Hal Robson-Kanu making himself available for Wales again is great – John Hartson

By Phil Blanche, PA
PA Media: Sport

John Hartson has welcomed Hal Robson-Kanu’s decision to end his international exile and make himself available again for Wales.

Robson-Kanu called time on his 44-cap Wales career in August 2018, saying he wanted to focus on his club football at West Brom and dedicate more time to his family.

But the Euro 2016 hero has reversed that decision and told Wales manager Ryan Giggs that he is available for the next camp, whenever that may be following the coronavirus outbreak.

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Hal Robson-Kanu celebrates after scoring in the Euro 2016 quarter-final victory against Belgium (Mike Egerton/PA)
Hal Robson-Kanu celebrates after scoring in the Euro 2016 quarter-final victory against Belgium (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Hal’s put himself forward again and I think that’s great,” former Wales striker Hartson told the PA news agency.

“He deserves credit for that, he wants to help and be a part of it.

“He’s been scoring goals and pivotal to what Slaven Bilic has been doing at West Brom.

“He was getting a run of games after a few injury problems, and I think it’s wonderful for Ryan to have options.”

Former Wales striker John Hartson has welcomed Hal Robson-Kanu’s decision to make himself available for Wales again (Niall Carson/PA)
Former Wales striker John Hartson has welcomed Hal Robson-Kanu’s decision to make himself available for Wales again (Niall Carson/PA)

Giggs appeared to cast doubt on Robson-Kanu returning for this month’s friendlies against Austria and the United States – now cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak – in February.

That seemed to end Robson-Kanu’s hopes of making a dramatic return at this summer’s European Championship, four years after he etched his name in Welsh football folklore by scoring a wonder goal in the Euro 2016 quarter-final win over Belgium.

But the possibility that Euro 2020 could be postponed at a UEFA emergency meeting on Tuesday, and potentially rescheduled for the summer of 2021, could work in the 30-year-old’s favour by allowing him more time to reintegrate into the squad.

“My only issue – and I think Ryan might be thinking the same – is that he’s got the likes of Daniel James, Harry Wilson and Tom Lawrence in forward positions, as well as Gareth Bale of course and David Brooks to come back from injury,” Hartson said.

“Ryan’s been trying to nurture and bring through some of the younger ones to become future Welsh stars.

Wales manager Ryan Giggs has plenty of forward options at his disposal (Adam Davy/PA)
Wales manager Ryan Giggs has plenty of forward options at his disposal (Adam Davy/PA)

“He might feel that bringing Hal back in might hold their progress.

“But Hal’s a quality player and made himself a fans’ favourite by scoring that great goal against Belgium at the Euros in 2016.

“We want good players and you can’t have enough good players.

“He’s got good experience, but Ryan has to decide whether it halts the progress of one of his younger players.”

Christian Doidge had also been pushing his case for a Wales call-up with his form in Scotland.

The uncapped striker had scored 18 goals for Hibernian before the Ladbrokes Premiership was suspended.

“He’s a good player, a targetman type, and could be a back-up option for Kieffer Moore,” Hartson said.

“Ryan likes to play with a targetman. He played on the left with myself for Wales and (Craig) Bellamy on the right, and we had great success doing that.

Christian Doidge has scored 18 goals for Hibernian this season (Alan Rennie/PA)
Christian Doidge has scored 18 goals for Hibernian this season (Alan Rennie/PA)

“He’s a centre-forward who can get hold of it, be a link man, and get players around him.

“Moore has done that exceptionally well, not at a big club in Wigan, and all Doidge can do is impress when he gets the chance to play for Hibernian.

“I scored 110 goals for Celtic and it didn’t stop me scoring goals in the Premier League or for Wales. All Doidge has to do is stop listening to the noises that he is scoring in a poor league and carry on scoring.”

:: Former Wales striker John Hartson was launching the 2020 McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards, ran in partnership with the four home UK Fotball Associations. To nominate a grassroots football club or volunteer go to www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards.

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