The Big Interview: Terry Yorath


Terry Yorath

Red Passion recently conducted an in-depth interview with former Wales manager Terry Yorath. It covered a whole series of topics: the Wales national team, Terry’s playing career, Welsh football in general, his views on Wrexham, and his managerial career before and after the Wales job. As such, it chronicles Yorath’s views on an array of interesting things: his astonishingly famous daughter Gabby, the Bradford fire, his shortlived involvement with Cardiff City, and his amazing time managing the national team in the Lebanon. Over the next twelve months, we are going to serialise this interview in alternate editions of Red Passion and in rather neat thematic form. In this edition:

The Yorath Dossier …Wales

The editor of Red Passion interviews Terry Yorath

On the national team

‘I certainly think that things are a bit more organised than they were. My main memories are of disorganisation and chaos. As a player I remember turning up to places like Heathrow and not having a hotel to go to; and then not knowing whether we were flying from Terminal 1 or 2. At one time things just weren’t professional.’

On recent Wales managers

‘Things improved under Mike Smith first time around. He was very well organised and helped put Welsh football where it is today. He organised things like travel, hotels and kit much better. He was also a good coach.  Dave Bowen was a smashing guy; he loved football – such an enthusiast.’

On playing for Wales

‘I’ve got lots of memories. I remember losing 4-1 to Italy and playing with people like Mike England, Tosh, Wyn Davies and Ron Davies. Beating England 1-0 at Wembley was also special and there were also lots of great Euro-qualifiers at Wrexham. The atmosphere in the side was terrific. People like John Mahoney, Joey, Brian Flynn and myself were fanatical about playing for Wales – sometimes too much. And in those players never missed a Wales game.’

On his midfield colleagues

‘John Mahoney was passionate. He was at Stoke and he loved football and playing for Wales. He wanted to win; he was creative in the centre of the park and he also got up and down.’

On Brian Flynn

‘He was similar to Mahoney as a player. He was also very proud of being Welsh. He was a good passer of the ball and often quite underestimated as a player. I remember that goal he scored against Scotland – he must have played about five one-twos before knocking it in the back of the net. He was a pocket dynamo and great to play with.’

On Arfon Griffiths

‘He came from nowhere and was a joy to play with.  He had more skill than any of us but I always felt that he was a bit of an under-achiever.  He moved from Arsenal back to Wrexham and I always had a feeling that he should have gained more caps than he actually did.’

On himself as a player

‘I suppose I was a defensive-minded midfielder and a good organiser.  I liked to occupy the area between the defence and the midfield, but at Leeds I played in almost every position.  For Wales though, I was a midfielder for 95 per cent of the time.  I remember my time with Wales with great affection.  There’s nothing better than to play for your country and to captain it.  As captain, beating England at Wembley was brilliant.  Wales possibly are guilty of under-achievement at international level, so it was excellent to compete, and win against, bigger teams.  But it’s strange: we never qualified for any big tournaments and we could never take that final step.’

On his time as Welsh manager

‘I’ve got a lot of tremendous memories.  Working, continually, with players of high quality was superb.  They always responded and they always wanted to play for Wales.  It was the same in my time as a player: the Wales players just loved being together.  If you had a big match like Man Utd v Leeds or Liverpool, all the Welsh players met up and warmed up together – regardless of the fact that they may be playing against each other.   They’d always talk about the next Wales game because they loved playing international football so much.  In my time as manager the team spirit was 150 per cent - everyone loved it and it was just infectious.’

On the key players when he was manager

‘First, Neville Southall.  He was a crucial pivot; he had great experience and at one time he was probably in the top-three goalkeepers in the world.  Kevin Ratcliffe as well: he was a smashing defender, a good lad, and he always wanted to play.  Again, at one point, I believe he was one of the best defenders in Europe.  When the Wales team lost Ratcliffe it started to struggle.  We had to bring in youngsters like Mark Aizlewood and Andy Melville, who was just a young boy.  Upfront we obviously had Ryan but that was towards the end of my time as manager.  Ian Rush though was a hero for Wales.  I remember him playing for Wales against Italy, when Wales won 1-0.  He had his problems with Juventus but he always loved playing for Wales.  I’ll also always remember the goal he scored against Germany at the Arms Park.’

On his departure from the Wales job

‘I loved being manager of Wales but my departure was all about political factors.  The FAW just cut themselves off, but I’m out of it now and it doesn’t really bother me.’

On international ambitions

‘I’ve still got ambitions regardless of whether I’m involved – that doesn’t make any difference.   Some of the recent Wales performances have been embarrassing.’

On Welsh football today

‘I think there are problems at the grass roots, at the top and throughout the structure of Welsh football.  The main problem is organisation; the FAW is so short-sighted.  The mentality of the people who run Welsh football is very short term. If they discover a crack, all they want to do is paper over it.  You know and I know though, that that crack will come back again and it’s a crazy way to go about solving problems.’

On the John Toshack episode

‘John Toshack is a good friend of mine and when he got approached to become Wales manager he had to tell me about it – because no-one else told me.  I knew though that if he encountered any problems he’d just walk away – and he did.’

On his departure from the Wales job

‘I was sent a letter and asked to apply for the job again.  I was told I had a good chance of getting it but I was very na´ve.  The job was very important to me and I really wanted it.  But at the same time, John Toshack was top of their list.  In the end, everything was just a shambles.’

On Bobby Gould

‘I understand the problems he’s got as Wales manager.  He’s got five or six very good players at the moment but Wales never has a full squad of 15 or 20 very good players.  This problem has never been solved.  Likewise, with coaching there are serious and deep problems, particularly at the schools level.  But as Wales manager, as I found out, you are always involved, whether you want to be or not, in the politics of the Welsh game.   This really detracts from the job.  The job is hard enough as it is, because you don’t have day-to-day contact with the players.’

On the Robbie Savage/Bobby Gould incident

‘I think if Bobby Gould looks back on that situation he’ll maybe admit that he did the wrong thing. There’s always the media there to dramatise and exaggerate things. For example, I said something at the time of the Savage episode and before I knew it there was a headline in the South Wales Echo saying something like ‘Yorath says Gould has lost the plot’.  Things just shouldn’t happen like that.’

On Gould’s tactics

‘I was surprised to see Savage playing as sweeper in a recent game. It’s difficult just to experiment like that and it was soon abandoned. When you have the players for only three or four days at a time, it’s quite difficult to adapt. I think Bobby’s got to blood the youngsters though – even if he takes some stick. He and the players obviously worked very hard to get the last two results, though from what I saw they looked a touch fortunate against Denmark. I look forward hopefully – but they’ll do very well to qualify from the position they’re in now. You’ve got to remember that an international manager is always going to be under the kosh.’

On non-Welsh players playing for Wales

‘Everyone else does it – so why not take advantage of the rules. I inherited Eric Young; there was also Pat van den Hauwe, and even David Phillips was born in Germany. Managers will always get stick for exploiting this rule but countries like Portugal play around with this rule, so why not Wales?’

On League of Wales players getting into the Welsh squad

‘If that left-back from Barry was worth his place in the squad – fair enough. He’s never been in the squad since though.’