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Toshack Exclusive: Bournemouth boss Howe single British hope

'I've been everywhere, man, I've been everywhere…'

There are not many more riveting stories in our beautiful game than the adventurous career of John Toshack.

The title of his new autobiography, Toshack's Way: My Journey Through Football, is certainly apt given his enduring wanderlust.

Liverpool fans will remember fondly the partnership of Toshack and Kevin Keegan during the 1970's. After starring for Cardiff City, Toshack would become a star in his eight seasons at Anfield, collecting three First Division titles and two UEFA Cups.

At just 29 years of age, Toshack made the shock decision to become player-manager at fourth-division Swansea, taking the club up and down the Football Leagues over six years. It wouldn't be the last time that Toshack would break footballing conventions in his career, far from it.

In the 40 years since that Swansea stint, Toshack has managed in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan, Wales, Macedonia, Turkey, Morocco and most recently, Iran.

It was in 1984 when Toshack took his first job overseas with Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. A time before the internet had made the world a much smaller place. But that didn't faze a young and ambitious manager, as Toshack explains to Tribalfootball.

"Sporting Lisbon was very, very important for me because it was my first job abroad to start with and second it came after the huge disappointment from the Swansea time," says Toshack.

"I had been to Portugal on holiday the three previous years and obvious I picked a little bit of the language up and I knew a few people there and knew about the football club.

"As they say it was a very, very important step for me. I didn't find that too difficult you know, I took to it like a duck in water, as they say. I'd always been interested in travel, you know, throughout my career I'd travelled right from the early days with Liverpool and it was something that I always found interesting and I loved it.

"Going to Lisbon, the big Portuguese capital, a big city, and playing with these foreign players, African players, Portuguese players, and international players. Sporting is a huge, huge club. I remember going on tour to America with them and being in San Francisco and San Jose and there was over a 100 thousand supporters. It was a very important experience for me."

Toshack now resides in Spain - "It's like home to me" - bouncing between properties in Barcelona, Mallorca and San Sebastian. It is in the latter where Toshack is considered a legend of the local club, Real Sociedad, where he spent three seperate spells as manager and helped deliver their last major trophy back in 1986/87. Liverpool fans can also thank Toshack for catapulting the career of one Xabi Alonso, who he made captain of Sociedad at 21 years of age. The former midfielder also wrote the foreword for Toshack's Way.

Winning the La Liga title with Real Madrid in 1989/90 was also a major highlight of Toshack's career in Spain. And as he points out, he wasn't alone as a British manager achieving success overseas, and adds that the current lack of homegrown managers is a concern.

"I was looking at the Premiership yesterday, I think 75 per cent of coaches are foreigners. The game has become a lot more global with the movement. I remember when I started off in management at Swansea, there wasn't a foreign manager anywhere in sight. And now the British managers, I think generally, the stock has never been lower that it is now.

"When I went to Real Sociedad in 1985, I remember Terry Venables was at Barcelona, Howard Kendall was at Bilbao, Jock Wallace was down at Seville, Colin Harrison was at Cadiz. Ron Atkinson at Atletico Madrid. There were five or six of us in La Liga. Now? You can't find anyone.

"I mean people getting involved with football over the past 15 years would find that one hell of a statistic. I look at Eddie Howe at Bournemouth and I see how really well he's doing, but then I look elsewhere and all foreigners, all from abroad, so it's looking pretty bleak for the English or British football manager."

Toshack's last coaching stint with Tractor Sazi in the Iranian Super League ended after three months, and when asked where he's off to next, the 69-year-old replied: "The old age pensioners cue I think [laughs]. I have to be honest with you, I'm 70 next Thursday and some of these old war wounds are catching up. I think you have to be honest with yourself.

"I do find things a lot more difficult, obviously, than I did years ago. You never say never, but I have to admit that the game has changed an awful lot as well. I would have to say that particularly the last job I had, in Iran, which was going to be difficult anyway, you know, you can't pull the wool over people's eyes.

"I've been 40 years now, that's a long, long time. I went into management when I was very young, I was just 29 years of age when I left Liverpool and started at Swansea and I've seen an amazing change in football, football clubs. And I've just been very, very lucky to travel the world while being paid for something I would have done for nothing. Its just the love of the game. I certainly can't complain."

If you want to read more about John's incredible career, you can purchase Toshack's Way: My Journey Through Football, by clicking on the link here.

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Andrew Maclean
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