Teenage Liverpool striker Ben Woodburn has been handed his maiden international call-up from Chris Coleman for Wales’ World Cup qualifier with the Republic of Ireland on March 24.
Woodburn has broken into the first team at Anfield this season, becoming Liverpool’s youngest debutant and goalscorer in November.
The 17-year-old had reportedly been the subject to a ‘tug-of-war’ with England following his emergence but Coleman has moved quickly to keep Woodburn within the Wales system – where he has been since the age of 13.
“He’s been a Wales international from a young boy and we expected him to be involved going forward. There will be no knee jerk reaction to cap him,” Coleman told a media conference.
“This is his natural progression. He is there on merit.
“When people got excited a few months ago when he burst on the scene and saying we should look at him — we’ve been looking at him for five years.
17y 45d – Ben Woodburn is the youngest player to score for a competitive goal for a PL team this season (v Leeds in the EFL Cup). Dragon. pic.twitter.com/99oQxo7Aef
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 16, 2017
“He’s playing for Liverpool, training with international players every day.
“Technically he’s very good, he’s performing at one of the biggest clubs in football, he’s had a bit of game time. The players in the Premier League, the top level, the transition to international football is a smoother one.
“He won’t be daunted coming to us, he’s training with the biggest players every day.”
Woodburn will feature alongside Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in Wales’ latest 23-man squad after they both returned from recent injuries with their clubs.
— Wales (@FAWales) March 16, 2017
“We looking forward to working with him [Bale] and Rambo [Ramsey] again,” Coleman added.
“They are players that would grace any team. We’re lucky they’re Welsh and so passionate about playing for us.”
Coleman has also included 23-year-old Tom Lawrence and Barnsley striker Tom Bradshaw in his selection as Wales look to end a run of three successive draws in Group D.
Heading into their fifth match of qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia Wales sit third on six points, four adrift of leaders Ireland.
Wales squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Owain Fon Williams
Defenders: Ashley Williams, Chris Gunter, Neil Taylor, James Collins, Joe Walsh, Shaun Macdonald, Ben Davies, James Chester
Midfielders: Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey, Andy King, Joe Ledley, Jazz Richards, David Edwards
Forwards: Gareth Bale, Sam Vokes, Tom Lawrence, Tom Bradshaw, Ben Woodburn, Hal Robson-Kanu