Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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England boss Gareth Southgate wishes Ben Woodburn well with Wales career

Ben Woodburn may one day return to haunt England but Gareth Southgate understands the Liverpool teenager's decision to play for Wales.

The 17-year-old forward netted within five minutes of his introduction from the bench on Saturday evening, firing Chris Coleman's men to a 1-0 World Cup qualification victory over Austria.

It was a night to remember for the Nottingham-born player, who qualifies for Wales through his maternal grandmother and has been involved in the Welsh set-up since the age of 13.

Southgate says the Football Association had been aware of Liverpool's youngest ever goalscorer for a "long time" but only had best wishes for the dual-nationality attacker.

Asked if Woodburn was one England missed out on, Southgate said: "Well, I mean I am responsible for most things but not responsible for that specific (case)."

The England boss, who last year saw Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha commit to the Ivory Coast despite having previously represented the Three Lions in friendlies, continued: "We have lots of kids who are dual-nationality in our programme and it's increasingly difficult to monitor all of them. You can't pick all of them at younger ages.

"(Woodburn) is one that did train with us in some of the junior ages, but some of the countries are able to fast-track them more quickly and of course that appeals to some of the kids.

"And also some of them will feel that their heart belongs to other countries as well, so that's a personal choice and we wish him well."

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