Wednesday 26 October 2016

Everything you need to know about the unemployed Wales striker who sunk Belgium

Tom Rooney

Published 02/07/2016 | 13:15

Hal Robson Kanu gives a thumbs up after scoring Wales’ second goal. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Hal Robson Kanu gives a thumbs up after scoring Wales’ second goal. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

It’s not often that a relatively unknown unemployed 27-year-old is thrust into the epicentre of world football, but after his stunning strike in last night’s incredible win over Belgium, Wales’ Hal Robson- Kanu is now a bona fide star.

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Admit it, as the Welsh number nine turned the Belgium rear guard inside out by executing a sublime Cruff turn, before powering an immense finish beyond Thibault Courtois, you were not exactly sure who he was.

Indeed, aside from the Welsh faithful and fans of Reading, few could claim to be overly familiar with one Hal Robson-Kanu.

This cohesive and formidable Wales outfit, that came from behind to defeat Belgium by 3-1 and progress to the semi final of the European Championships, is synonymous with Gareth Bale and, to a lesser degree, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen.

As such, a journeyman with little recent Premier League experience would need to conjure something magical to grasp his share of the limelight.

However, Kanu’s journey to this juncture has been an interesting one and, should Wales continue to defy the odds by overturning Portugal in the penultimate round, it will become increasingly compelling.

He’s not even Welsh

As social media reacted to Wales’ win over arguably the world’s most talented side - the second time they've done so in 12 months as it happens - a number of disgruntled, begrudging English fans pointed out that all three of the Dragons’ goal-scorers were born in England.

Hailing from London, Kanu represented England right up until U-20 level before switching allegiances to Wales, for whom he qualifies through his grandmother. He won four caps for the Welsh U-21 side, scoring twice.

Last night marked his 34th appearance with the senior team and that wonderful goal was his fourth since debuting against Austria six years ago.

A Gunner once upon a time

Aged 10, Kanu joined the Arsenal academy where spent five years before being released in 2004. Later that year then Reading academy manager Brendan Rogers recruited him, and Kanu graduated to the senior ranks in 2007.

He’s been around the block

He may have looked completely at home on the turf of the Stade Pierre Mauroy last night but Kanu is more accustomed to less vaunted venues, as the attacker has had loan spells at Swindon and Southend over the last decade

His top-flight record is nothing to sneeze at

Reading have not graced the Premier League since being relegated at the end of the 2012-13 campaign. Kanu found the net seven times over the course of the season, including strikes against Arsenal and Manchester United.

In the interim, Reading have parted ways with four managers after 7th, 19th and 17th place finishes in the Championship.

He was one of many to be cut lose by Reading at the end of the season

After another disappointing showing last season, the Reading hierarchy decided to cull their squad.

Kanu was one of 11 players, including Ireland’s Simon Cox and Conor Shaughnessy, as well as Anton Ferdinand, to be told their contracts would not be renewed.

Following the dismissal of Brain McDermott, former Manchester United and Holland defender Jaap Staam was last month appointed Reading’s new manager.

His name is outrageously long

Thomas Henry Alex Robson-Kanu is quite the title.

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