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.
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