Aron Gunnarsson set for Scotland clash
WHILE most of Coventry City's squad are enjoying a late-season break over the next fortnight, Aron Gunnarsson will be logging a new milestone in his exciting young career.
The midfielder is due to step out in front of a passionate Hampden Park crowd on April 1 as Iceland take on Scotland in a World Cup qualifier - another prime opportunity to demonstrate the development that has stunned the Sky Blues management team this season.
Boss Chris Coleman admits that he expected the 19-year-old to be a squad player this season while he found his feet in English football.
But having turned in some impressively muscular midfield displays, proven his versatility by filling in at right-back and unveiled the attacking potential of his prodigious long throw, Gunnarsson is now regarded as one of the Ricoh Arena's crown jewels.
He has also become a cult hero with the fans - that status reaching stratospheric heights during the midweek trip to Bristol City when he and mum Jona joined the Sky Blue Army in the Ashton Gate stands.
And his importance to the club's future was underlined when - along with Kieren Westwood, Scott Dann and Danny Fox - he was offered a long-term contract extension designed to fend off interest from Premier League predators after the usual speculation about possible suitors emerging.
But Gunnarsson insists he won't be trying to exploit that situation with some hard-ball negotiating.
"I've read that some big clubs might be coming in for me in the summer," he said.
''But I'm not thinking about that. I want to stay at Coventry.
"It's not all about the money. I can learn a lot here, develop as a player, but if I went to a bigger team I would probably be on the bench most of the time.
" I didn't expect to play as many games this season and the gaffer didn't expect me to either, but I've done well so he's kept me in the team and that's been great for me.
"I've worked hard to get here but I'm not going to stop and think, 'that's enough'.
''I want to go higher and get higher with Coventry - I can't wait for next season when we can progress as a team."
A player with a remarkably old head on his young shoulders, Gunnarsson showed his single-minded approach with previous club AZ Alkmaar in Holland.
"Iceland called me up for a friendly match," he explained. "That was on a Sunday but AZ had a reserve match on the Monday and they didn't want me to go because it wasn't an international break.
"I told them that I wanted the chance to get into the team.
''I was thinking about my career, because the game was a window for me instead of playing in Holland when nobody was watching.
"They weren't happy but in the end they let me go, and I think I made the right choice. I didn't really think that I would be able to establish myself in the Iceland team this quickly.
Gunnarsson is one of only three Sky Blues players on international duty next week.
Westwood has been called up by Ireland and on-loan winger Jordan Henderson could be in action for England's Under-19s - and Coleman admits he would prefer him to be staying at home.
"Ideally, for us, he wouldn't be going because he has only just turned 19 and I think he needs to rest," said the manager.
"He has played a lot more games than we expected because I didn't think he would hit the levels that he has until next season.
"But it has taken its toll and he is tired and was ill last week.
''He was on the bench at Preston and I didn't really want to put him on because he was coughing, but we were chasing the game."