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Football: Savage says Hughes is worthy of top award.

ROBBIE Savage says Wales soccer boss Mark Hughes deserves to pick up the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year Award at a star-studded evening in Cardiff on Monday. The event at St David's Hall will hold a host of Welsh sports greats and Savage will be attending the event to support the national manager, who is the hot favourite to land the main prize.

After an unprecedented year for Welsh football, Hughes & Co are heading Group Nine in the 2004 European Championships after wins over Italy, Finland and Azerbaijan. Wales also beat 2002 World Cup finalists Germany with the only goal coming from debutant Rob Earnshaw and earned creditable draws with Argentina, the Czech Republic and Croatia.

Hughes' side have put together an unbeaten eight-match run having previously gone 12 games without a win, while avoiding defeat in next month's home friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina will set a nine-game record without defeat.

``Sparky is incredible,'' said Savage. ``Every detail is covered both on and off the field and that can only come from playing at the highest level.

``The players have the utmost respect for him and Monday should be a fitting tribute to a man who has turned Welsh football on its head over the last year or so.''

Among the other contenders for the award are Ryder Cup golfer Phil Price, athletics legend Colin Jackson and Commonwealth Games cycling gold medallist Nicole Cooke.

Welsh-based bookmakers Jack Brown have already decided to pay out on Hughes taking the accolade, although voting is still continuing.

# Hughes yesterday sealed his future as Wales manager by handing over a signed four-year contract to FAW chief David Collins, who said: ``It's great news for everybody.''

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SAVAGE Backing Hughes.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Jan 11, 2003
Words:287
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