CHRIS Gunter is set to reach another milestone on Friday night when Wales face Ireland in a crunch World Cup qualifier, but the defender reckons that only when his international career is over will he really be able to take stock of such landmark moments.

Winning a 78th cap at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin would move Newport-born Gunter level with Craig Bellamy in third place on the all-time list of most appearances for Wales, 14 shy of current record holder Neville Southall.

Gunter made his debut against New Zealand in May 2007, in a match at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground that saw Bellamy score twice to deny the Kiwis a famous win.

Nearly a decade on, and still only 27, Reading right-back Gunter appears to be on course to become the first male player to a century of caps for his country.

“Before you get your first cap or when you’re growing up, or maybe when you’ve got one or two, you’re never thinking of years down the line,” he said.

“If someone had said to me on that day when I got my first cap that I’d go on to equal certain players, or go past certain players, I would never have thought that was going to happen.

“It’s a massive honour to be ahead of a lot of players that I grew up watching on television.

“That feeling when you’re in the line-up and the anthem is being played is a feeling you don’t get anywhere else in football, so to do it once is special, to do it repeatedly over and over is something that you never take for granted.

“But I’m always wary of saying it’s a huge achievement because you’re always looking at the next game.

“I’m sure the day I play my last game for Wales I’ll look back with massive pride – I’m sure my family do now anyway.”

He added: “The main aim is just on the game you’re playing and to get the win.

“As I said, when you finish you’ll probably look back more than what you do now.

“When I got to 25 and 50, I always said it was nice having a really high number of caps, but I would probably give a lot away to achieve qualifying for a tournament or to have a bit of success.

“That’s not to take away from what a cap means, but I always wanted to be part of a squad that qualified or did something that Wales had never done for years. To have both is fantastic.

“When I finish and look back I won’t remember just a number, I’ll remember certain games, and there have been some unbelievable nights.

“I’ve played with a lot of the boys for years and years, and it’s nice to achieve stuff, but to do it with people you really care about is fantastic.

“The last couple of years with Wales have been the best, and the seven weeks last summer were the best seven weeks of my life, not just in football. To get caps and be doing that is amazing.”