Why Mark Harris deserved Wales opportunity after stellar campaign

Wales take on Gibraltar and Slovakia in friendlies next month, an ideal opportunity you would think for Rob Page to have a look at some other options.

Harris has won five caps for Wales and was part of the squad at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, without making an appearance.

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The 25-year-old scored 19 goals in 55 appearances for Oxford United this season, spearheading the attack to secure promotion to Sky Bet Championship.

He missed just three games for the U’s, all of which came when he served a three-match suspension following his red card at home to Port Vale in September.

Harris came off the bench in just four of his 55 games this season, so the argument could be made that he needs a rest this summer far more than others.

That would make sense if Harris is then looked at when Wales meet up for the first time next season, in UEFA Nations League fixtures against Turkey and Montenegro in September.

However, we all know how quickly things can change in football. Injury or loss of form may deprive Harris of a chance for those Nations League games.

The forthcoming friendlies though would provide a platform for Harris to show what he’s about in training and on the pitch, especially while he’s in red-hot form and full of confidence.

His 19 goals for United broadly came in three patches, the final one seeing six goals bagged in the final six games of the regular season.

He then made himself a nuisance in the play-off campaign, not giving the defences of Peterborough United and Bolton Wanderers a moment’s rest.

Harris finished one short of his 20-goal target, netting more times than the four forwards named in Page’s squad.

Admittedly they were all playing at a higher level than Harris, with Ipswich Town attacker Nathan Broadhead grabbing 13 goals in 41 games to help the Tractor Boys win promotion to the Premier League.

Kieffer Moore scored twice for Bournemouth, and then got a further seven goals after joining Ipswich on loan during January deadline day, while Liam Cullen got himself seven goals for Swansea City.

Rather than Harris, it was Liverpool’s 18-year-old attacker Lewis Koumas who was the ‘curveball’ forward option in the Wales squad.

He received his first call-up to the senior side after a campaign which saw him score on his Liverpool first team debut, in a 3-0 win against Southampton in the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup.

A call-up for Harris would’ve been worthy recognition after a strong season, but what Wales might lose next month will undoubtedly be United’s gain.

A fresh Harris, with batteries fully recharged and back on turbo made, will likely be crucial when the U’s kickstart their Championship campaign after the summer break.

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