Ashley Williams has been given backing to carry on as Wales captain – despite his current struggles at club level.
The defender who led Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 has been told by Ryan Giggs to continue in the role on the eve of the new qualification campaign for the 2020 tournament.
Williams, 34, has spent this season out on loan from Everton at Stoke City, but has recently lost his place in the Championship club’s starting line-up and began their last six games on the bench.
Williams has started 22 of Stoke’s 36 League matches so far this season, but was overlooked for a starting spot for the games against QPR, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Ipswich, Wigan and West Brom.
“He will be captain – as long as he in the squad,” Wales manager Giggs said after naming a 31-man squad to play Trinidad and Tobago in a Wrexham friendly on March 20 before starting their Euro 2020 campaign against Slovakia in Cardiff four days later.
“I think he’s enjoying himself at Stoke and the manager, Nathan Jones, is very happy with him.”
Gareth Bale has been included despite missing Real Madrid’s last game. The striker turned his ankle in the closing moments of Real’s Champions League defeat by Ajax and sat out the 4-1 La Liga win at Real Valladolid on Sunday.
Rotherham midfielder Will Vaulks is called up for the first time as James Chester and Andy King miss out through injury.
Aston Villa defender Chester has not played since the end of January because of a knee problem, while Leicester midfielder King will not play again this season after damaging an ankle during a loan spell at Derby.
“I was worried like everyone else when I saw it,” said Giggs, regarding Bale’s injury for Real Madrid.
“But it’s only a kick and he should be fine.”
Bale has been criticised in the Spanish media for his performances for Real, but Giggs expects the Wales forward to be unaffected on international duty.
“That comes with playing for Real Madrid,” said Giggs. “I played for Manchester United and you’re open to criticism when you’re at a big club. Everyone’s had it – the two Ronaldo’s had it, Gareth has had it, he won’t be the last.
“He’s won four Champions League titles, scored the winner last year, he doesn’t really need to say much more.”
The Wales boss also explained the decision behind the team training at Manchester United’s Carrington, as Colliers Park at Wrexham is not ready.
“It was a no-brainer in my head,” Giggs added. “I want the best preparation for international football. The players were unanimously behind it.”
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Adam Davies, Chris Maxwell
Defenders: Ashley Williams, Chris Gunter, Neil Taylor, Ben Davies, Connor Roberts, James Lawrence, Ethan Ampadu, Tom Lockyer, Chris Mepham, Paul Dummett, Declan John, Ryan Hedges
Midfielders: Joe Allen, David Brooks, Ben Woodburn, Harry Wilson, Aaron Ramsey, Matthew Smith, Lee Evans, Daniel James, Will Vaulks, George Thomas, Rabbi Matondo
Forwards: Sam Vokes, Tom Lawrence, Gareth Bale, Tyler Roberts