TOM’S BRAD ALL OVER AT WALES CALL
TOM BRADSHAW has targeted a place in Chris Coleman’s Euro 2016 line-up after being called up to the Wales senior squad for the first time on Wednesday.
The Walsall striker is in line to make his debut against World Cup semi-finalists Holland next week after an impressive start to the season which has seen him notch nine goals for the League One leaders.
Bradshaw was called into the squad as Gareth Bale’s replacement after the talismanic forward was withdrawn by Real Madrid, and the former Shrewsbury man knows he has big boots to fill.
“I think I could earn a living inside Gareth Bale’s shoes, they are that big!” joked the 23-year-old. “I’ll be going there to enjoy the experience and if I get a chance, I’ll do my very best to take it.”
Bradshaw has been on standby for the senior squad for the past year and explained his feelings in the aftermath of being told he would join up with Coleman’s history makers.
“My initial reaction was one of shock, I have been on standby quite a few times so to be involved in the actual squad was a feeling that I’ll take to the grave,” he said.
“I got the initial call off the gaffer here (Dean Smith). He called me at about nine o’clock to tell me that I was in the squad. Obviously, after that I called all my family but it was kept under wraps until the official release at 12.
“Once 12 o’clock came my phone was going off the chain!”
And Bradshaw is hoping for another momentous phone call next summer to notify him of his inclusion in Wales’ 23-man party heading for France.
But the level-headed frontman knows he will have to continue the tremendous form of the past 18 months, which has seen him score 29 times in 56 appearances for the Saddlers, if he is to join the likes of Bale and Aaron Ramsey in taking on Europe’s elite next June.
“I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing, keep striving to improve and just give everything I can,” he added. “If I can get on the plane then that will obviously be a very, very good day for me.”
Bradshaw has represented the Dragons at U19 and U21 level and will be able to catch up with some old friends when he joins up with the senior team next week.
“I know quite a few people through the under-21s.,” he said.
“I was roommates with Jonny Williams in Montenegro, also Danny Ward and Emyr Hughes, who was my roommate in Armenia, so I’ll know quite a few of the lads before I get there and it will be good to catch up with a few.”
Bradshaw’s friends and family have trotted around the globe to watch the Shrewsbury-born forward represent his country at youth level, and he will again be able to count on their support in Cardiff next week.
“There’s going to be quite a few there but that’s not unusual!” said Bradshaw, who hit the magic 20goal mark for Walsall last season. “The majority of them come week in week out.
“A lot of my friends are from Wales and they were all going to the game before they even knew that I was in the squad so hopefully they will enjoy it a little bit more now.”
But Bradshaw isn’t the only Walsall player whose name is currently on the lips of every Welsh football fan. His teammate Jason Demetriou scored the goal that secured Wales’ qualification for their first major tournament since 1958.
Demetriou’s winning goal against Israel ensured Wales progressed to the Euros despite losing to Bosnia and Herzegovina last month, an achievement that Bradshaw knows will be hard to emulate.
He added: “He did brilliantly when he went away with Cyprus and obviously his goal took Wales to the Euros so that will always be remembered, it will take some going to beat that!”
DESERVED: Striker Tom Bradshaw has finally got his Wales call-up after starring for Walsall