NEIL TAYLOR remembers his Wales debut in Croatia “like it was yesterday” - a painful tackle with Luka Modric and all.

Taylor was about to make a high-profile move from Wrexham to Swansea when he answered an SOS from then Wales boss John Toshack nine years ago.

Now 30, Taylor was expecting to play for Brian Flynn’s Under-21s all those years ago, but instead found himself setting off for Osijek - the venue for Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifier with Croatia on Saturday.

Recollecting the series of events that led to his international debut in a 2-0 friendly defeat, Taylor said: “We were with Brian Flynn and the Under-21s, the first team had a couple of pull-outs at the time and he got the call.

“He spoke to two or three of us, I remember Mark Bradley being one, and he said ‘Tosh wants you to go up with the first team, train with them, be on the bench and hopefully get on’.

“We were buzzing and thinking ‘let’s go’. We trained at the stadium the day before and we were on the bench, but got some game time.

“I remember trying to tackle Modric and trying to go in hard and make an impression, but did my own ankle, which was the size of a balloon the next day.

“I remember it very fondly and from then on, hopefully I made an impact that got me involved in future squads.

“Nine years is a long time, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the day and the occasion, which I tried to grasp and take everything in.

“The kit was a bit big on me, and everything about it was what a debut is all about and I will still enjoy going back there nine years on more experienced.”

It was the start of a rise to prominence for Taylor, who had been scrapping it out in the National League with Wrexham.

“I got my move to Swansea that summer and had a lucky couple of years,” he continued.

“I just tried to soak everything up because I was playing for Wales C a couple of years earlier.

“From starting out with Wales in the Victory Shield to winning my first cap was special.”

Taylor’s first cap came in the imposing Osijek surroundings and he expects the encounter with Croatia to be a learning curve for Wales’ young squad.

Twelve of Ryan Giggs’ squad have five caps or fewer, four of whom are yet to make an international appearance, including Flint-raised Dylan Levitt.

“They are two typically tough away games in Europe,” said Taylor. “It will be a great learning curve for the lads who haven’t experienced it yet and I think they’ve got to drink it all in - the atmosphere and the weather. I’m not sure what the temperature will be at 3pm in Croatia - but they are all things you’ve got to deal with when you play away in Europe.”

The fact that almost a month has passed since the end of the regular season won’t improve Wales’ chances of a positive result.

“It is difficult, don’t get me wrong, but the lads have had a training camp in Portugal and we’ve trained this week, so everyone will be back in the swing of things by now,” said Taylor. “There are four, five or six of us who have been playing through May, so we will be fine. The same applies for their team.”