LONDON — Wales began the difficult rebuilding process after the death of Gary Speed by hiring Chris Coleman as his successor as coach on Thursday.
Out of respect for Speed, who was found by his wife hanged at their home on Nov. 27 at age 42, the Football Association of Wales took its time to appoint a replacement before eventually settling on Coleman.
Capped 32 times by Wales, the 41-year-old Coleman was a close friend of Speed and played alongside the midfielder for the national team.
For that reason, Coleman said it was a "bittersweet" feeling to be handed the onerous task of carrying on Speed's impressive work from 2011, when Wales climbed from 116th to 48th in the FIFA rankings.
"I've already spoken with the FAW members this morning and I said, 'Excuse me if I don't seem that excited but I'm a little bit subdued because of the situation,'" a somber Coleman said at his presentation.
"The whole country is still shocked. I think grieving is the word. We just have to let that happen, put smiles back on people's faces and just keep on winning."
Speed lifted Welsh football out of the doldrums by adopting an attractive passing game that won the side plaudits and victories in 2011.
By finishing its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with three wins from four games, and with players such as Tottenham winger Gareth Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey in the squad, there is renewed hope Wales can qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the World Cup in 1958.
"I'd be a fool to come in here and start all over again," Coleman said. "I have already said, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' I'm not here to rip everything up but I'm my own man."
Coleman, who retired at age 32 after sustaining serious injuries in a car crash, quit as coach of Larissa on Jan. 9 because of financial problems at the Greek club.
He had moved there in May last year as he attempted to revive his managerial career after a disappointing spell at Coventry. He had previously impressed in coaching stints at Fulham and Real Sociedad.
Coleman's first game in charge is a friendly against Costa Rica on Feb. 29 — a match organized as a tribute to Speed, who made his debut against the central American country in 1990.