CARDIFF (AFP) - Gary Speed has been appointed as the new manager of the Wales national team on a three-and-a-half-year contract, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) announced here on Tuesday.
The 41-year-old former Wales captain was given permission by English Championship side Sheffield United, where he had been the manager, to speak to the FAW, who wanted him as their first-choice successor to John Toshack.
Wales -- who last qualified for the latter stages of a major tournament back at the 1958 World Cup -- had been without a manager since Toshack's exit on September 9.
Several candidates, including caretaker boss Brian Flynn and former Sweden national manager Lars Lagerback, were interviewed last week before the FAW opted for Speed, who holds a Welsh record 85 caps for an outfield player.
Nevertheless, the FAW have chosen an inexperienced manager in Speed, for all the plaudits the former midfielder received during a 20-year playing career with Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and the Blades which saw him became the first player to reach 500 Premier League appearances.
"It's something that's very difficult to turn down when your country comes calling," Speed told a news conference. "I'm a very proud man at this moment to be asked to be the manager of Wales."
On his exit from United, he added: "These things happen in football, where the timing's not always great."
Meanwhile, he insisted Wales had it in them to get back to qualify for European Championships and World Cups.
"I think we need to consistently compete on a world stage and not just come close to qualifying every now and again, every 12-15 years," he said
"It's my job to make sure the structure in Welsh football is such that we're consistently competing.
"As a player I've been part of campaigns where we've just missed out, but in between those campaigns there were gaps of eight to 10 years.
"It's my job to make sure this country develops in a way so we can consistently compete on a world stage."
Speed said he'd taken a pay cut to tak the post but insisted: "I don't think that's important when a job of this magnitude comes up. I've never been in the game for money, I'm in the game because I enjoy it and love what I do."
Sheffield United sacked Kevin Blackwell after just three games this season and promoted Speed, who'd not long retired as a player.
But United have lost half of his 18 matches in charge, leaving them one point above the Championship relegation zone.
However, the FAW are backing Speed as the man who can revive the national side with Wales currently bottom of their Euro 2012 qualifying group after a run of three straight defeats.
Speed's first match in charge will be a friendly international with the Republic of Ireland in February followed by a Euro 2012 qualifier against England at the Millennium Stadium on March 26.
|Neville proud to win over Everton fans|
|Mancini sacking is ´amazing´, says Ferguson|
|Benitez coy on lap of honour|
|Wenger: Bayern win was turning point|
|Liga MX Wrap: Monterrey share spoils with America|
|Simeone: We no longer fear Real Madrid|
|Mourinho laments ´horror season´|
|Copa del Rey: Real Madrid 1 Atletico Madrid 2 (AET)|
|Stoke to investigate pig´s head incident|
|Beckham could still have PSG role|
|Lennon fears Hearts relegation|
|Dante out to defeat Gladbach|
|Second year of Malaga ban waived|
|Villas-Boas confident of keeping Bale|
|Balotelli warned against walk-off protest|
|Premier League reveal third-place play-off plans|
|Navas ´excited´ by Manchester City link|
|Ancelotti denies Real contact|
|DIS confirm Neymar to Barcelona talks|
|Serie A Preview: Siena v Milan|
|Premier League Preview: Wigan v Aston Villa|
|Bassong crowned Norwich´s player of the season|
|Laudrup: Finishing eighth would be like winning the title|
|Premier League Preview: Southampton v Stoke City|
|Rodgers wants lengthy Liverpool stay|
|De Vrij pens new Feyenoord deal|
|Bale named Barclays Player of the Year|
|Ward-Prowse: I´ll keep improving|
