Lone wolf Sam Vokes ready for crucial final qualifier
Sam Vokes has been a lone wolf at Burnley in the build up to Wales's potentially decisive World Cup Group D qualifier against the Republic of Ireland.
The striker has been well and truly outnumbered around the Barnfield Training Centre when talk turned to international football as the club’s Irish contingent showed strength in numbers.
While the confrontation has been of a light-hearted nature, the 27-year-old admits that he’s been getting it both barrels from the likes of Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Ward, Jonathan Walters and Kevin Long.
The two sides meet in Cardiff on Monday in what could transpire to be an ‘all or nothing’ scrap on the road to Russia.
Wales, who face Georgia in Tbilisi at 5 p.m. today, hold a slender advantage over their rivals, who entertain Moldova at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin at 7-45 p.m.
“We have a joke about it,” said Vokes. “It will be interesting come the last game and one I am looking forward to.
“Obviously I’m delighted. They’ve had two tough games recently. The way it is setup now is for that big one at the end but we have a big game in Georgia before that and they have a tough one.
“If it came down to that last game it’s a great one to be involved in. We are fighting for that second place and a potential play-off place.
“There’s a lot of Irish lads here. We have a good joke with them but I am sure when it comes to it in Cardiff it will be all on the line and one both sides will be looking forward to it.”
Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn has been the difference in recent outings for Chris Coleman’s Dragons and Vokes is backing the Anfield youngster to continue having an impact in this crucial cluster of fixtures.
The teenager scored the winner for his nation against Austria, just five minutes after replacing Tom Lawrence as a substitute, and he impressed again when being introduced from the bench against Moldova.
“I think he scored his debut for Liverpool and has made an impact at that level,” said Vokes. “He will be a huge player in the future for both club and country.
“Ben has been fantastic for Wales, obviously getting a goal on your international debut is huge.
“I think he might be limited to chances at Liverpool but obviously from an international point of view to come and score your first goal and in the second game get a massive assist for us was huge.
“I am sure on the international side it will be massive for Wales.
“He is a good lad. Obviously he is young and new to the squad so it’s not easy coming into a squad like that which has been together for so long.
“He has done well and we have some good young players coming through. From our point of view at Wales, he has been fantastic.”