I have felt that Osian Roberts is the man to carry on Speed’s work since I felt able to think about it, and nothing has really changed for me. There is a momentum now, and the Welsh public would back Roberts as the man that Speed trusted; those who call for a big name are being shallow – a big name is irrelevent. I do wish Verheijen would learn to keep his own counsel though, and Ramsey has dampened my man-crush with his recent anglo-centric behaviour. Our captain should not be refusing Welsh language interviews before running to Radio5 Live for his propaganda, but likewise the FAW should not be pushing their line through an un-named source. They should all put aside their personal agendas and just do the right thing. Respect Speed’s legacy.