Earnie has rival for Wales place

PUBLISHED: 07:30 26 May 2007 | UPDATED: 10:18 14 September 2010

Canaries hit-man Robert Earnshaw completes his rehabilitation from injury this afternoon - and has issued a hands off warning to another East Anglian after his Wales international shirt.

Canaries hit-man Robert Earnshaw completes his rehabilitation from injury this afternoon - and has issued a hands off warning to another East Anglian after his Wales international shirt.

Earnshaw is expected to get at least 45 minutes when John Toshack's men take on New Zealand at Wrexham's Racecourse ground - his first international match since November.

Despite missing three months of the season with a serious groin injury, Earnshaw still finished the season with 19 Championship goals for Norwich. But while he was out Toshack went hunting for replacements - and came up with Freddy Eastwood.

The Southend striker discovered a Llanelli-born grandfather, but was then forced to withdraw from the Wales squad with a back problem.

But his shadow is still there - although Earnshaw insists he is unperturbed at the prospect of another rival for a starting place.

“No I'm not worried by Freddy, he's welcome,” he said.

“The more players we've got in our squad the better it is for us.

“Freddy's a good player. He scored goals in League One and has scored goals in the Championship - which is good. I've been impressed every time I've played against him.

“It was tough on Southend to get relegated. I don't know Freddy really, but you would think, like any player, he wants to play at the highest level, but it would of course be up to him if he does move on.

“But I'll be happy to see Freddy join up with us, the more good players we can add to the squad the better it is for Wales.

“Over the last two years, a lot of players have come in and out of the squad.

“There's been a lot of debuts, lots of players to get used to which has been hard, but it's a good thing. It's like the next generation coming through and that's quite exciting.”

Earnshaw's absence clearly played a part in City's poor season - he had 17 goals on his card before injury struck on the Colney training grounds in January, adding two more in the final five games of the season.

“The second half of the season was disappointing for me. Getting an injury like that when things are going so well is the worst thing that can happen,” he said.

“I'd scored a few goals going up to Christmas and into January, then suddenly you're out for three months. It's tough. You just feel you want to get back playing and enjoying your football again.

“The Welsh lads were having a joke about the fact I missed all that time and was still up near the top goal scorers in the division. Who knows what could have happened?

“But since I returned near the end of the season I've just been trying to get as many minutes on the pitch as I could and trying to get a few more goals to finish off on a bit of a high.”

Wales have a battle on their hands to qualify for Euro 2008 and must win beat the Czech Republic at the Millennium Stadium on June 2.

Earnshaw is just keen to play his part.

“I missed a few Wales game and some big ones,” he said. “I did find that frustrating. The way things have gone now means it's going to be very hard for us to qualify, but that's the way it goes.

“I'm looking forward to New Zealand and then the Czech game. We've got nothing to lose against the Czechs now really. It's a game we very much want to win. If we can get that little bit of luck, get a couple of goals, who knows, we'll see what happens.”

Earnshaw will partner Craig Bellamy in attack, the Liverpool star having been on the bench in Wednesday's Champions League final in Athens.

Norwich goalkeeping target Danny Coyne starts in goal while there is a place for former Canaries midfielder Carl Robinson.

Cardiff's teenage full-back Chris Gunter will make his full debut against New Zealand in a defence that also includes West Ham's Danny Gabbidon who has not played since early January due to a groin operation.

Wales team: Coyne (Burnley), Gunter (Cardiff), Gabbidon, J Collins (both West Ham), Ricketts (Hull), S Davies (Fulham), Fletcher (Crystal Palace), Robinson (Toronto), Giggs (Man Utd), Bellamy (Liverpool), Earnshaw (Norwich).

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