Blake stays calm about Wales

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The Independent Online
Nathan Blake has admitted he holds little hope of winning a place in Wales' World Cup team, despite a fine start to the season.

Bobby Gould, the Wales manager, was at Burnden Park on Tuesday to see 24-year-old Blake score the goal which gave Bolton, the First Division leaders, a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the third round of the Coca-Cola Cup.

But Blake is not setting his heart on securing a berth in Wales' starting line-up - even though his prolific opening to the campaign has now realised 11 goals. "I wasn't aware of Bobby Gould being in the crowd, but it's not something that I would think about anyway," said Blake, who won a late call-up to the squad for the World Cup qualifying defeat by the Netherlands in Cardiff earlier this month, but failed to add to his six caps.

"I have to be careful what I say about Wales anyway, because things have happened that I've not really been happy about."

Blake, formerly with Cardiff and Sheffield United, could hardly have failed to have impressed Gould with an all-round display that gave Chelsea's experienced defensive trio of Frank Leboeuf, Erland Johnsen and Steve Clarke a torrid time.

With Chelsea's Mark Hughes suspended for next month's Dutch return, Blake has put himself back in the international frame in the best possible fashion.

After helping to defeat the club that once rejected him, Blake added: "Mark has got a ban for the Holland game, but there are a few other people in there was well.

"The last time I was called into the squad I was about fourth or fifth choice striker, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Dean Saunders, Wales' sole scorer in the 3-1 defeat by the Dutch, is going through a barren spell at Nottingham Forest with his goal in the draw with Derby last Saturday only his second of the season.

Ian Rush has still to open his Leeds account after his free transfer move from Liverpool in the summer and has failed to become a regular fixture in Gould's squads despite a 28-goal haul from his previous 73 appearances.

John Hartson has enjoyed a solid but unspectacular start to the season with Arsenal, while Sheffield United's Gareth Taylor is well adrift of Blake in the First Division goalscoring stakes.

Gould is well aware that Blake is the man in form and could be ready to put his faith back in the Bolton striker, who has now settled into the Burnden Park routine after a miserable time following his pounds 1.5m switch from Bramall Lane last December.

Blake scored just once in 20 League and Cup outings as Wanderers slipped out of the Premiership last season, but now he insists: "I had a difficult start, but that was because I never really felt part of the team.

"There's a much better spirit here now and everyone is getting along. That's made a big difference."