“HURT” Aaron Ramsey aims to join Gareth Bale in the 100 club after being appointed Wales captain for a second time.
Boss Robert Page picked “world-class” Ramsey over Ben Davies to replace Bale as skipper after the Dragons’ most-capped player retired on 111 appearances in January.
The Nice midfielder was stripped of the armband for Ashley Williams by Chris Coleman in October 2012 following the shock death of then Wales boss Gary Speed.
But Page reckons 78-cap Ramsey is ready to lead Wales into a new era minus record goalscorer Bale in this month’s opening Euro 2024 qualifying double-header in Croatia and at home to Latvia.
And Rambo, 32, has been tipped to become the fourth Welsh male player behind Bale, Chris Gunter and Wayne Hennessey to reach a century of caps.
Page, naming his first post-Bale squad yesterday since Wales’ dismal World Cup, said: “Aaron was vice-captain behind Gareth and it’s the natural progression. 100 caps could be a motivation. For any player you would want that milestone of getting to 100 caps.
“He deserves his opportunity. To be given the armband and then to have it taken off you would have hurt him. But he’s at the right time of his career now to go and represent Wales and lead the boys out.
“When I told him, he was elated – I know being captain means the world to him. That’s why I know he’ll step up and deliver.
“He’s arguably playing his best football at Nice. He’s still capable of winning games and helping us qualify for the Euros. I’ve got a world-class footballer and we’re going to hang on to him for as long as we can.”
Ramsey posted on Instagram last night: “I’m really honoured to be chosen to be captain of Wales. It’s an incredibly proud day for me and my family. Really excited with what the future holds and can’t wait for the new campaign to start.”
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While talisman Bale, Joe Allen, Chris Gunter and Jonny Williams ended their international careers following Qatar, Page claims there was no doubt ex-Arsenal and Juventus star Ramsey would follow suit.
Page added: “Aaron took it hard after the World Cup but there was no doubt about his future and wanting to play for Wales.”
Ramsey returned from a three week hamstring lay-off last Sunday and Page must manage both his new captain and Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson, 21, who has a groin problem.
Page said: “Can Aaron play at the top level with two consecutive games in a week? Probably not. We will have to manage that.
“There is a plan for Brennan. It’s an accumulation of fatigue after playing a lot of minutes. We will be sensible and manage his load.”
Page confirmed Bale is ‘still interested’ to be involved in some capacity – whether that is as an ambassador or cheerleader – but that will not happen this month.
Millwall striker Tom Bradshaw, 30, received a first international call-up in five years after scoring 14 goals in the Championship this season while Page has named four uncapped players in Luke Harris, Jordan James, Ollie Cooper and Nathan Broadhead.
He added: “We’ve reset and reframed after the World Cup.”
Wales squad: Hennessey, Ward, A Davies, B Davies, Rodon, Mepham, Ampadu, Roberts, Lockyer, Cabango, N Williams, Ramsey, Morrell, Wilson, James, Harris, Thomas, Burns, Moore, Johnson, James, Bradshaw, Cooper, Broadhead.