Crofts - I should be facing Hoolahan

Andrew Crofts makes his first Wales appearance under new boss Gary Speed tonight – but can't believe Canaries team-mate Wes Hoolahan isn't lining up on the opposite side.

The Welsh take on the Republic of Ireland at Dublin's Aviva Stadium in a Carling Nations Cup clash, but while Hoolahan has been setting the Championship alight this season, he has still not convinced manager Giovanni Trapattoni that he can cut it at international level.

And the message from Crofts is simple: keep plugging away.

'I don't think Wes can do any more to be fair,' said Crofts, whose position in the Welsh starting line-up was confirmed last night.

'He has been on good form. He can only play the way he has been and hopefully one day soon he will get called up.


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'Everyone knows what a great player that he is. From my point of view it's great to play with him in midfield. He always wants the ball and he creates so much for the team. He works so hard as well – he is a great lad.

'If he keeps doing what he is doing then it won't be too long.'

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Paul Lambert might just wince a little at the thought of two of his best players lining up against each other, but after Saturday's magnificent performance at Burnley, the City manager was once again fielding questions about the little Irishman's contribution.

'In the second half I thought he was terrific,' Lambert said. 'They couldn't handle him, and that's what he can do to people when he is on that form.'

There was a window of opportunity on Friday, when Preston's left-sided midfielder Keith Treacy withdrew from the Irish squad because of a knee injury, but he was replaced by Keith Fahey –- even though the Birmingham midfielder Fahey appeared to have fallen out of favour.

Hoolahan, who recently signed a new deal which will keep him at Carrow Road until 2014, has made just one senior appearance for his country, coming on as a second-half substitute in a friendly against Colombia at Craven Cottage in May 2008. That was Trapattoni's second game in charge, but the Italian has seemingly preferred no-nonsense midfielders to those with some flair, and Hoolahan hasn't featured since.

In contrast, the 26-year-old Crofts has 15 caps to his name – and is hoping the presence of former midfielder Speed at the helm will improve him.

'I'm over the moon with the call-up,' said Crofts, who took his goal tally for City to six when he hit a brace against Sheffield United a fortnight ago.

'I've been really happy with the way things are going and I've just got to keep working hard. It's nice to be involved in Gary Speed's first squad and I'm looking forward to meeting up with them.

'I think you can only learn from people like that (Speed). Everyone knows what a top quality player he was. I can just go there and learn as much as I can from him and take it on board. I'm sure he is going to be a real top manager.'

City's on-loan Arsenal midfielder is also on international duty today, having been included in Stuart Pearce's England under-21s squad for the friendly against Italy in Empoli.

Meanwhile Jed Steer is with the Under-19s for their game against Germany at Chesterfield this evening while fellow goalkeeper Angus Gunn is in the England Under-16 squad that travels to Slovenia at the weekend .

• City have been handed another date in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

The Canaries' trip to fellow promotion challengers Swansea on Saturday, April 9, has been selected for live coverage, with the kick-off time being moved from 3pm to 5.20pm as a result. It will be City's second live television appearance in less than a month, with their home game against Bristol City selected last month and moved from March 12 to Monday, March 14.

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