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banner Monday, 13 August, 2001, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Why Hargreaves rejected Wales
Owen Hargreaves
Cold shoulder: Hargreaves started his career for Wales
By BBC Sport Online's Andrew Warshaw

The man who gave Owen Hargreaves his first taste of international football has revealed how the midfielder played for Wales before anyone in English football had even heard of him.

Jimmy Shoulder told of his involvement with a young Hargreaves, who looks set to make his full England debut in Wednesday's friendly against Holland at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.

Shoulder was technical director of the Welsh FA when he received a call three years ago from Canada, where Hargreaves was born and brought up.

"A friend of his father rang me to say that Owen had just signed for Bayern Munich. Because he had a Welsh mother, he was eligible to play for Wales," Shoulder told BBC Sport Online.

With the English FA still oblivious to Hargreaves' talents, Shoulder was on his way to Germany.

"I could have ignored the call but Bayern Munich are usually pretty good judges," said Shoulder.

I always suspected he would choose England even though I'm convinced it was the hardest decision he has ever had to make
  Jimmy Shoulder on Owen Hargreaves

"I was on a plane to Germany within two weeks and was immediately impressed with what I saw. Right from the start, he had something about him.

"It's hard enough going from somewhere like Canada to England but to move from a footballing outback to a hotbed of the game and somewhere with an alien language took courage and self-belief.

"It told me a lot about his character and dedication."

Shoulder quickly managed to persuade Hargreaves to play for Wales in three friendly matches on a short tour of Northern Ireland at the end of the 1997-8 season.

But none of them were competitive fixtures, freeing up Hargreaves to commit his future to England when the time came to make a career decision.

"In the intervening few years, I left the Welsh FA and they never followed up our option on Owen," said Shoulder.

Hardest decision

"To be fair, however, I always suspected he would choose England even though I'm convinced it was the hardest decision he has ever had to make."

The much-travelled Shoulder, who coached the Australian national team before Terry Venables, currently runs the youth academy at Sheffield Wednesday.

He is also back with the Welsh FA on a part-time basis.

"Obviously I'm pleased with what Owen has achieved even though I'm naturally disappointed for Wales," he said.

"I've never envied him his choice although it's understandable that he would want to play in the big tournaments and I suppose he's more likely to do that with England than with Wales."

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