eye on the prize

'What Irish roots?’ - Coleman focused on Welsh challenge ahead of next week's clash with Ireland

The Welsh boss also explained why he’s called up Ben Woodburn.

CHRIS COLEMAN SAYS he will forget all about his Irish heritage when he leads Wales into their critical World Cup qualifier with top-of-the-table Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group B - Wales v Israel - Wales Training Session - Cardiff City Stadium Chris Coleman with his Welsh players (file photo). Joe Giddens Joe Giddens

The Welsh boss’ dad, Patrick, who died three years ago, was born in Dublin and moved to Wales when he was 20.

Coleman was born in Swansea and had the chance to play for either the land of his birth or the land of his father as he progressed through the ranks.

But the man who led Wales to the semi-finals of the European Championships in France last year, the first time they had qualified for the finals of a major championship since 1958, said there was never any chance of him choosing green over red.

“I was born in Swansea and I was never going to play for anyone other than Wales,” said Coleman, who won 32-caps at international level.

“My mother’s father was an American, so I qualified for them as well. But when we go to Dublin it will be ‘what Irish roots?’”

Wales still have to play Ireland twice before the group ends, and Coleman believes there is still plenty of time to close the four-point gap.

“This is one of the biggest games we are going to have in this campaign and we have to go into it like we always do – looking to empty the tank on the pitch and leave with no regrets,” said Coleman.

“This is only the half-way mark in the campaign and it isn’t do or die for us – I just see a huge challenge and a great game for us. We have always wanted to be involved in games like these and everyone is excited about playing at the Aviva Stadium.

“I’m very confident in my players and if we can get our best team out we are capable of finishing first or second. We are capable of producing something special to get to Russia.”

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will take their Ireland team in to action against Wales. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Coleman has included 17-year-old Liverpool sensation Ben Woodburn in his senior squad for the first time for the clash with Martin O’Neil’s Republic. Just like his manager, Woodburn can play for more than one country.

But the Welsh boss isn’t worried about England trying to pinch the latest talent to come off the Welsh junior production line.

Born in Nottingham, raised in Chester, and Welsh-qualified through his mother’s grandfather, Woodburn has been in the Welsh system since he was 13.

He became Liverpool’s youngest goal scorer when he scored against Leeds in the EFL Cup at the age of 17 years and 45 days this season and has made seven first-team appearances.

That has made him hot property, and the target for Gareth Southgate’s England age-group scouts, but Coleman remains adamant he has been picked in his 23-man squad on form alone, rather than as a carrot to keep him.

Liverpool v Burnley - Premier League - Anfield Liverpool striker Ben Woodburn. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

“Ben has been in our system for five years since he was 13. We won’t cap him because we are worried about him playing for anyone else – we expect him to be a Wales player going forward,” said Coleman.

“He has burst on to the scene, everyone has started talking about him and everyone is telling us to cap him to keep him.

“But that’s not the way to do it – I’m not looking at this game as a chance to cap him, I’m just looking for the best squad,” said Coleman.

“If Ben wanted to go and play or England there is nothing we can do about it. They aren’t our players, they are contracted to their clubs and can make their own decisions.”

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