Swans and Dragons: John Toshack

24th April 2018

In a regular website feature, we look back at former Swansea City players who have also turned out for Wales at full international level.

John Benjamin Toshack was just 16 years and 236 days old when he came off the bench for his professional debut.

He duly scored, in Cardiff City’s 3-1 win over Leyton Orient in November 1965.

By the time he moved to Liverpool in 1970, Toshack already had 162 league appearances and 74 goals under his belt.

He was also a full Welsh international, with his first appearance for the Dragons coming in March 1969 just four days after his 20th birthday, while he played four matches for Wales Under-23s between 1968 and 1969.

Toshack enjoyed great success at Anfield, winning three league titles as well as two Uefa Cups, an FA Cup and a Uefa Super Cup. He made a total of 247 appearances for the Reds between 1970 and 1978, scoring 74 goals.

His contributions were recognised in 2006, when he was listed at 34th on the Liverpool FC website poll ‘100 Players Who Shook The Kop’, which saw thousands of Reds fans vote for their favourite players of all time.

Toshack represented Wales on 40 occasions, with his first international goal coming in a 5-3 defeat to Scotland at The Racecourse in May 1969.

On his sixth appearance for the Dragons two months later, he started alongside the likes of Cliff Jones and Mike England against a Rest of the UK team in the Prince of Wales Investiture Match.

Toshack was a key member of the Welsh side that topped Group 2 in qualification for the 1976 European Championship.

He scored three goals in six matches as Mike Smith’s men advanced to the play-off round.

Back then, only the semi-finalists would appear in the final stages of the tournament, and Yugoslavia inflicted a 3-1 aggregate victory on Wales to deny them a place amongst the elite final four.

Towards the end of his international career, Toshack scored a hat-trick in Wales’ 3-0 victory over Scotland in the British Home Championships in May 1979.

To date, he is one of only 14 players to have netted three or more goals in a full international for the Dragons.

Five months later, he made his final appearance for his country in a commanding 5-1 defeat by West Germany.

By this time, the 6ft 1in striker was player-manager of Swansea City.

Toshack, who obtained his coaching badges aged just 18, famously guided the Swans from the Fourth Division to the First in the space of just four seasons.

He also achieved a sixth-placed finished with the Swans in their debut campaign in the top flight of the Football League, and for a long time it seemed they might win the title.

In all, Tosh took charge of 297 matches as Swansea manager in two different spells between 1978 and 1984, winning 116 of them, while he steered the club to three Welsh Cup triumphs.

Toshack made a worthy contribution as a player too. He scored for the Swans on the last day of two successive seasons as victories over Halifax Town (2-0 on April 29, 1978) and Chesterfield (2-1 on May 11, 1979) saw the club seal back-to-back promotions. He got 25 goals in 63 league matches for the Swans overall.

He left his role at the Vetch in October 1983 only to return a few months later.

His second spell with the club was short-lived as he departed again in March 1984.

After Swansea, Toshack travelled far and wide to take up managerial roles at some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Sporting CP, Besiktas and Saint-Etienne, while he twice held the top job at Real Madrid.

In 1994, he was appointed manager of Wales but spent just 41 days in the post, resigning after his one and only match – a 3-1 defeat to Norway.

Toshack returned to the Wales post in 2005, taking charge of 53 matches through until September 2010.

While the Dragons never achieved qualification for a major tournament under his management, there were some notable results including a 3-2 win in Northern Ireland in 2005, as well as a 5-2 thrashing of Slovakia and a goalless draw in Germany in 2007.

Toshack’s most recent managerial position came with Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca between 2014 and 2016.