Rob Page has handed Huddersfield Town’s Sorba Thomas a call-up to the Wales squad as they will have to make do without influential captain Gareth Bale.
Bale picked up a grade three hamstring injury - the second-worst injury in the muscle possible in training with Real Madrid - and will miss their crucial away double-header with the Czech Republic (October 8) and Estonia (October 11).
The 32-year-old would have been in line to make his 100th cap but will now have to wait until November’s final round of qualifiers at least to make his landmark appearance with his status for that one touch-and-go.
“It’s a blow for me and it’s a blow for the supporters but it gives other people an opportunity to step up to the plate and show us what they can do,” said Page on the matter.
“Gareth Bale is a special player, he will be missed. We can’t cry about it, we have got to get on with it being in a positive frame of mind with two tough games coming up.”
As Wales shuffle the pack, Rob Page will have a new card from his sleeve. In the absence of Bale, he has called up in his place the uncapped Sorba Thomas, who qualifies through his Newport-born mother.
Thomas, 22, has had a whirlwind year, having moved from the non-league with Boreham Wood to the Championship with Huddersfield Town.
Last month, he won the Championship Player of the Month for his four assists and one goal, which has caught the attention of the Wales setup.
Page has yet to speak personally with the Terriers attacker but has attended a number of matches in which he has played in and has planned a brief chat for later today.
The Wales boss said: “I’ve been watching him play a few times now and I’ve been really impressed. He has shown that he has a great attitude and outlook.
“He dipped in and out of the Championship at the back end of last season, this season he has hit the ground running.
“I’ll have a brief conversation welcoming him to the group and I’ll say not to just turn up and make up the numbers but instead make a name for himself.”
Reacting to his call-up Thomas tweeted “DREAM HAS BECOME A REALITY,” highlighting his excitement to play on the international stage.
Experience will also be needed in these two crucial qualifiers which is why Aaron Ramsey has been called upon. The Juventus midfielder pulled out of the last squad with a thigh injury but after some game time for the early season Serie A strugglers, it is hopeful he could play his first part in this campaign.
Ramsey played in all four of Wales’ EURO 2020 campaign this summer after putting together his own personal fitness team.
Something similar could be used ahead of the upcoming camp, his national team manager revealed: “There are things in place to get him in the best possible shape that he needs to be in like he was for the Euros.
Also returning is right-back Connor Roberts is included for the first-time since his move to Burnley as he missed the last international period due to an injury he sustained at EURO 2020.
The 26-year-old has yet to make his competitive debut for the Clarets but has played in Under-23s matches in his road to recovery.
Neco Williams, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury, is included, despite not featuring for Liverpool so far.
Albeit the absence of Bale, Rob Page has a good set of players to choose from ahead of linking up on Sunday
A new captain will need to be decided on as since Ashley Williams’ retirement, Bale has been the obvious replacement, but there are a number of experienced players in contention to don the armband.
“I pretty much have got in my head who the captain is going to be but I’m not going to announce that now,” said Page.
“We’ve got good lads like Chris Gunter, Aaron Ramsey), Danny Ward and Ben Davies. I’ve got a good group of senior lads, anyone could step up to the plate and wear the armband with pride.
In the past, Bale has mingled with the players and attended matches when he has been unable to train or play.
With COVID-19 still a part of everyday life and the logistical complications it causes, it has been decided Bale will remain in Spain this time around but will still play some part in engaging with the squad.
“He’ll be in contact with the players because I know him as a person, he’ll be face-timing Wayne Hennessey because they’re best mates and roommates.
“In regards to him coming over, before COVID I would have absolutely encouraged and made him a part of it but with COVID it causes more complications, so we unfortunately won’t be able to do that.”
Wales squad in full to face the Czech Republic and Estonia:
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Burnley), Danny Ward (Leicester City), Adam Davies (Stoke City)
Defenders: Chris Gunter (Charlton Athletic), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Connor Roberts (Burnley), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town), Neco Williams (Liverpool), James Lawrence (FC St Pauli), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield United)
Midfielders: Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Joe Allen (Stoke City), Jonny Williams (Swindon Town), Ethan Ampadu (Venezia, on loan from Chelsea), Harry Wilson (Fulham), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Joe Morrell (Portsmouth), Matthew Smith (Hull City, on loan from Manchester City), Dylan Levitt (Dundee United, on loan from Manchester United)
Forwards: Daniel James (Leeds United), Kiefer Moore (Cardiff CIty), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United), Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest), Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City), Mark Harris (Cardiff City), Sorba Thomas (Huddersfield Town)