By Tom Jenkins
Hal Robson-Kanu has paid thanks to Slaven Bilic for making him a recall option for Wales again at this year’s Euro 2020 finals.
The 30-year-old striker has become the central figure in West Brom’s revitalised promotion surge and underlined his influence for the Championship leaders with two goals in their 3-0 victory at Bristol City at the weekend.
The Baggies are now nine points clear of third-placed Fulham after going seven matches without a win at the turn of the year.
The resurgence has coincided with Robson-Kanu coming in from the wing to play as target man – a call his manager Bilic made and which has provided 13 points from a possible 15.
“The manager had seen enough that that was my best position, leading the line and playing down the middle,” says Robson-Kanu, one of the heroes of Wales’ Euro 2016 campaign.
“For me personally I want to keep doing what I’m doing. There is a massive desire in the group to keep picking up points.
“I’ve always been confident in my ability – at what I can bring to the team but it’s not about me, it’s about the squad and the group and about maintaining this level of performance.”
Robson-Kanu opted to call time on his international career back in 2018 following the birth of his third child.
But man who scored one of his country’s most famous goals to help beat Belgium four years ago and who is enjoying the most prolific season of his career, told Wales manager Ryan Giggs he would like to be considered for selection again.
Your country’s most iconic EURO goal is…
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) February 13, 2020
That met with a lukewarm response from Giggs, who insisted there would be a lot to consider before recalling a player who had previously made himself unavailable for his country.
But Robson-Kanu is undeterred and believes he is playing the best football of his life. He even recently expressed a desire to help Wales not just this summer, but in the campaign to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
“To be involved in a Wales squad that achieves World Cup qualification would be something I have not achieved yet,” he said.
“We should have done it [qualified] in 2018 so from my perspective the Euros are coming up and there’s a squad that have got them there and I respect that.
“I spoke to Ryan at the back end of last year before Wales had qualified. When I retired he had said to me, “the door will remain open”. At the time, [West Brom] had just been relegated from the Premier League, my wife had just had our third child and I had business commitments so I needed to take a step back.
“It was a difficult decision but now I feel in a much, much better place. It was an absolute privilege to play for my country and I wanted to be available for future campaigns. If the opportunity does arise in the summer, I would 100 per cent be ready.
“I’ve never felt fitter or stronger. From that perspective, I’m ready to give more and if the nation needs me, it’ll be a privilege to play.”
At Ashton Gate, Robson-Kanu gave his former Wales teammate Ashley Williams an uncomfortable time.
It was Williams’ error that enabled Ronson-Kanu to score his second and Albion’s third goal just moments after they had been reduced to 10-men with the 77th minute dismissal of Romaine Sawyers.
The midfielder was shown a straight red card for putting his hand to the throat of Jamie Paterson, leading to a riotous bust-up between the two dug-outs.
Robson-Kanu celebrated by running directly back to the touchline, but claimed there was no malice.
“I was just going to our bench to celebrate,” he insisted.
“Emotions were running high after losing a man but more importantly we got the three points.
“The boys have shown a mentality, a desire and commitment all season.To get three goals away from home, a clean sheet, and with a man down, just shows the mentality of the group.
“The sending off is just part and parcel of football. Unfortunately, sometimes you lose a man when the emotions are running high and there is a massive commitment.”