Price in fitness battle

LEWIS Price is facing a fitness battle to make his Wales debut against Northern Ireland today.The Blues keeper injured a hip in training and missed yesterday's session as a precaution.

By Derek Davis

LEWIS Price is facing a fitness battle to make his Wales debut against Northern Ireland today.

The Blues keeper injured a hip in training and missed yesterday's session as a precaution.

Price had an injection to ease the injury and felt much better last night and still hopes to play.

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Speaking from the Wales team hotel, Price told the EADT: “It is a bit sore and we will have to wait and see how it is before the game. I did it on Thursday but it feels much better now and I'm hopeful of playing.”

Price, who has also fought off a cough and cold during the week, missed out on making his debut against Slovenia in August, after injuring a knee the weekend before while playing for Ipswich at Leicester City.

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He said last night: “I can't believe the luck I'm having, but I will play hurt if I have to.”

Veteran keeper Paul Jones has been coaching the goalies and is on stand-by to win his 44th cap if Price fails this morning's fitness test.

Price said: “Jonah has been fantastic. He is a very experienced keeper and has been a great help to us all this week.”

Price is looking to be the first Wales goalkeeper to be on the winning side in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Welsh have failed to win, or keep a clean sheet, in any of their eight group games so far and debut-making Price is hoping John Toshack's men can turn that around in Belfast today.

Although nothing rides on the game in terms of World Cup qualifying, the Welsh have plenty of reasons to try and get a victory today against Northern Ireland and then again at home to Azerbaijan on Wednesday.

Price said: “Nobody wants to lose any game and we certainly don't want to end up bottom of the group. Although we can't qualify, it is important for us to get a couple of results this week so we can improve our rakings and be seeded for the European Championship qualifiers.”

The Bournemouth-born keeper, who qualifies for Wales through his dad, is quite a laid-back character but admits he expects the butterflies to start as kick off approaches.

He said: “While I'm fine now, as the match gets nearer the butterflies will start a little. I get nervous before every game no matter what the magnitude. If it is the reserves, first team or now international, there will be nerves but I think that is not a bad thing.

“I have tried to keep things as normal as possible but it has been a slightly strange week for me knowing I could be making my debut.

“My routine has been pretty much the same in training and I have just kept my head down and tried not to get caught up the build-up.”

While Price hopes to start against Northern Ireland, his former Town team-mate and good friend Darren Bent has a chance of making his debut for England today.

The pair have swapped texts this week and they will talk on Sunday to swap notes.

Price said: “It would be unbelievable if we were both to make our debuts on the same day and it would be fantastic. If Benty does play for England I wish him all the best and hope he does well.”

The 22-year-old will become the fifth Ipswich player to be capped by Wales.

He joins Billy Reed, Cyril Lea, Geraint Williams and Mick Hill, who each made two appearances for their country while playing for Town.

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