Bender gets Wales Under-21 call-up

COLCHESTER United defender Tom Bender has been called up to the Wales Under-21 squad for their first European Championship qualifier in Andorra later this month.

The Essex-born teenager – who only turned 18 in January and qualifies to play for Wales through his grandmother – has already made three substitute appearances at U21 level.

Capable of playing at left-back or centre-back, he has made a rapid rise through the international age groups since making his Colchester debut on September 19, 2009 when he became the second youngest player ever to represent the club at 16 years and 243 days.

Bender made his Wales U17 debut that very month against Iceland and was captain of the side the following summer when he scored against Norway.

The following month he skipped an age group and made his U21 debut in a friendly against Malta, while two months later he helped the U19s in three European Championship qualifiers.

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Despite having not featured for the U’s first team since his debut, Bender – who signed a contract extension in January to take him through to 2012 – has been a regular for Colchester’s reserves this season and has been on the first team bench on six occasions.

He has featured for Wales U21s against Austria (November) and Northern Ireland (February) this season and enjoyed a trip of a lifetime to the star-studded Ballon d’Or Awards in Switzerland in January after correctly predicting the World Team of the Year.

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