Gareth Bale: Wales star ‘back in love with football’ – Robert Page

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Gareth Bale (centre) has 85 caps for Wales, scoring a record 33 goals
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Sunday, 15 November Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app

Forward Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham Hotspur has helped him “fall back in love with football”, says Wales assistant manager Robert Page.

Now Wales’ record goalscorer is playing more regularly and set to lead his country in Sunday’s Nations League match against the Republic of Ireland.

“He looks to me like he’s enjoying his football,” said Page.

“He loves coming away with Wales. He absolutely loves it. As long as I’ve been involved he’s never missed a camp, other than the recent one [in October] through injury.

“He’s first through the doors, loves being part of it and he has a spring in his step when he comes on camp – and that’s exactly what I’ve seen in the past couple of days.

“Now being at a place like Tottenham, he has a manager [Jose Mourinho] who wants him there and wants him to play week in, week out – or they are building him up to that where he plays 90 minutes consistently.

“We’ve now got a player on our hands that has fallen back in love with the game and is enjoying his football. Hopefully we will reap the rewards of that as well.”

Page is temporarily in charge of Wales because manager Ryan Giggs mutually agreed with the Football Association of Wales he would not be involved in this month’s three matches.

Giggs has denied an allegation of assault made against him.

Page oversaw a goalless draw against the United States in a friendly on Thursday, with Bale watching from an executive box at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

After missing last month’s Wales fixtures because of injury, Bale was rested in order to keep him fresh for Sunday’s Nations League match against the Republic of Ireland and Wednesday’s final Group B4 game against Finland.

“The older you get, you do lose a little bit of sharpness. I experienced that myself as a player. I have not seen any evidence of that in the last two days of training,” Page said of Bale.

“Some of the things I saw yesterday [Friday] was the other way. He’s looking just as sharp, bright and powerful.

“He’s in great shape and some of the things he did in training yesterday you took a step back. It was great to watch.”

Bale is expected to captain Wales against the Republic of Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday (17:00 GMT kick-off) – but it remains to be seen if he will start against Finland on Wednesday (19:45) as well.

Tottenham manager Mourinho has expressed concerns about Bale’s workload with Wales but, having previously allayed those fears, Page says he has not yet decided how much the forward will feature against Finland.

“The most important game is tomorrow, so we can only take one game at a time,” he added.

“We can’t even look to Wednesday against Finland. It’s full focus on this game and we’re going to pick the team which gives us the best chance to win.”

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