Craig Bellamy still in Welsh plans though future is uncertain
WALES manager Chris Coleman he is still unsure whether Craig Bellamy will extend his international career into their World Cup qualifying campaign, but will continue to select the Liverpool striker as long as he is available.
It may mean the influential former Celtic forward could yet come up against Craig Levein’s Scotland when the two nations clash in their qualifier in Cardiff on Friday, 12 October, and in the reverse fixture at Hampden on Friday, 22 March next year.
Coleman yesterday named Bellamy, 32, in his 23-man squad for the friendly against Mexico in New Jersey later this month.
Bellamy had been considering calling time on his Wales career following the death of former manager and close friend Gary Speed in November.
It had been thought Bellamy’s appearance as captain in February’s Gary Speed Memorial Match against Costa Rica would mark his 68th and last cap.
But his inclusion suggests he is willing to have one final shot at guiding Wales to a major finals, although Coleman remains unsure of his long-term plans and would like Bellamy to make his intentions clear.
“I’ve included him in my squad. I wouldn’t have included him if I didn’t think he wanted to continue with us [Wales],” Coleman told a press conference. “If Craig wants to make a statement about what he intends to do maybe that will quash all the rumours.
“But he is very, very much a part of us going forward in this next campaign and we will have a better chance of doing something special with Craig rather than without him.
“Until he tells me otherwise, I’m going to continue to pick him.”
While Bellamy is included, there is no place for Aston Villa defender James Collins, who fell out of favour towards the end of Speed’s time in charge, with Cardiff’s Darcy Blake becoming the preferred defensive partner for Swansea’s Ashley Williams.
Danny Gabbidon and Rob Earnshaw also missed out on a place in the panel but Coleman insists the trio still have an international future.
“James Collins has lost his place with Ashley Williams being really the mainstay and Darcy Blake has done well at international level,” said Coleman.
“They haven’t done anything wrong there. James has had a long hard season, and he has had a few niggles.
“I know all about James. I’m not going to learn anything from him, and I’m not going to learn anything from Danny or Robert in this game.
“I may learn other things from players I don’t know so well. I spoke to Robbie and Danny and they are fine.
“It’s not me burning bridges with these experienced players. On the contrary, they are very much part of our make-up and squad going forward.”
Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was unavailable due to his torn cruciate ligament, and the absence of Boaz Myhill means Chelsea’s Rhys Taylor is handed his first call-up.
West Ham midfielder Jack Collison has also been left out as Coleman wants to give the player a rest following a demanding season.
The meeting at the MetLife Stadium will effectively be manager Coleman’s first match in charge of his country.
The former defender took a back-seat role against Costa Rica to allow assistant Osian Roberts, who had been part of the set-up under Speed, to take control of that fixture.
He has been able to name a strong squad which includes Tottenham winger Gareth Bale and captain Aaron Ramsey, both of whom are in contention for a place in the Team GB Olympic squad.
The clash with Jose Manuel de la Torre’s side will be a stern test for Wales, with Mexico lying 21 places above them in the world rankings in 20th place.
After meeting Mexico, Wales play host to Bosnia-Herzegovina in August before beginning their World Cup campaign against Belgium in September.
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