Davies' quit decision 'robs Wales youngsters'
JOHN TOSHACK feels Wales’ youngsters are being robbed of their helping hands after Simon Davies became the latest player to retire from international football.
Fulham ace Davies informed Toshack of his decision to quit the Wales set-up late on Sunday night, the 30-year-old citing fitness reasons for calling time on a 58-cap career.
The midfielder, who captained his country just last year, takes the total retirements under Toshack to 20 in the space of six years.
And although the Wales manager says he accepts Davies’ decision, he insists the young players being left behind are the ones that will suffer.
“This is not something that’s new to us – it’s something we’ve had to learn to deal with over the years,” said Toshack, speaking at the team hotel ahead of tomorrow’s friendly with Luxembourg in Llanelli.
“In Simon’s case, he felt that with his physical condition and the problems he’s had with injuries that the time players get off during international breaks would be better used looking after his own fitness.
“So you just have to accept it, say thank you for the service he’s given and wish him all the best. And he has been a good servant; he was in a group with Jason Koumas, Danny Gabbidon and Craig Bellamy in Mark Hughes’ side whose youthful enthusiasm helped the more experienced players like Ryan Giggs and Gary Speed.
“It’s just from our point of view it’s unfortunate that we now haven’t got experienced players of our own to help the younger players coming through.”
Davies, one of just a handful of players with Premier League experience available to Wales, had been criticised by Toshack during the previous World Cup qualifying campaign – the veteran manager insisting he needed more from one of his senior stars.
Best remembered for his stunning goal in the Millennium Stadium win over Italy in 2002, Davies himself admitted injury had hampered his impact at the highest stage.
But excellent form for Fulham following his recovery from an ongoing foot problem had seen Davies earn a recall to the set-up, featuring in March’s friendly defeat to Sweden.
Although he had slipped down the pecking order, Toshack was keen for Davies to guide the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Collison, Joe Ledley and David Edwards through the European qualifying campaign.
His availability was even more crucial given the long-term injuries that rule both Ramsey and Collison out of the first three fixtures in Group G, starting in Montenegro on September 3.
And although Toshack held back from criticising Davies, who he accepted would benefit from the extra time to manage his foot injury, he would not have been happy with the timing of the decision.
“The loss of Aaron and Jack is a big thing for us – the squad is hurting from it as much as the supporters are,” said Toshack, who has called up Swansea City’s David Cotterill to replace Davies for the Luxembourg game.
“It’s difficult because, alongside David Edwards and Joe Ledley, that is a midfield we have a lot of hope for.
“But right across the middle of the park we are having great difficulty getting any continuity. We have got to look forward and hope the midfield issues can clear themselves up because the four lads are very young.
“We just have to hope for a bit more fortune.
“But the decision has been made now and, if it prolongs Simon’s career and it’s in his best interests, we wish him well and accept it.”
A former Peterborough trainee who went onto break into the top flight at Tottenham Hotspur before big money moves to Everton and Fulham, Davies made his debut against Ukraine in 2001 under Mark Hughes.
He was an instrumental figure during the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign under Hughes, scoring in the opening 2-0 victory away to Finland.
But it was the first of his six goals for Wales that stood out, a mesmeric winding run and shot in a 1-1 draw in Croatia in August 2002.
Davies had brought question marks over his international future last year when he admitted the demands of the Premier League and his issues with injuries were taking their toll.