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Airbus UK Broughton: New Wales boss Chris Coleman faces fans’ questions at Wings Club

ABOUT 100 football fans turned out to quiz the new Wales boss in Broughton.

Dozens of supporters braved the wintry conditions which had put paid to Airbus’s scheduled home clash with Port Talbot to hear Chris Coleman talk about his career as a player and manager, at Broughton Wings Sports and Social Club on Sunday.

The 41-year-old, who was appointed successor to the late Gary Speed last month, took questions from Match of the Day commentator Ian Gwyn Hughes – the FA of Wales’ head of public affairs – before the floor was opened up for fans to put him on the spot.

The Wales manager, who is touring the Principality for a series of FAW roadshows, revealed that his first contract at Swansea was worth just £27.50 a week.

He went on to play almost 200 times for his hometown club and credits his first boss Terry Yorath, who also managed the national side, as the driving force in his early career.

“He turned me into a man,” Coleman told fans. “I have some very happy memories of those days.”

Coleman later played for Crystal Palace, Blackburn and Fulham, before his playing days came to a premature end at the age of 31 after he suffered serious leg injuries in a horrific car crash.

“In a matter of 24 hours my world was turned upside down and I was told I might never walk again, let alone play,” said Coleman, who also revealed at one stage it was ‘50-50’ whether his leg would have to be amputated.

The national boss said Fulham manager Jean Tigana, who replaced in the Craven Cottage dug-out at the age of 32, was the biggest influence on his career as he made the transition from player to coach to manager.

Coleman also defended his own managerial record, which was described by one Press commentator recently as ‘chequered’, pointing out he kept Fulham in the Premier League for four years on a restricted budget and claiming he was the victim of broken promises on his transfer budget at Coventry.

He left Greek side Larissa to replace Speed, and said financial problems which led to players and staff – including himself – going months without a pay cheque made his position untenable.

Coleman, who also managed Real Sociedad, recalled fondly the ‘special camaraderie’ in the Wales changing room during his playing days, and reserved special praise for former team-mates Dean Saunders, the ex-Wrexham boss, and Flintshire’s Liverpool legend Ian Rush, who he described as ‘a national treasure’.

When asked about Neville Southall, the country’s most- capped player, Coleman said: “He was a big character, but we all feared Nev.

“He was probably two or three chromosomes away from being a serial killer,” quipped Coleman “but he was the best goalkeeper of his generation.”

Coleman was also eager to pay tribute to his popular predecessor Gary Speed, whose father Roger was in the audience.

He also said he was ‘optimistic’ Craig Bellamy would make himself available for Wales’ 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.