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Ashley Barnes explains the truth about his Austria call-up – and how close a senior return was

Ashley Barnes FourFourTwo
Photo: Jon Shard

Barnes famously represented Austria's U20s once as a Plymouth Argyle player in 2008, but hasn't renewed acquaintances with the nation since. 

The Burnley striker scored 12 Premier League goals last season – the first double-digit top-flight haul of his career – and kicked off 2019/20 with four goals in his first three matches. 

Such form led to speculation that Gareth Southgate may consider him for England selection, but the 29-year-old is still waiting for his ultimate ambition. 

Speaking to FourFourTwo for our Autumn issue, out Tuesday October 22, the Clarets forward says he hasn't given up – and believes his chance could have come even earlier.

"Playing for England one day is still a big ambition in my career,'' said Barnes. "If I can keep scoring goals and performing well, who knows what’s around the corner?

"Maybe if it was a different coach, I might have got a chance earlier."

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Things could have been very different for Barnes, who was very nearly granted permission to play for Austria - a country he was initially able to represent through his native grandmother. 

"My nan is from Austria - she met up with my granddad when she moved over here during the war," said the Burnley man. "Growing up in Bath, she always lived with us.

"I was on pre-season tour with Plymouth in Austria and they knew I had an Austrian grandmother.

"So the national team manager came down and watched training sessions and a pre-season game, then invited me to travel with the Under-20s team.

"I didn’t know what was really happening at the time - I was still young and it was quite weird, but it was a good achievement to play for them."

After impressing in the Premier League for Burnley last season, Austria came calling once again - this time for their senior team.

Yet despite the approval from both the Austrian FA and national team manager Franco Foda, the country’s government intervened and denied him the opportunity to claim a passport. 

"I met the manager and he was really keen for me to join the squad, and the Austrian FA were happy to do it," Barnes revealed.

"They would have loved it for me to go and play for them, but the Austrian hierarchy wouldn’t give me an Austrian passport.

"My chances of playing for Austria are completely gone now, so now it’s only England.”

Read the full interview with Ashley Barnes in the Autumn 2019 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out in shops and available digitally from next week (October 22). We also sit down for a revealing exclusive with Raheem Sterling, head to the Arctic Circle, meet Lazio’s ultras, discover how to make Real Madrid and Barcelona great again, get our chat on with John Barnes and much, much more. Don’t miss it!

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