Cymru - The Managers
13 May 2020

Cymru - The Managers

Ryan Giggs is the twelfth person to manage Cymru on a permanent basis since Walley Barnes became the first appointment back in 1954.

Prior to the appointment of Barnes, international selection was decided by a committee of selectors, as was commonplace at the time.

Barnes became the first manager to lead his country, and since then only two Englishmen have taken charge of the men's national team, while Mike Smith and John Toshack had two separate spells in the dugout each.

To appreciate the present it is important to understand the past, so in our our latest feature, here's a look at the fourteen different tenures that have provided Cymru fans with the highs and lows of following their country on the international stage, starting with the man from Brecon. 

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As a versatile defender, Barnes represented Arsenal with distinction for over a decade, lifting the Football League Championship and the FA Cup in 1948 and 1950 respectively.

Despite being born to English parents, he represented Cymru between 1947 and 1956 having been born in Brecon, captaining the team and managing them in the final years of his playing career.

He remained involved in the game through the media, and commentated on the first broadcast of Match of the Day in 1964, as well as the 1966 World Cup Final.

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The first manager to lead Cymru to the finals of a major tournament, the Pentre-born winger spent the majority of his playing career at West Bromwich Albion, and earned 15 caps for his country before the start of the Second World War.

Working closely alongside Sir Matt Busby at Manchester United while managing Cymru, Murphy missed the tragic Munich air disaster as it coincided with the 1958 World Cup play-off against Israel in Cardiff.

While steering Manchester United through a traumatic period of transition, Murphy also guided Cymru to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Sweden, losing to eventual winners Brazil.

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The captain of the 1958 World Cup team, Dave Bowen remains the longest-serving manager in Cymru history.

Born in Maesteg, he represented Northampton Town and Arsenal during his 13-year playing career, moving into management with The Cobblers in 1959 for the first of two spells in charge of the club.

Bowen combined his club commitments with managing his country, but failed to repeat the achievement of reaching the finals of a major tournament as he did as a player.

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The first Englishman to manage Cymru, Smith's playing career was restricted to the amateur game as he represented Corinthian Casuals.

However, he made his name in coaching circles following his appointment as Director of Coaching of the Football Association of Wales, with the responsibility of overseeing the development of the intermediate teams.

He replaced Dave Bowen as manager in 1974, and guided Cymru to the EURO 1976 play-offs after impressively topping their group, but suffered a 3-1 aggregate defeat against Yugoslavia.

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A towering defender during his playing career, England made 300 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur in almost a decade at White Hart Lane, and played 44 times for Cymru between 1962 and 1974.

A former captain of the national team, England's only managerial job was with his country, and he managed a record 56 games between 1980 and 1988.

Included in his most-memorable victories was his first game in charge as his side claimed a 4-1 win over England, together with the 3-0 win over Spain in 1985.

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A hugely-popular figure as a player and a manager, the former Leeds United and Coventry City midfielder was appointed as manager in 1988.

Yorath continued to manage at club level, moving from Swansea City to Bradford City and back between 1988 and 1991, before committing himself solely to the international game.

Narrowly missed out on qualification for the 1994 World Cup following a defeat against Romania in Cardiff which would be his last match in charge, during a tenure that had registered victories over Brazil and Germany in 1991.

Yorath also played 59 times for Cymru between 1969 and 1981, scoring two goals.

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This was the first of two spells as Cymru manager for Toshack, and it is remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Having parted company with Yorath following the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign, this was a difficult time for the national team, and the unrest following the departure of the popular manager made for an uneasy situation.

Toshack remained as manager of Real Sociedad in Spain, but relinquished his position with Cymru after just 47 days and one game, overseeing a disappointing 3-1 defeat against Norway in Cardiff.

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Fifteen years after leaving his position, Smith made a surprise return to the Cymru dugout in 1994 having managed Hull City and the Egyptian national team since his first spell in charge.

His credentials were boosted by becoming the first British manager to win the African Cup of Nations in 1986, but he failed to reach the finals of EURO 1996, in a qualifying campaign remembered for defeats against Moldova and Georgia.

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Following Mike Smith, Bobby Gould is the only other Englishman to take charge of Cymru following his appointment in 1995.

The former Coventry City and Arsenal striker enjoyed a successful playing career, and made headlines as a manager in 1988 as he guided Wimbledon to FA Cup glory against Liverpool in one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition.

However, Gould won just seven of his 24 games as national team manager, with a 7-1 defeat against the Netherlands in 1996 being one of the all-time lows. 

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Hughes continued to play for Southampton, Everton and Blackburn Rovers following his appointment as Cymru manager in 1999, and played an important role in bringing the crowds back to Cardiff to support the national team.

The qualification campaign for EURO 2004 defines his tenure, as a play-off defeat to Russia once again brought frustration and disappointment for a team that had famously defeated Italy 2-1 in Cardiff  in October 2002.

Hughes left his position in September 2004 to take over as manager of Blackburn Rovers.

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After his brief and ill-fated first spell as manager in 1994, John Toshack returned a decade later as the national team entered a period of transition.

A string of international retirements followed the departure of Hughes, and Toshack began shaping the future alongside Brian Flynn, who was appointed to oversee the intermediate teams.

Players such as Gareth Bale, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and many others emerged ahead of their time under Toshack, and his work proved more beneficial for his successors than for himself, and was appreciated more in hindsight than at the time as his fast-tracked players formed the cornerstone of future success.

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The appointment of Gary Speed offered a change in direction for Cymru, and a new era of professionalism was instilled within the culture of the national team.

Benefiting from the experience handed to his young group by John Toshack before him, Speed began to develop a team in his image, with Aaron Ramsey appointed as the youngest-ever captain.

Tragically, with the team offering real hope and belief for the future with a string of impressive results and performances, culminating with a 4-1 win over Norway, Speed sadly passed away in November 2011.

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Replacing his good friend Gary Speed in such tragic circumstances made Chris Coleman's appointment seem like the impossible job.

However, his dedication and belief in what could be achieved with his group of players turned the tide after a difficult start, and the patience and time offered to the former defender was rewarded with qualification for the finals of EURO 2016.

His team was the culmination of a long process that began with Toshack's vision for the future. Reaching the semi-finals before bowing out against eventual winners Portugal, Coleman made himself the most-successful manager in the history of the national team, but eventually ended his tenure after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

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A similar appointment to Gary Speed and Chris Coleman before him, Ryan Giggs was announced as the new Cymru manager in January 2018, and made an immediate impression as his side defeated China 6-0 in his first game.

The emergence of another generation of young players has defined Giggs' tenure to date, and his faith and belief in young players like Harry Wilson, Daniel James and David Brooks has been rewarded.

A difficult period during EURO 2020 qualifying proved to be Giggs' toughest test, but finishing the campaign with three wins and two draws ensured he would repeat the achievements of Jimmy Murphy and Coleman by taking his country to the finals of a major tournament.