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Wells available for ‘important’ Bermuda games

Back to my roots: Nahki Wells, flies the island's flag in his previous appearance for Bermuda in a World Cup qualifier at home to Bahamas more than three years ago. The Burnley striker said he still has the desire to play for his country

Nahki Wells insists he will always make himself available for Bermuda’s “most important games” and has not ruled himself out of any Concacaf Nations League qualifying matches.

Bermuda have been without their most influential player for more than three years, with Wells missing crucial World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala in 2015 and an entire Caribbean Cup campaign in 2016.

He has, however, given the island hope of an international return after telling The Royal Gazette that he still has the hunger and desire to play for his country.

“I haven’t ruled myself out of any fixtures coming up,” said Wells, who captained Bermuda in his previous outing, scoring twice at home to Bahamas.

“I’ve always stated that I would like to play in the important games.

“If they align right and the preparations are right, and the support is behind the country, I just think my addition can only help.

“We do have some important games coming up and depending on my circumstances I’m not ruling anything out.”

With the Nations League to be played on Fifa international dates, Bermuda will look to call upon their top overseas-based players such as Wells and Reggie Lambe, who is searching for a new club after being released by Sky Bet League Two side Carlisle United.

Bermuda will play four qualifying matches to determine the three divisions for the Nations League, which starts in September 2019, as well as the ten remaining Gold Cup spots.

They open their campaign away to Aruba in September before facing Sint Maarten and El Salvador at home, in October and November. They close out the group stage with an away match against Dominican Republic next March.

The Burnley striker said he has been briefed by the Bermuda Football Association about the tournament and is excited by the prospect of regular, meaningful international fixtures.

“I’ve been given the run down about the tournament and I think it’s great and will give us a chance to play consistent games,” Wells said.

“I know how influential I am to the group and I want to try to do as much as I can even when I can’t physically be there.”

Wells admits he has put his personal ambitions above international duty in recent years.

Between helping his former club Huddersfield Town gain promotion in 2016-17 and trying to establish himself in the Premier League with Burnley last season, Wells said he could not afford to jeopardise his club career for “meaningless” matches against lowly ranked Caribbean opposition and friendlies.

He is not the first Bermuda player to have faced the tricky club versus country dilemma. Shaun Goater missed the 2004 Digicel Caribbean Cup in St Vincent, opting to stay with Reading for an away fixture against Wigan Athletic.

“People who aren’t in my predicament may not understand,” said Wells, who became the father of twin boys, Lukas and Cruz, in March.

“It will be difficult to go away for six days and leave my children for a pointless game. I’m playing in the Premier League; that’s the level I’m at.

“Sometimes to come home for a pointless match isn’t necessary and it could hinder what you’re trying to achieve [for your club]. A lot of attention is always put on myself, which I sometimes think isn’t great because it takes away from all of the talent in Bermuda and the other professionals that come home.”

Despite reaching the pinnacle of the English game, Wells has not forgotten his roots and is still blown away by the love and support he receives whenever he returns home.

“I don’t forget where I come from,” he said. “I’m back home in Bermuda, driving across from where I played football until I was 20 [St John’s Field], to then look at where I’m playing football now — I never forget that.

“It’s always great to come back and reflect, see your family, see your friends, and see what got you to where you are and use that as a great motivator.”

Juggling parenthood and football was an initial shock to the system, admits Wells, but he believes his extra responsibilities as a family man can only have a positive impact on his career.

“It’s been a blessing without a doubt, but it has been some form of distraction — there’s no hiding away from that,” said the 28-year-old.

“One of my babies was in the NICU [the neonatal intensive care unit] for three weeks, so I was travelling to the hospital for five hours every day after training. It took it’s toll.

“[Burnley] were great and they always allow you to put your family before your career because that’s the most important thing. After all, football will end at some point. They’re fraternal twins, they’re not identical, but they’re a couple of superstars in the making. I’m just trying to be best footballer I can be and the best dad I can be.”