By Paul Jones
Rob Page has described the loss of “big players” Aaron Ramsey and Brennan Johnson for Wales’ vital Euro 2024 qualifier with Croatia as a “blow.
But the Wales manager is confident the pair will be fit for final group games in November.
Skipper Ramsey misses out with a knee tendon problem that has forced him to miss Cardiff’s last five games, while Tottenham’s new £47.5million forward Johnson is sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained in the north London derby draw at Arsenal.
“I don’t think the injuries are too serious but unfortunately it has put both players out of this camp,” Page said.
“It is a blow for us because they are big players for us. Aaron has probably been playing his most relaxed football, so that is an added blow.
“Brennan has picked up an injury. To what level we still don’t know yet, but it rules him out of this camp.
“In spite of the injuries, we’ve still got enough in the team from a forward perspective to create chances against Croatia.
“We are quite strong in those positions with David Brooks, Harry Wilson and Kieffer Moore.”
Brennan Johnson and Aaron Ramsey double blow, hope over November returns, Robbie Savage’s constant texting and Wrexham striker Paul Mullin on standby. Much for Wales boss Rob Page to ponder before 🇬🇮 🇭🇷 games https://t.co/BsqTbWWp57
— Phil Blanche 🏴 (@philblanche) October 4, 2023
There have been fears that 32-year-old Ramsey may require surgery after making such a promising start to the season upon returning to hometown club Cardiff.
But Page is hopeful Ramsey and Johnson will both be available for the November double-header against Armenia and Turkey, which will decide if Wales secure automatic Euro 2024 qualification or are forced to rely on the play-offs.
“To be mentioning surgery suggests it is a significant injury,” Page said. “I had injuries as a player and you can let it heal naturally or go down the surgery route.
“I would always take the option for it to heal naturally, so I get it why he’s gone down that route.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a spell of games going beyond November that he’s going to miss.
“So we’re confident that we can get him back for November’s camp providing how well he heals. But we’ll have to wait and see.”
On Johnson, Page added: “It’s not a serious one but the timing dictates it (his omission). If he’s not going to be right for Spurs, then it’s not fair for us to pick him and try and play him.”
— RobRyanRed – Wrexham AFC Podcast (@RobRyanRed) October 4, 2023
Page has handed first senior call-ups to midfielder Charlie Savage – son of former Wales international Robbie – and full-back Owen Beck, the great nephew of Ian Rush.
Uncapped Fulham teenager Luke Harris also returns to the squad, with Wales hosting Gibraltar in a Wrexham friendly, four days before the Croatia clash in Cardiff.
Asked if Savage senior, his former teammate, had been in touch, Page said: “Numerous times, I can’t get him off the phone. I’ve had to tell him: ‘Stop texting me, I know he’s doing OK.’
“You know what Rob’s like, he’s very enthusiastic, but Charlie can take care of himself.
“Look at what Rob went through when he left Man United years ago to get a career for himself going at Crewe. No different to Charlie, who has gone out to Reading where he has been playing and scoring goals.”
Wrexham striker Paul Mullin has been put on the standby list after scoring nearly 80 goals in just over two seasons for the Red Dragons, now in Sky Bet League Two after last season’s promotion from the National League.
Mullin, 28, who qualifies through his Welsh-born grandmother, has only just returned to action after puncturing a lung and fracturing four ribs on Wrexham’s pre-season tour to the United States.
Page said: “He’s on standby for the squad and one step away.
“We monitor Welsh players up and down the country, and if they are scoring goals at whatever level we’ll take note.”