While most of the Royals’ squad are at the Bearwood base for the next fortnight, there are a few players who are away with their countries. And none will rack up as many air-miles as George Pușcaș – who could feature in as many as three games in seven days with Romania!
First up for Puski and his compatriots is arguably the most important – a one-off fixture on Thursday 8th October, away to Iceland in the Euro 2020 qualifying knock-outs (the finals tournament will now take place in 2021, despite the name of the competition).
This is a fixture that is seven months in the making… this was the first fixture that Romania had called off when the world went into lockdown in March.
A winner will be decided on the night, and then they’ll have one more hurdle to overcome. Bulgaria host Hungary on the same evening, and the winners of each tie will meet in either Sofia or Budapast during the next international break – the prize being a place at Euro 2020. If Romania qualify, they enter Group C alongside Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria.
Then the focus switches quickly to the Nations League – a quick-fire two fixtures, away in Norway and at home against Austria.
Pușcaș netted the first goal of Romania’s Nations League campaign when they drew 1-1 with Northern Ireland last month, and they followed up with a 3-2 win in Austria to go top of the table after two games.
After meeting Iceland, they make the short into Scandinavia to face Norway in Oslo on Sunday 11th October, before trying to complete a double over Austria on home turf in Ploiești on Wednesday 14th October. Three games in less than seven days… noroc România!
Meanwhile Tom McIntyre has received another call-up for Scotland’s Under-21 squad.
The Tartan Army have given themselves every chance of getting through to the U21 European Championships in Hungary and Slovenia next year with wins against San Marino and Croatia last month.
A lot will hinge on the first of two fixtures, which takes place against as-yet undefeated group leaders Czech Republic on Friday 9th October at Tynecastle, home of Hearts. Then on Tuesday 13th October it’s off to San Marino, who have lost all of their seven games so far without scoring a goal.
Tomás Esteves, who signed a loan deal with Reading on international deadline day, is currently away with Portugal’s Under-20 side at the Cidade do Futebol in the Algarve, which includes a training game next Saturday – he’ll meet up with his Royals squad-mates for the first time after his international involvement.
In younger age-bands, goalkeeper Coniah Boyce-Clarke has been selected for England’s Under-19 side as they prepare to take on Scotland in a double-header of friendly fixtures at St George’s Park in Burton, on Thursday and Sunday. Meanwhile Dejan Tetek, who has represented England up to Under-18 level and made his league debut for Reading against Watford, has been called up for Serbia’s Under-19s for a six-day training camp in Kovilovo in the suburbs of Belgrade.
And lastly, Imari Samuels (England Under-18) and Ben Purcell (Wales Under-17) are both due to spent time in training camps with their young countrymen.