Bellamy cedes Welsh captaincy as Giggs returns

November 6, 2006

John Toshack insists striker Craig Bellamy must give up the Wales captaincy even though he is the 'nearest thing to Kevin Keegan' the coach has seen in 20 years.

The Wales boss has named a 25 man squad for next Tuesday's friendly against Liechtenstein at Wrexham.

Toshack has spoken to Bellamy and Manchester United star Ryan Giggs about the fixture - and both have made it clear they will be available.

Bellamy, who stepped in as captain for the injured Giggs last month for two Euro 2008 qualifiers in Cardiff, knows that the armband will now revert to the winger.

But Toshack made a point of praising Bellamy's short spell leading his country.

'I was very pleased with Craig's contribution to the last two games. He was like a breath of fresh air around the place - particularly after the first game, that very worrying 5-1 defeat by Slovakia which shocked us all.'

Bellamy, who has missed the last three Liverpool games with an ankle problem, is expected to return in the Carling Cup tie at Birmingham on Wednesday or Sunday's Premiership trip to Arsenal.

'I know he's missed a few Liverpool games. But he's back in training, and I am looking forward to him playing at Wrexham,' said Toshack.

'His form this season has been fine. Craig is the nearest thing to Kevin Keegan I have seen in 20 years.

'For us, he led by example and is a constant threat with his pace and running. He is so like Kevin, my old strike partner at Liverpool.

'Kevin could turn bad passes into good ones with his determination and running, and Craig does the same. Their work rates are very similar - Craig just runs, and runs and so did Kevin.'

Toshack took a surprise decision to name Bellamy as captain but said: 'You could see the way that decision affected him. He took on the responsibility and had a big influence on things.

'But it is fair to say that when Ryan Giggs returns from injury he will be the captain - with a bristling vice-captain alongside him in Craig.'

Toshack also revealed his delight at the return to form of West Ham defender Danny Gabbidon, who had a slow start to the season after a summer groin operation.

Toshack needs 27-year-old to be his defensive leader with so many youngsters to choose from - Richard Duffy, Lewin Nyatanga, Craig Morgan and James Collins - in the back line.

Toshack said: 'I was very impressed with what I saw from Danny against Arsenal on Sunday when he had a fine game against Thierry Henry.

'He needed to recapture his form. It has been very much like West Ham's. Last season they probably over-achieved and had a great season in the FA Cup and league.

'But this season it has been more difficult, and that has been mirrored in Danny's play. But from what I saw of him against Henry, he looked back to his best.

'We need that from him. A year or so ago he was the youngster in the Wales defence with lots of senior men around him. Now that has changed, and he finds himself our leader at the back with so many kids to look after.'

Toshack has added two goalkeepers to his squad, Burnley's Danny Coyne and Sunderland's Darren Ward.

Coyne has missed a year with a knee injury, while Ward was number two at Norwich before a summer free transfer and has forced his way into Roy Keane's side.

Toshack will be without veteran goalkeeper Paul Jones because personal reasons and has taken the chance to instal Jason Brown as first choice - with Lewis Price out injured.

'Paul hasn't been left out because he got his hair shaved for his last game or because of the five goals he let in - he is not available for the friendly next week for personal, family reasons,' the coach confirmed.

'He will still be involved with us in the future. But I must look at other goalkeepers, and this gives me my chance.'

Toshack has also recalled 20-year-old Wolves striker Craig Davies ahead of West Brom veteran John Hartson.