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Last Updated: Monday, 6 February 2006, 16:02 GMT
Hartson retires from Wales duties
John Hartson has won 51 caps for Wales and scored 14 goals
John Hartson has won 51 caps for Wales and scored 14 goals
Wales striker John Hartson has announced his retirement from international football.

The 30-year-old Celtic player issued a statement through his representatives, Stellar Group, saying he wanted to concentrate on his club football.

"It is a sad day for me because I have loved playing for my country and representing Wales," Hartson said.

"Now I have made this decision I will be concentrating my efforts 100% on doing the best I can for Celtic."

Wales manager John Toshack said he accepted Hartson's decision and understood his reasons in wanting to devote more time to his family and his club football commitments.

"John has been a great servant of the Wales side for more than a decade," Toshack said.

It is always difficult losing players with John's experience
Wales boss John Toshack

"His power in the air made him a potent force and an integral part of the side - his international career has spanned 10 years and 51 caps and that is no mean achievement for a striker."

Hartson made his Wales debut in March 1995 in an away match against Bulgaria, going on to win 51 caps in all and scoring 14 goals in the process.

"I always feel enormous pride whenever I put on a Wales shirt and will always cherish the memories of my time with the national team," Hartson added.

"I would like to thank all the managers, coaches, staff and players who have helped me during my time in the Wales team.

"Finally, I would like to wish John Toshack and the Wales squad the very best of luck in qualifying for the 2008 European Championships."

JOHN HARTSON FACTFILE
Wales caps: 51
Wales goals: 14
Wales debut: Mar 1995 v Bulgaria
Last Wales cap: Nov 2005 v Cyprus
Place of Birth: Swansea
Date Of Birth: 05/04/1975
Height: 6ft 1in
Weight: 14st 6lbs
Clubs: Luton; Arsenal; West Ham; Wimbledon; Coventry; Celtic

A bustling, physically dominating 6ft 1in centre forward, Hartson was in and out of the Wales side under manager Bobbie Gould, but was a key part of the Wales revival under Mark Hughes.

The Swansea-born player ends his international career as Wales' eighth best all-time leading goal-scorer, but has never played for his country in a major finals.

Under Hughes, Wales just missed out on a place in the 2004 European Championships, losing to Russia in a two-legged play-off.

With Toshack then taking over, and many of Hartson's contemporaries choosing that moment to retire, Wales also failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup finals in Germany.

With qualifying for the next major international tournament, the 2008 European Championships, not set to begin until next September, Hartson has decided the time is ripe to step down from the international scene.

"It would have been fantastic to reward the Wales fans with a place at a major tournament, but sadly it just wasn't to be," Hartson said.

"However, I would love to think that in the near future the side will go on to achieve some significant success."

While Toshack must now find a new focal point for his attack, the Wales boss appreciates the timing of Hartson's announcement.

"The Wales team is very much in a transitional stage at present and this decision comes at a time when we are able to react to it and plan for the new European Championship campaign that will start in the autumn," Toshack said.

"It is always difficult losing players with John's experience, but it does give us some time to look at alternatives and, naturally, it opens a place in the squad for some of the younger players."

Hartson, who joined Celtic in a 6m deal from Coventry in August 2001, has been linked with moves away from Parkhead.

But the player's agent, Jonathan Barnett, said that Hartson was keen to remain a Bhoy.

"He's certainly got a few years left of his playing career and he wants to give it all for Celtic," Barnett said.

At the minute, he is very, very happy with Celtic - he is 100% committed to the club and he loves it there.

"There's been speculation about other clubs, but I can't see anything else but Celtic at the moment."




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