WALES CALL IS IN MAX’S SIGHTS
PATIENT Chris Maxwell had to wait almost two years before making his Fleetwood Town debut, but – having more than made up for lost time last term – he now harbours hopes of breaking into a Wales squad on the brink of making history.
Maxwell, once farmed out on loan to Wrexham and Cambridge United, is now regarded so highly at Highbury that manager Graham Alexander said he had all the quality required to play for Wales following his penalty save that rescued a point in last weekend’s draw with Rochdale.
The 25-year-old – who also qualifies to play for England and Scotland through his family heritage – has represented Wales from U17 through to U23 level.
He has been on Chris Coleman’s radar, but narrowly missed out on making the squads for the last three European Championship qualifiers, with uncapped duo Owain Fon Williams and Danny Ward preferred alongside regular No.1 Wayne Hennessey.
But a chance to be part of a Wales squad set to compete at a major international tournament for the first time in 58 years is a carrot currently dangling.
And Maxwell wants to be part of it. “I’ve played for every youth team in the Wales set-up, so I would like to think I have the quality to play for the seniors,” said the former Wrexham stopper.
“The team is doing really well, they have a fantastic chance to qualify for the finals and of course it would be a dream to be involved.
“But my job is to play well for Fleetwood, to perform here and help us pick up points and then I’ll see what chances might come along.
“My mum’s side of the family are all from Wales and I was born there, so it was natural for me to play for Wales rather than England or Scotland. “Ryan Giggs and Neville Southall were my heroes when I was growing up.
“But I’m not anti-England. I support them at World Cups and I’m a Manchester United fan, so I guess I’m a proud Brit as well as a proud Welshman.”
The Maxwell appreciation club seemingly extends throughout Fleetwood.
In May he was named player of the season by both his supporters and his peers, while he was also voted community player of the season for his work outside of Highbury.
This term he has been named the club’s education ambassador, visiting schools to talk to youngsters in the seaside town and, while he’s there, convince a few to swap tangerine for red.
“It’s important to be a good role model, especially in Fleetwood, which is very small. It feels like a bottleneck, everyone knows everyone,” he said.
“So it’s important that we do good things. Myself and a lot of the players have visited schools and that might even help build the fan-base.
“Blackpool are the massive team here, but Fleetwood are slowly catching them.
“We want to make sure kids choose the right paths when it comes to education.
“We all know kids can be easily influenced, so it’s down to us as role models to try and influence them in the right way.”
And that is also something he has been doing on the pitch since being recalled from his loan at Cambridge in January 2014.
He adds: “I’m a firm believer that if you work hard and keep your head down then you will almost certainly do well.
“I had faith in what was being said by the people around me – faith that what they were saying was true – so there was no reason to say I wanted to leave.
“I took on board what the manager and the goalkeeping coach wanted me to work on in training.
“And the gaffer let me go out on loan a couple of times to gain minutes, so it has felt like I was working towards this.”
EURO DREAM: Welsh-born Chris Maxwell is a favourite with the players and fans at Fleetwood for his saves, inset