Rob Page admits Gareth Bale’s return to the Real Madrid fold is a “bonus” after the Wales caretaker manager named his 27-man squad for the upcoming international break.
George Thomas, Brennan Johnson and James Lawrence have been included, replacing Ben Cabango and Connor Roberts in the only changes from the Euro 2020 squad.
Wales travel to Finland for a friendly on September 1 before resuming their World Cup qualifying campaign against Belarus – in Russia – four days later. Page’s side then host Estonia on September 8, with all three matches live on Sky Sports.
Bale is just four matches away from reaching 100 caps for Wales, and after two starts and one goal in La Liga upon the forward’s return to Real Madrid, Page is delighted to see the Wales captain has “got the bug back” for football.
“It’s great news. You want all your players playing competitive football when they come on camp,” Page told Sky Sports News.
“To get any of your players playing week in, week out is a bonus, but when you’ve got Gareth playing now and finding he’s got the bug back again, which I saw in some of his performances for Tottenham at the back end of last season, is great news for us.”
Bale dismissed talk he would retire from international football after Wales’ last-16 exit to Denmark at the Euros, and Page said there have been no discussions with the 32-year-old regarding his future.
“Not at all,” said Page. “He’s got a hunger to play week in, week out for his club and he’s got an absolute hunger and desire to play for Wales, and as long as I can see that in his performances then there’s going to be no issues whatsoever.”
Similarly, Aaron Ramsey started Juventus’ Serie A opener on the weekend, and after he was largely overlooked towards the latter stages of last season, the fact new manager Max Allegri has made the midfielder part of his plans has also pleased Page.
“It’s great that he’s starting again and back in the thoughts of the manager which is brilliant,” Page added.
“He really impressed me in the Euros. It was the first time I really worked with him for that amount of time and I was really impressed, so for me it’s no surprise that he’s started the season well with his club.”
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Johnson is hoping to add to his two international appearances at a time when Brentford are in talks with Nottingham Forest over a deal for their young attacker.
“He’s a great player,” Page said. “If he keeps working hard and progressing then there’s exciting stuff to come from him.”
On Brentford’s interest, Page added: “When you give performances at that age like he is doing and got the attributes that he’s got you are going to be linked with clubs but he can’t let that distract him he’s got to stay focused on the job in hand and that’s playing for Forest and Wales.”
Forest want at least £10m for Johnson, despite him having played only eight times in the Championship.
The Bees are not prepared to pay that much for a player who was on loan in League One for most of last season, where he helped Lincoln City reach the play-off final.
They are considering making a bid for the Wales international, who scored 11 goals for the Imps and started Forest’s first three games of this season, before the deadline but also have other options for a new attacking-midfielder.
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Burnley), Daniel Ward (Leicester City), Adam Davies (Stoke City)
Defenders: Chris Gunter (Charlton Athletic), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur), Neco Williams (Liverpool), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town), James Lawrence (FC St Pauli), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield United)
Midfielders: Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Joe Allen (Stoke City), Jonny Williams (Swindon Town), Harry Wilson (Fulham), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Joe Morrell (Portsmouth), Matthew Smith (Manchester City – on loan at Hull City), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United – on loan at Dundee United), George Thomas (QPR), Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City)
Forwards: Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Daniel James (Manchester United), Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United)