Rob Page: Harry Wilson has been one of Wales’ main men since Gareth Bale retired
Phil Blanche, PA Sport
Harry Wilson is driving Wales’ bid for Euro 2024 success after emerging from the shadow of Gareth Bale, says manager Rob Page.
Wilson kept Wales’ hopes of automatic qualification alive by scoring twice in last month’s stunning 2-1 win over World Cup semi-finalists Croatia, 10 years to the day since becoming his country’s youngest-ever male player at the age of 16 years and 207 days.
Former captain Bale scored a record 41 goals for Wales before retiring from football in January.
“H has been around for a long time,” Page said ahead of Wales’ final Euro 2024 qualifiers against Armenia and Turkey that will determine whether they can secure a top-two spot in Group D and avoid the play-offs in March.
“Because of the players we had available before in Gareth, Joe Allen and Jonny Williams, perhaps he looked at it, and he was turning up and feeling he was a squad player.
“We had a chat with him in the summer and said: ‘You are no longer that person or player. You are a big player for us. Look at what you are doing at club level’.
“Go back about 12 months ago, he would turn up and expect to be part of the squad, or if he started he would be substituted on the hour mark.
“But the mentality has changed now. He’s playing in the Premier League, scoring goals and creating chances.
“When he plays for us now he’s one of the main men and showed that in the last game. I don’t expect him to come in and just accept playing for 55, 60 minutes.
“I want him to have that mentality that he is one of our top players now and he is going to go and win games for us.”
Wilson won his 50th cap against Croatia and his first international double took him to eight goals for his country.
The Liverpool product is also benefiting from being settled at Fulham after loan spells at Crewe, Hull, Derby, Bournemouth and Cardiff earlier in his career.
Page said: “He has stepped up to the plate. I’m so pleased for him because he’s not just a good player, he’s an absolute diamond of a kid.
“I said to the young lads up in Wrexham for the Gibraltar game: ‘Just watch him warm up’. Everything he does is to the nth degree.
“He’s the nicest fella you will ever meet off the pitch, but when he crosses that line he’s a model example of what you would want a modern footballer to look like.
“You can see why he has had the career he has and why he is playing in the Premier League, and why he is now getting the plaudits that he has got for us.”
Wales will qualify automatically for next summer’s European Championship in Germany by beating Armenia in Yerevan on Saturday and Turkey in Cardiff three days later.
Page’s side are guaranteed a play-off place through their top-tier status in the last edition of the Nations League.
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