Quality Not Quantity For Wayne
Welsh Euphoria Helps Fill The Gap
Gareth Bale is not alone in producing heroics for Wales at a time when he is enduring strict rationing in appearances for his club.
Less dramatically, Wayne Hennessey stepped back on to the international stage and played his part in the principality’s epic semi-final defeat of Austria in the World Cup play-off semi-final at Cardiff last night.
While the magnificent two-goal Bale’s wait for meaningful game time with Real Madrid goes on, his long-time country colleague has further diminished the notion of rustiness.
Hennessey has played three club matches this season – a brace of 3-1 defeats at Leeds and Manchester United and a Carabao Cup clean sheet at Newcastle – to go with the solitary one he played in 2020-21.
Even accepting the fact he is behind the excellent Nick Pope in the pecking order at Burnley, it is a startling lack of match practice for a man who launched his first-team career a decade and a half ago with the first of 166 outings for Wolves.
But it is a frustration he has grown used to in recent seasons. His last two full years as a Crystal Palace player brought him a grand total of only six senior outings.
Thank goodness there have been plenty of days and evenings like last night that have lifted his spirits. He has made considerably more appearances for Wales than with his employers over the last few years – powerful evidence that different national managers have not been put off by his lack of regular football.
Although he had to be content as second choice to Leicester’s Danny Ward for last summer’s European Championship finals, he has returned much more prominently this term and will be desperate, in his mid-30s, to stay in favour with manager Rob Page for the play-off final in June and possibly beyond.
Anglesey-born Hennessey has already passed Neville Southall’s record of clean sheets for the country and is closing in towards his 100th cap, some 15 years after making his debut in a friendly victory over New Zealand at Wrexham.
He has a two-year contract Burnley, where Wolves are the visitors in four weekends’ time. He was an unused substitute for the 0-0 draw between the clubs at Molineux on December 1.
Wales’s on-going success, which has them in sight of appearing in a World Cup for the first time since 1958, comes after a high number of Wolves players have appeared for them before, during or after club careers in these parts.
Eric Young, Brian Law, Iwan Roberts, Adrian Williams, Carl Robinson, Ryan Green, Nathan Blake, Rob Edwards, Freddy Eastwood, Dave Edwards, Sam Ricketts, Sam Vokes and Lee Evans are among the large group of players presumably thrilled by the latest advances made by the country they played for.
Dave Edwards was working as a co-commentator on Sky Sports’ coverage last night, with Austrian substitute Andreas Weimann another ex-Molineux man on view.