RHYS SETS SIGHTS ON WALES CALL-UP
BY IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 22 January 2003
Mansfield defender Rhys Day has set his sights on starring for Wales in Euro 2004.
The former Manchester City central defender, who was signed last week on an 18-month contract at Field Mill after a successful loan spell, is already captain of the Welsh Under-21 side and is going all out to impress manager Mark Hughes.
Wales currently sit in pole position in their qualifying group for the tournament to be held in Portugal, after victories against Finland, Italy and Azerbaijan.
With Yugoslavia and the Italians currently five points behind them, Wales look to have a great chance of making their first major finals since the 1958 World Cup, when they reached the last eight.
Day, who has 11 caps for the Under-21s and was born in Bridgend, believes his move to Field Mill can only help his case.
He has been an integral part of the Stags' recovery under Keith Curle and helped set up Liam Lawrence's winner in the 2-1 victory over Chesterfield on Saturday.
He had earlier been involved in an unsavoury incident when former Stags striker Shayne Bradley had spat in his face and was sent off.
And, while his new club have managed to claw themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time since August, his ambitions go further than simply keeping the club in Division Two.
He said: "Welsh football is on a real high at the moment and I want to be a part of that.
"I have set my sights on getting there should we qualify and, to do that, I need to be playing first-team football.
"I have played for Wales Under-16, Under-18 and been captain of the Under-21 side and the only way I am going to step up and play in the full team is by playing first-team football every week."
With Cardiff defender Danny Gabbidon playing a pivotal role in the victory over Italy and his team-mate Robert Earnshaw scoring the winning goal in a friendly win over Germany last year, Hughes has already shown he is willing to give youngsters an opportunity.
Rhys Weston, another Cardiff player, has also been capped by Hughes since the former Manchester United striker took the reins.
Day, who joined Stags on loan just days before former manager Stuart Watkiss was sacked, hopes to benefit in the same way as his Division Two colleagues.
He said: "We have got a great opportunity to get to the finals and it is good to see Mark Hughes giving young players a chance.
"The thing with Wales is that there are only so many players to choose from and it would only take a few injuries to key players so I have to set my sights high."
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