|Jol calls for strong finish|
|Del Bosque: Casillas has my support|
|Coloccini: French recruits will blossom with time|
|Clarke has learned a lot in first year at West Brom|
|Di Canio backs Fletcher to shine|
|Icardi flattered by Inter rumours|
|Walters aiming to end season on a goalscoring high|
|Premier League Preview: Manchester City v Norwich|
|La Liga Preview: Barcelona v Valladolid|
|Lambert keen to secure future of Christian Benteke|
|Pirlo hoping for Juventus improvement|
|Roberts criticises new FA racism ruling|
|Serie A Preview: Inter Milan v Udinese|
|Serie A Preview: Sampdoria v Juventus|
|Premier League Preview: Swansea v Fulham|
|Moyes praises Everton squad|
|MLS stars pay tribute to retiring Beckham|
|Villas-Boas still battling for fourth place|
|League One play-off final Preview: Yeovil meet Brentford at Wembley|
|Ferguson raring to go in his final Manchester United match|
|Premier League Preview: West Ham v Reading|
|Premier League preview: West Brom v Manchester United|
|Wenger: Destiny in our own hands|
|Premier League Preview: Newcastle v Arsenal|
|Podolski focused on UEFA Champions League qualification|
|McManaman ruled out for three months|
|Premier League Preview: Tottenham v Sunderland|
|Premier League Preview: Liverpool v QPR|
|Manchester City appoint Patrick Vieira as new Head of Elite Development Squad|
|Lampard: Return of Mourinho would be a huge lift|
|Cesar does not expect QPR stay|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Top versus bottom, Lyon aim for Europe|
|Lewandowski coy on next move|
|Copa Libertadores Wrap: Olimpia, Santa Fe progress|
|Loew rues missing stars|
|Deschamps talks up Nasri recall|
|Simeone: Atletico happy to be Copa underdogs|
|Beckham retirement shocks May|
|Stramaccioni focused on Udinese|
|Keller calls for late Schalke surge|
|Eredivisie Wrap: Twente seize advantage, Go Ahead go ahead|
|Poyet suspended by Brighton|
|Primeira Liga Preview: Porto, Benfica gunning for title success|
|Bundesliga Preview: Borussia Dortmund v Hoffenheim|
|Riether secures permanent Fulham deal|
|FA to impose minimum five-game bans for discrimination|
|Laudrup anticipating hard second term|
|Martinez not looking to sell|
|Ambrosini agent reveals West Ham interest|
|Beckham: I wanted to go out on top|
|Clarke aiming to spoil party|
|Tributes paid to Beckham after retirement decision|
|Premier League Preview: Chelsea v Everton|
|Krul expects to be fit for new season|
|David Beckham´s career in numbers|
|Higuain: I do not care if I score|
|Round eyeing points record|
|Metzelder confirms retirement|
|Xavi slams Mourinho treatment of Casillas|
|Bundesliga Preview: Bayern Munich v Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Serie A Preview: Champions Juventus head to Sampdoria|
|N´Zonzi targetting top-10 finish for Stoke|
|Beckham announces his retirement|
|Wenger: Cazorla is underrated in the Premier League|
|Benitez refuses to be drawn on future|
|Carroll restored to England squad|
|Lloris: Tottenham cannot think about Arsenal|
|Townsend to discuss future at Tottenham|
|Ancelotti seeks clarification on future|
|Nasri sad to see Mancini leave Manchester City|
|Lampard signs new one-year contract with Chelsea|
|Jesus may leave Benfica|
|Ferguson had to leave Manchester United ´a winner´|
|Gomez set for Atletico move|
|Lampard eager to sign new Chelsea contract|
|Blaszczykowski keen on Dortmund extension|
|Vlaar: Villa can rely on Bent to replace Benteke|
|MLS Preview: Houston, Montreal look to keep pressure on New York|
|League Two play-off final Preview: Bradford and Northampton boast fully fit squads|
|Ferguson praises ´fantastic´ Carragher|
|Ferdinand keen to stay at Manchester United after England retirement|
|Pochettino ´to quit Southampton if Cortese leaves´|
|Di Canio: I will decide when Sunderland´s holidays start|
|Copa Libertadores Wrap: Boca into last eight|
|FIFA gives thumbs-up to 2014 stadium|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Paris Saint-Germain v Brest|
|Benitez warms to PSG link|
|SPL: Kilmarnock 1 Hibernian 3|