NATHAN Blake has challenged former Newport County AFC star Josh Sheehan to raise his game for club and country after recent disappointments with Bolton Wanderers and Wales.

Sheehan captained his country for the first time against Gibraltar earlier this month, but his special occasion was marred by a poor team performance and the booing of manager Rob Page after a 0-0 draw with the minnows in Portugal.

The midfielder then started again as Wales were thumped 4-0 in another friendly in Slovakia last week and Blake says he could sense some disappointment from Bolton’s League One play-off final defeat was still being carried on the player’s shoulders.

“It was a difficult situation for Josh because he is obviously devastated with what happened at Bolton,” said Blake, who also played for Wales, Bolton and County in an impressive 16-year career.

“I know I would have been, but he’s having to get himself up for the Wales games as captain of the team against Gibraltar who, no disrespect, are not top opposition, and there’s a little thing going on in Germany that we’re not a part of and we wanted to be there.

“All things considered he was OK,” Blake told The Bolton News.

“He is a connector – he’ll connect the centre-halves, the full-backs, he wants the ball all the time and he wants to connect possession for the team through the lines.

 “He wasn’t able to get into positions where he could really affect the game because they sat with 10-11 men behind the ball, and that was as much the fault of the way Wales set up as anything he did.

“Other players should have been breaking lines and getting in behind, stretching the game a bit, even if it’s just a yard, half a yard.”

Blake fears that Sheehan missed a big opportunity to impress Page, or any future Wales manager.

“I don’t think Josh played badly and you certainly wouldn’t look at him and say ‘he’s not pulling on a Wales shirt again’ but at the same time you wouldn’t say he’s made a claim to start over the likes of Ethan Ampadu or Jordan James,” he said.

“He ticked a box without being stand-out. And as a former footballer I know that if you are first choice you can afford to have a game like he did but if you are looking to push into the team then you need to do more. I am sure he would accept that.”

BBC Wales pundit Blake has been following Sheehan’s career with interest for several years and he hopes the 29-year-old can brush off any lingering regrets from last season to come back stronger.

“I have always rated him as a player, I thought he was way too good for Newport when he was younger and needed to be at a much bigger club,” he said.

“He is coming off a good season for Bolton, even if it ended badly for everyone involved.

“The test for him now is to stand out at international level, in the biggest game am I going to choose you strength-wise, physicality-wise, skill-wise?

“I wouldn’t say he didn’t do enough but I’d want to see him do more.

“I know what he can do, I give him a tick for it, but show me something that I didn’t know you could do.

“He needs to take whatever disappointment he had now and make sure he comes back bigger and better.”