Gwent ace gets Wales call after helping Bristol Rovers to remarkable promotion

·3-min read
PROSPECT: Welsh defender Luca Hoole challenges Jamille Matt in Bristol Rovers’ clash with Forest Green
PROSPECT: Welsh defender Luca Hoole challenges Jamille Matt in Bristol Rovers’ clash with Forest Green

GWENT defender Luca Hoole has earned his first Wales Under-21s call-up after helping Bristol Rovers to promotion from League Two.

The 19-year-old has been named in Paul Bodin’s squad for the Euro 2023 qualifiers against Holland and Gibraltar next month.

Newport-born Hoole, who was in the year below Dragons centre Aneurin Owen at Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool, has enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Gas.

The right-back signed a two-year contract extension with Rovers at the start of February and then helped the club enjoy a remarkable charge to promotion.

Hoole, who was denied a last-gasp leveller by a stunning Nick Townsend save in the 1-0 defeat to Newport County AFC at Rodney Parade, made 29 appearances and scored in the 1-1 draw with Exeter City.

South Wales Argus: DENIED: Luca Hoole almost levelled for Bristol Rovers at Newport County but was denied by Nick Townsend
South Wales Argus: DENIED: Luca Hoole almost levelled for Bristol Rovers at Newport County but was denied by Nick Townsend

DENIED: Luca Hoole almost levelled for Bristol Rovers at Newport County but was denied by Nick Townsend

The defender, already a Wales Under-19 international, has been on the books in Bristol since he was 11 and made his debut in the EFL Trophy in 2019.

Hoole will head off for international duty then have a brief break before returning to prepare for League One football with Joey Barton’s side.

He joins Dan Barden in the Wales squad after the Norwich goalkeeper was selected seven months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Barden had surgery to remove the tumour following his diagnosis which was made while on loan at Scottish Premiership side Livingston, and he underwent a course of chemotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

The 21-year-old had three-week treatment cycles in London before Christmas, and he has now been given the all clear to rejoin Paul Bodin’s squad for Euro 2023 qualifiers against Holland and Gibraltar next month.

“Initially I thought it would be nothing more than a cyst but when I was told it was a tumour and I would need surgery, there’s not much that can prepare you for that,” Barden said in an interview with the official Norwich website.

“One of the important things I’ve been told numerous times is that I caught this about as early as was possible, which is hugely important in terms of prognosis.

“Looking back on everything that has happened, I feel more at ease and relaxed.”

Barden’s condition was made public just days after it was announced that senior Wales international David Brooks had been diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin lymphoma.

The world of football rallied around the two players, including the entire Liverpool squad who sent a message of support by holding up their shirts at the club’s training centre.

Bournemouth forward Brooks, 24, announced he was cancer free earlier this month, although it is not known when he will return to action.

Wales face Holland on Saturday, June 11 and Gibraltar on Tuesday, June 14 (both kick-offs 5pm) at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli.

Squad: D Barden (Norwich), L Webb (Shelbourne, on loan from Swansea), N Shepperd (Dundalk), L Hoole (Bristol Rovers), O Beck (Liverpool), F Stevens (Brentford), R Astley (Everton), Z Ashworth (West Brom), T Taylor (Burton), O Hammond (Nottingham Forest), E Thorpe (Luton), T Sparrow (Stoke), E King (Cardiff), E Turns (Brighton), J Connolly (Cardiff), S Pearson (Bristol City), J Adams (Dundalk), R Hughes (Everton), J Vale (Blackburn), L Jephcott (Plymouth), P Jones (Huddersfield).

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