Eardley shows mature side after drop to Wales juniors

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The Independent Football

Neil Eardley refused to sulk after he was parachuted into the Wales Under-21 squad for the double-header against Luxembourg. The Oldham full-back has nine senior caps, after progressing from a side which has produced a dozen players that are now in the senior squad.

But this week he found himself back with the juniors and produced an outstanding performance in Tuesday's group three European Championship qualifier in Llanelli

The 20-year-old opened the scoring in the 5-1 victory from the penalty spot, then produced two crosses that created goals. Eardley was initially selected for the senior squad but flown out to Luxembourg last Friday for the first meeting, which finished 0-0, to bolster coach Brian Flynn's squad, that included a batch of youngsters promoted from the under-19s.

Eardley's attitude won praise from Flynn, who said: "He never complained once. Neil is not the sort of lad to give anything less than 100 per cent, whatever team he plays for. He just wants to play for Wales, anywhere, any time. That shone through with a really strong performance in both games with Luxembourg."

The Llandudno-born defender said: "I'm not the sort of player who sulks about something like being moved from the senior squad to the under-21s at the last minute. I was flown out to Luxembourg when it was clear the seniors had enough players for the Finland game [on Saturday]. But I am happy to play for Wales anywhere, with any team. That's me; I am delighted to put on a Welsh shirt regardless. I want to play for my country – it means a lot to me.

"I've been around to see a lot of good young players come through the under-21s. Over the last few years, there has been a constant stream really. There have been people like Gareth Bale, Lewin Nyatanga and Chris Gunter – and I suppose me too – from the defence, and we have all played in the senior side. Now to see this latest batch of youngsters coming through is also very encouraging."

The Northern Ireland Under-21 manager Steve Beaglehole has praised Martin Donnelly's ability at set-pieces, after the winger changed the face of the friendly against Ukraine on Tuesday at Portadown. On as a substitute, his free-kick set up the equaliser for Chris Casement in the 1-1 draw.

Beaglehole said: "People talk about how football has changed, especially when you play against top players. But set-plays are still a massive part of the game, no matter what level you are at.

"If you have someone like Martin, who can deliver the ball into the area with that quality, you have half a chance of scoring. He made a big difference when he came on."