Football: Blake's Welsh call-up

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(First Edition)

HAVING just been elevated to the ranks of Premiership players, Nathan Blake now has the chance to launch his international career. Sheffield United's new pounds 500,000 signing from Cardiff City is one of two uncapped players in the Welsh squad named to face Norway in a friendly international at his former home ground, Ninian Park, on 9 March.

It is the first international selection made by John Toshack since he replaced Terry Yorath as the manager of Wales. However, since the former Liverpool striker's primary concern is his job as coach of the Spanish club, Real Sociedad, much of the scouting work that led to these choices will have been done by Toshack's No2, the former Wales manager, Mike Smith.

Blake, 22, who has represented his country at B and Under-21 level, will be joined in the squad by his former Cardiff team-mate, the 21-year-old uncapped defender, Jason Perry. The Luton Town midfielder, Ceri Hughes, who has made just one appearance at senior level as a substitute, is also called up.

However, two experienced defenders who have not found favour with the new regime are the Swindon Town full-back, Paul Bodin, who missed a crucial penalty in the World Cup qualifying game against Romania in November, and the Norwich City defender, Mark Bowen.

Blake found himself in the national spotlight this season when his brilliant goal for Cardiff knocked Manchester City out of the FA Cup. He joined Sheffield United last week. Hughes, who has been in impressive form for Luton this season, made his substitute appearance in the 4-0 friendly defeat in the Netherlands in May 1992.

WALES SQUAD (Friendly international v Norway, Ninian Park, Cardiff, 9 March): Southall (Everton), Roberts (Queen's Park Rangers); Melville (Sunderland), Young, Coleman (both Crystal Palace), Blackmore, Giggs, M Hughes (all Manchester United), Phillips (Nottingham Forest), Perry (Cardiff City), Symons (Portsmouth), Horne (Everton), Speed (Leeds United), Goss (Norwich City), C Hughes (Luton Town), Blake (Sheffield United), Rush (Liverpool), Saunders (Aston Villa).