CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 24: Wales' Wayne Hennessey during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier knockout round play-off match between Wales and Austria at Cardiff City Stadium on March 24, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Wayne Hennessey To Become Welsh Centurion . . . As Hero Neville Southall Lauds Burnley Shot Stopper’s Longevity

By David Williams

Wayne Hennessey will join the exclusive Welsh football 100 cap club when he leads the side in the friendly against the Czech Republic in Cardiff today.

It is a landmark that threatened to elude him when Leicester’s Danny Ward took his spot at last year’s European Championships. Some may have thrown in the towel, but the 35-year-old Burnley keeper wanted to keep on going, keep on striving for more caps.

It was a huge day for him when he surpassed the 92 caps won by his idol, Nev Southall. Now he will join his two great mates Chris Gunter and Gareth Bale with 100 caps.

“I’m a proud north Walian and my hero growing up was Neville Southall. I absolutely adore Nev and I thought he was one of the best goalkeepers in the world in his day,” said Hennessey.

Southall suggested this week that Hennessey could go on to win 150 caps given the longevity of goalkeepers and the way he conducts himself

“It was nice of Nev to say that and I’m going to keep going for as long as I can. I love playing for Wales,” he added.

One thing he definitely won’t be doing tonight is follow the lad of former Southampton stopped Paul Jones, who had a Welsh dragon emblem cut into his hair to mark his 50th cap. All he really wants out of the game against the Czech’s is a clean sheet!

“For me, the game is all about keeping a clean sheet and continuing to push my claim for a place in the Welsh team. If I can do that then I will have done my job,” he said.

The game will come five days after Hennessey helped Wales to beat Austria 2-1 and move one step closer to reaching the World Cup finals for the first time in 64 years. All that stands between them and a ticket to Qatar is a win over either Scotland or the Ukraine in Cardiff in the play-off final in June.

That’s why tonight’s game will be significant for Wales manager Rob Page, as well as for Ukraine. The game is being dedicated to the besieged country, with proceeds from the game being given to the DEC Ukrained appeal.

“We want to support Ukraine, so it’s a very important night for that. Then it’s Wayne’s 100th cap and also a great opportunity for me to expose some fringe players ahead of what is going to be a big month for Welsh football in June,” said Page.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Wayne as a man, a professional or as a footballer. I think he’s exceptional and he deserves all the accolades he’s going to get for winning his 100th cap.”

Bed Davies and Dylan Levitt will both miss the game, but Page hasn’t ruled out picking Hennessey’s great mate, Gareth Bale, for the game. The pair are inseparable on international duty and have been through some amazing times together in a Welsh shirt.

Bale’s two goals last week set-up potentially the biggest achievement of them all if they can reach the World Cup finals.

“I was buzzing for both Chris and Gareth when they reached 100 caps and it is going to be a very special night for me and my family. I’ll be disappointed if I let a goal in,” he added.

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