Bale boost as Page ponders Qatar options

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Wales boss Robert Page will have been pleased to see Gareth Bale back amongst the goals recently with a crucial header to help Los Angeles FC lift the MLS Cup. The return to action of Wales’ main hope could not have been better timed.

Page is due to announce his World Cup squad this week. The presence of Welsh superstar Bale will be crucial to Welsh success one feels. Gametime has been in short supply for the former Galactico however, as the Welsh public keep their fingers crossed as to his fitness.

Page will name a 26-man squad for Qatar. He faces some tough decisions.

Between the sticks, we can expect to see both Danny Ward of Leicester City and Wayne Hennessey of Notts Forest occupy seats on the plan to Qatar. Hennessey has been a wonderful servant to Wales down the years but Ward’s recent contribution to the Foxes’ revival may see him as first choice to keep goal in the tournament.

Page has a decent selection available to him at the back, with Premier League stars Ben Davies (Spurs) and Chris Mepham (Bournemouth) certain starters you would think. Expect places on the plane too for Connor Roberts of Burnley, Joe Rodon of French outfit Rennes and Forest’s Neco Williams.

Page faces one or two selection headaches when it comes to defensive back-up, however. Swansea City’s Ben Cabango has a strong case to fly out with the squad but Chris Gunter of AFC Wimbledon may need to watch the tournament from home unless Page chooses to draw on the experience gained from his 109 caps.

Rhys Norrington-Davies misses the tournament after a recent long-term injury playing for Sheffield United. The tough Blade will be sorely missed.

Alongside Bale, Wales other genuine star name is that of Aaron Ramsey, who now turns out for OGC Nice in France. The former Gunner has struggled for fitness in recent years, however. On his day, Ramsey can light up any game. The lack of match fitness will be a major concern for Page though as he ponders his midfield choices.

Evergreen Joe Allen has also been side-lined with injury of late, bringing further anxiety for Welsh supporters. A Wales side without a fully fit Bale, Ramsey and Allen would make Qatar a very tough tournament.

It is not all injury worry for Page though. Dan James, Harry Wilson and Brennan Johnson have all seen plenty of Premier League action recently while Kieffer Moore will also look to continue his recent run of PL form in Qatar. Mark Harris of Cardiff City and Swansea City’s Ollie Cooper have also put in some goalscoring Championship performances recently.

Cardiff’s Rubin Colwill – seen by some as the heir to Ramsey’s crown – is struggling to return to first team action but could find has way into Page’s pack as a ‘wildcard’ choice.

Tougher decisions linger around Jonny Williams and Dylan Levitt. Page may feel that the step-up from Swindon Town and Dundee United respectively is too big an ask. Ethan Ampadu has been an important player for Wales though. His versality should ensure his seat on the plane. Sorba Thomas and Wes Burns have also probably done enough to merit selection.

All will be revealed on 9 November in the unlikely surroundings of Tylorstown Welfare Hall. It is a great touch from the Football Association of Wales to take this important occasion out into a community, where Page himself was raised. A mix of media opportunities have been provided around the announcement. Prost will be in Tylorstown to cover all the excitement.

 

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