Here in England, even the neutrals seem to have a quiet affection for young Gareth Bale, a man who seems to have emerged from nowhere to become one of the best players on the planet. So talented is the Spurs man that even Arsenal fans have had no choice but to send plaudits his way, watching him rip apart the best teams in Europe and become a prime transfer target for the continent's elite and the football rumours reflect this.
It is, therefore, tempting to forget that Bale isn't actually English. A darling of the Premier League he may well be, but this is a man who represents a side fighting against England for Euro 2012 qualification. With England taking on Wales this weekend in Cardiff in a crucial group match, Bale is now set to miss the clash through injury. No doubt the player himself is upset at this but could it be that missing the game has saved him from adopting a slightly different place in the hearts of us England and Premier League fans?
With Bale stating earlier this week that the Welsh team are "quietly confident" as they prepare for the game, and with the Welsh players well aware of the need to secure a result after finding themselves bottom of Group G, the 21-year-old clearly believes that the England team could be in for a shock this weekend when the game comes around even if the international football betting suggests otherwise. The Spurs man was light-hearted in his descriptions of the banter that has become the norm over the past month or so between him and the English contingency at Spurs but those England fans still desperate for their side to continue their post-World Cup recovery without any unexpected interruptions may not have been quite so forgiving if the Welsh star had been the driving force in a home victory at Cardiff.
With England distracted by the captaincy issue rearing its ugly head again, it could be that Wales do take full advantage of their raucous home support and cause a group upset that threatens to derail England's hopes of making Euro 2012 their opportunity to prove they can taste success under Fabio Capello. Bale, though, through his forced non-involvement will still occupy a special place in the hearts of Premier League fans, at least for now.