Barnsley striker Kieffer Moore has been called up to Wales’ training squad ahead of next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against Croatia and Hungary.
Ryan Giggs has taken the opportunity to introduce some new blood in the absence of a number of key players, although Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale will be present in the 26-man party.
Torquay-born Moore – whose grandmother came from Llanrug, near Caernarfon – joins several other unfamiliar names at the Algarve training camp from May 22-28, but injured pair Aaron Ramsey and Ethan Ampadu both miss out.
Juventus-bound Ramsey has not played since April 18, when he suffered the hamstring injury which prematurely ended his Arsenal career and sees him miss the Gunners’ Europa League final date with Chelsea.
Ramsey could yet feature next month as Wales manager Giggs names his squad for the qualifying matches on May 29.
Liverpool attacker Ben Woodburn and Tottenham defender Ben Davies will definitely return after their involvement in the Champions League final, which rules them out of the Portugal trip.
The training squad also includes Stoke midfielder Joe Allen, Bournemouth’s David Brooks and Swansea’s Dan James, who is understood to have agreed personal terms with Manchester United ahead of a proposed move.
Derby duo Harry Wilson and Tom Lawrence, as well as Aston Villa’s Neil Taylor, are also ruled out as they will be taking part in the Championship play-off final.
Moore, 26, has spent most of his career in the lower leagues, but he did play for Norwegian top-flight side Viking in 2015.
He scored 17 league goals this term as Barnsley won promotion to the Championship, despite missing more than two months of the season between February and April after suffering concussion.
Owen Evans, Dylan Levitt and Nathan Broadhead will also travel to Portugal after playing for Wales’ youth teams over the past 12 months, and Wolves teenager Terry Taylor, 17, is also included.
The Aberdeen-born midfielder has been capped by Wales at Under-15 level and Scotland at Under-17 level.
Wales training squad: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Owen Evans (Wigan), Adam Davies (Barnsley), Connor Roberts (Swansea), Chris Gunter (Reading), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), James Lawrence (Anderlecht), Ashley Williams (Everton), Tom Lockyer (Bristol Rovers), Joe Rodon (Swansea), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United), Ben Williams (Barnsley), Joe Allen (Stoke), Matthew Smith (Manchester City), Will Vaulks (Rotherham), Rabbi Matondo (Schalke), Daniel James (Swansea), David Brooks (Bournemouth), George Thomas (Leicester), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Sam Vokes (Stoke), Kieffer Moore (Barnsley), Nathan Broadhead (Everton), Louis Thompson (Norwich), Terry Taylor (Wolves), Ryan Hedges (Barnsley).
England manager Gareth Southgate says he would have no qualms making Raheem Sterling the national team captain if Harry Kane is unable to recover from an ankle injury in time for the UEFA Nations League semi-final.
The Three Lions face the Netherlands on June 6 in Portugal, and will have a second game, either the third-place match or the final, three days later.
Tottenham star Kane has been out since suffering an injury against Sterling’s Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final on April 9, and remains a doubt for next week’s final in the competition, against Liverpool.
The game against the Dutch will be Sterling’s 50th cap, and comes at the end of what has been a stellar season for the 24-year-old.
Sterling has scored 26 goals across all competitions, his best-ever return for a single season, and on Saturday scored a brace to help City complete an unprecedented domestic treble as Pep Guardiola’s side added the FA Cup to the season’s trophy haul of the League Cup and Premier League.
The City winger was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and also won the Football Writers’ Association award for Footballer of the Year, and Southgate is firm in his belief that Sterling would be ready to wear the armband against the Oranje.
“Raheem is in that leadership group now and he has fulfilled that brilliantly over the last 12 months in particular,” Southgate told a press conference.
“You can see his maturity now with what has happened to him on and off the pitch. I think he is realising that.
“He has risen to that challenge and embraced it and I wouldn’t have any hesitation in making him captain if that was the right thing.”
Gareth Southgate has underlined the need for change after the number of English top-flight starters reached a historic, and alarming, new low.
The Three Lions are preparing for the inaugural Nations League Finals having reached the World Cup semi-finals last summer, while the development sides have enjoyed sustained success in recent years.
But improving talent is being stymied by a lack of top-level opportunities.
English-qualified players made up just 30 per cent of starters in the Premier League during the 2018/19 season, having dropped from 33.2 per cent the previous campaign and reached the lowest figure in top-flight history.
“There’s a clear diminishing number there,” manager Southgate said.
“There’s some discussion around developing players that is important. There’s some discussion around work permits moving forwards which might affect some of that.
“The first thing we’ve got to do is arrest the slide. We have to stop that graph slipping.
“Because it isn’t correct to say we’re not developing good players. I think that’s really important.”
Southgate is not one for sweeping statements but his need to protect national team interests is understandable, especially considering just 19.9 per cent of the top-six’s starters were English-qualified players.
“The big concern for me is this graph continues to fall away and that we end up in 10 years’ time with an England manager who has got 15 per cent of the league,” he said with a wider view.
“And why wouldn’t that happen? Because it has dropped 15 per cent in the last seven or eight years, so there’s no sign of that being arrested because more money coming in, global market. That is a big danger for us.”
Brexit could provide an opportunity to help improve English opportunities, with the Football Association having proposed a way to increase homegrown playing time while ensuring the Premier League remains at the top.
The proposal would allow the league to sign the best players in the world, rather than the restrictive work permit system currently in place but keep the number of non-homegrown players at the current level of around 260.
That would mean having a maximum of 13 non-homegrown players per club – a plan which would certainly help bridge the gap that is growing.
Southgate added: “Brexit is offering an opportunity because there will have to be change.
“If Brexit happens, there will have to be change – whether people want it or not – around work permits.
“It won’t be freedom of movement for European players, so that landscape will change.
“I think the proposals that the FA have put forward have tried to balance keeping the success of the Premier League and recognising that is a product that works for us as a country.
“But we saw 40-odd million people or more enjoying last summer and the impact of the national team as well and what that can bring.
“We are trying to achieve something that not many other countries have had: a successful league and a successful national team. That’s a huge challenge.
“But I think the proposals that have been put forward have said ‘look, there’s a certain level of players that we think it shouldn’t go any further (than) and there’s got to be change so let’s have this grown-up conversation about it’.”
The FA is working with the Premier League, EFL and a range of government departments during this consultation period, which comes at a time when Southgate is keen to build from a position of strength.
He added: “I understand completely that each of the Premier League clubs is a business in its own right, with its own aims and objectives that won’t necessarily align with what the national association want.
“But our job as a governing body must be to protect the interests of both – to protect the interests of the club game but to give the national team and its importance for our people the right level of support and opportunity to succeed.
“And I think that is possible. I think you can have a successful league and a successful pathway for the national team.
“That needs grown up conversations and I think there are a lots of good people in football who are more than capable of having that – and the more we can be joined up it’s a really powerful force.”