Wales’ Chris Gunter aiming to set one record and lose another
The fullback is on course to become leading appearances maker but has never scored
Wales’ Chris Gunter speaks to the media ahead of his side’s clash with Ireland on Friday. Photo: David Davies/PA
Chris Gunter will reach a new Wales caps landmark in Dublin on Friday night — but what he really wants is a first international goal.
Gunter will draw level with Craig Bellamy on 78 caps when he makes his 58th consecutive appearance against the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
Only Neville Southall (92) and Gary Speed (85) will then have played more for Wales and, as Gunter is still a few months short of his 28th birthday, his country’s appearances record appears well within his grasp.
“Because of the summer (Wales reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016) I got quite a large number of caps in such a short space of time,” Gunter said.
“Getting this many caps is not something you think about when you start out, going past the people I have or drawing level with Craig.
“But it is nice to be mentioned alongside some of these players. It’s a really proud feeling.
“I always wanted a lot of caps but the real aim was to be successful as well, and I’ve been massively fortunate that I’ve got both in a way.
“People say about me getting to 100 caps, but there’s still a long way to go and in football you never know what’s around the corner.”
While Gunter remains cautious about reaching three figures, he is not reticent about his determination to end his Wales goal drought.
I would snap your hand off to score a goal — and never get that question again. But the good thing is that we have players who do score goals
The Reading full-back surpassed the most Wales appearances without a goal when he went past Kevin Ratcliffe’s 59-cap mark.
“Whenever the cap question comes I know that record is going to come up,” Gunter said.
“I set a new record on 60 caps by not scoring — and I’ve smashed that now!
“I do think that will take a while to get beaten. To play that many games and not score is stupid really.
“I would snap your hand off to score a goal — and never get that question again. But the good thing is that we have players who do score goals.”
Third-placed Wales head to Dublin four points behind Group D leaders the Republic and two adrift of Serbia.
But Gunter denies that it is a game Wales must win to keep alive ambitions of reaching the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
“It’s not must-win,” Gunter said. “That’s a saying in football I don’t particularly like, and I certainly don’t sign up to that one this Friday.
“If we were to draw the game are we stopping the group? Is there no point in playing the rest of the games?
“I’m not taking away from the fact it’s a big game, it’s going to be because we’re halfway through the group.”
“If we were top of the group having won every single game we’d be sitting here saying it’s a big game and we want to keep the gap between the rest of the teams.
“We have to be somewhere in the group and we’re a couple of points off the teams in front of us. We don’t get caught-up in the whole ‘big game’ scenario.
“Every time we’ve met up in the last couple of years we’ve been told it’s a big game, first during the Euro 2016 qualifiers and then during the tournament itself.
“We’re good at preparing for the game and not focusing on anything else but ourselves.”