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Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Wales won't give up on Hargreaves
Wales U21 manager Jimmy Shoulder has promised not to give up on Bayern Munich youngster Owen Hargreaves - even if he makes his U21 debut with England on Thursday night.
The youngster is currently training with England ahead of their friendly with Georgia at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium, but Shoulder is still hoping to recruit him to the Welsh ranks.
He hopes that Hargreaves' years within the Welsh youth scheme and their personal friendship will eventually count for something.
It was Shoulder who flew to Munich three years ago and convinced the promising central midfielder to opt for the Welsh set-up ahead of Canada and England.
Shoulder last week took the call from Hargreaves that he no doubt had been dreading.
He said: "We have a good relationship, he rang me as a friend to ask my advice. That advice was that if he wasn't sure, he should not commit himself.
"The key really is that he wants a long-term international future, where he will get more than a couple of caps. Until he is sure of that, he will keep his options open."
But Shoulder is not bitter that England have moved to capture the midfielder - even though his English counterpart Howard Wilkinson has admitted that this week's training camp was the first time he had seen him in action.
Shoulder is hanging on the fact that Hargreaves must play in an official UEFA competition to commit himself to one country and the Georgia game is just a friendly.
Had he played in Belarus with Wales this weekend - a UEFA-sanctioned event - he would be committed to a future in the principality.
But Hargreaves' mother Margaret says she does not mind who her son eventually plumps for.
Speaking from Canada, where the family have lived for 20 years, she said:
"It would make any parent proud to see their child represent their country.
"We will support Owen no matter what he decides. We would support him first and our respective countries second."
Hargreaves' route to fame is a remarkable one. He was spotted by a Bayern scout while playing for a Calgary junior team, and invited to go to Germany.
His mum added: "When Owen first went to Munich it was difficult for both myself and his dad, and also for him. He was leaving his family and friends at just 16 and going to a different culture and language.
"But with phone, fax and now his computer, we have been able to keep in touch. He's had great support from Bayern, which has made the transition easier and given us peace of mind.
"Obviously we are very proud of him and what he has been able to achieve, he works hard and is dedicated to his career.
"He comes home about twice a year for three weeks at a time, and we only ever see him play on video. Hopefully in the future we'll be able to go to Germany to see him playing."
Victim of success
Whether that will be for England or Wales remains to be seen. Shoulder said:
"We have been a victim of our own success here because we have unearthed the lad and done all the hard work, and now England have stepped in. We would hope that eventually he will decide to play for Wales.
"We have known him and worked with him for three years, and we hope that effort bares fruit in the end. I went out to see him in Germany three years ago and he has been involved with us ever since.
"He is a very assured young man and it's clear that he won't commit himself unless there is a full cap at the end of it, and he can be sure he will not be getting just a couple of games and that's all.
"He wants a long international career, and now he has to decide which way he wants to go."
Shoulder added: "It speaks volumes for his strength of character that he was prepared to uproot from Canada and go to Germany on his own to make a career with one of the world's biggest clubs.
"He is an intelligent person with an engaging personality. He reminds me somewhat of Matthew Jones at Leeds, he is not intimidated by anyone he plays against, is dynamic and technically gifted.
"I am still hopeful that he will end up by choosing Wales. But what ever decision he makes must be the correct one for him, we will not pressure him at all."
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