Wales call in Anfield starlet Woodburn for Dublin clash
Wales manager Chris Coleman has called in Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn for next Friday's World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
But he has denied that he only drafted in the player to fend off interest from England.
Woodburn made his Liverpool debut in November and duly became the club's youngest ever goalscorer - at the age of 17 years and 45 days - when he was on target against Leeds in the EFL Cup.
"Everyone got excited six months ago when he burst on to the scene with Liverpool and scored on his debut," said Coleman.
"People said, 'You've got to get him in', but it makes me laugh. We've known about Ben for five years and he's done well this season.
"He's in there on merit - he's playing for Liverpool in the Premier League and every day he is training with international players. He has earned it.
"This is a massive game for us. I am thinking about what is the best squad to get together to meet this next challenge.
"There won't be any knee-jerk reactions to cap him. If I feel the need, if he doesn't start, and I need to make a change in the game for tactical reasons, that's what will happen.
"But it won't be because of anybody else. We see Ben as an international player for Wales.
"He has been since a boy, so this is a natural progression as far as I'm concerned, and he has a future with us."
Woodburn was born in Chester but indicated last year that he would be sticking with Wales.
Coleman praised Real Madrid for their treatment of Gareth Bale as he prepares to make his 21st consecutive competitive appearance for his country. It looked bleak for the star man when he damaged his ankle before Christmas and the early diagnosis was sceptical.
"I went to see him three weeks ago, he's fit and in good form," Coleman said.
"In fairness to Real Madrid, they've been fantastic to work with. But it probably suits me if he doesn't play (against Athletic Bilbao) on Saturday."
Meanwhile, James McCarthy is set to miss Everton's Premier League meeting with Hull tomorrow but Ronald Koeman still expects that he will be called in by the Irish camp for assessment.
McCarthy continues to be troubled by a hamstring problem and he has suffered an injury-interrupted campaign.
FIFA rules allow Ireland to bring him in for assessment and Martin O'Neill said earlier in the week that the player's realistic aim this week was to just return to training.