Wales seek cure for Millennium bug

Wales seek cure for Millennium bug

John Toshack will wave goodbye to the Millennium Stadium next week with few regrets as Wales plan their future away from the national venue.

Wednesday’s World Cup clash with Russia is their last home game in qualifying Group Four, and the Cardiff ground is unlikely to be used again by Wales - unless they are facing a major world power – for maybe as much as two years.

Small attendances lost in the cavernous Millennium Stadium have long been a problem for Wales boss Toshack and his players.

Moving games during this qualifying campaign has been impossible because of the FA of Wales’ policy of selling ’season tickets’ for all the home qualifiers.

But that scheme will now be abandoned and, at an FAW council meeting later this month, plans to move matches to smaller grounds will be given the go-ahead.

Cardiff City’s new 27,000 capacity ground, Swansea’s Liberty stadium and Llanelli rugby club’s Parc y Scarlets will be the venues for most of Wales matches in the next set of qualifiers for Euro 2012.

Toshack said: “The Millennium Stadium has been a big talking point, but when this qualifying competition is out of the way the powers that be will be able to sit down and look at alternatives.

“They know mine and the players’ feelings. We have not been able to do anything in the current campaign but next time around will be different.

“Our performances have been disappointing at the Millennium, the gates have slowly dropped so it could be time to look at alternatives.

“We have a brand new Cardiff City ground to use, with the sort of capacity that we can fill and create a better atmosphere. We have to get this group over and then people can get their heads together and find a better way for us.

“But we are not saying that the Millennium Stadium is the reason we have not qualified. But it is so big, and when half full it sometimes motivates the opposition more than us.”

With Russia expected to win at home to Liechtenstein tomorrow, qualification could mathematically be all but beyond Wales by the time they host the Russians on Wednesday.

But realistically, the chances of reaching next summer’s finals in South Africa were ended with the home defeat by Finland in March.

Toshack, who fears he will be without hamstring victim Jason Koumas on Wednesday, is only concerned now with performance.

He said: “There is no problem with motivation. Playing for your country in a World Cup match should be all the motivation we need.

“But we cannot adulterate the competition and we have to do our very best for all the other teams in the group. We must get a positive result against Russia, for our own benefit too.”

Toshack has recalled senior men Koumas, Craig Bellamy and Boaz Myhill, and also named uncapped midfielder Brian Stock.

But it seems now that he has all but given up the thought of playing Jack Collison and Simon Church, both youngsters having next week to attend their respective fathers’ funerals.

Toshack said: “Sadly two of our lads will probably miss the Russia game because they have to attend funerals for their respective fathers.

“Jack has his father’s funeral on Monday, while Simon has a funeral on the day of the game.

“Jack wants to play, but I wonder if he will be in the right frame of mind. I will have a chat with him on Sunday, but maybe he should be with his mum at such a time.

“Simon is talking of coming down to Cardiff after the funeral of his dad, but that is not ideal.”

Koumas is also doubtful, with Toshack saying: “I have always stood by Jason. The last time he was with us he wasn’t happy with his form or fitness. He needed to go away and sort himself out.

“He needed to get over the injuries, particularly a hamstring problem, and have a good pre-season and play a few matches. That is what he has done, and I’m delighted.

“But he missed the last Wigan game at Everton with a recurrence of his hamstring, so already he is a doubt for Wednesday.”

But skipper Bellamy will be involved following the embarrassing mix-up of his non-appearance for last month’s friendly in Montenegro.

Toshack said: “Craig will he OK this time. There was some misunderstanding the last time when he did not turn up for the Montenegro game.

“It should not have happened. We should not be getting onto the coach to go to the airport for the match and we haven’t heard from him and cannot get in touch with anyone.

“Hopefully that does not happen again.”

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