Colchester United’s forgotten striker Joel Thomas has revealed he is being coveted by the Mali national team.

Eagles representatives have been keen to watch the U's forward over recent weeks, as they strive for World Cup qualification. Thomas was born in Caen, France but also qualifies to play for Mali.

But the 22-year-old’s lack of action for Colchester has meant he has as yet been unable to stake his international claim.

Thomas told the Gazette: “Mali aspire to qualify for the African Cup and the World Cup.

“They have come to watch me three times but I have not played.

“They are waiting to see me play. I am excited about Mali wanting to watch me, but I hope they haven’t got a bad idea of me, because I have not been playing.”

Mali still have an outside chance of reaching next year’s World Cup Finals in South Africa. They currently lie second in Group D in the African section and take on Sudan on Sunday in a crucial qualifier.

Meanwhile, Thomas has not started a competitive match for the U’s since joining them for a reported £125,000 from Hamilton Academical in the summer.

The striker is desperate to play regular first-team football, after finding his first-team chances severely limited. U’s boss Aidy Boothroyd said last month that he would not stand in Thomas’s way, should a suitable offer come in.

“I was very happy to sign for Colchester and show what I can do,” said the former Bordeaux and Kaiserslautern forward.

“I wanted to do well for this club but they have not given me an opportunity and I don’t understand why. I don’t play and I’m not even on the bench every single match, even in training sometimes.

“When it is 11 versus 11 in training, sometimes I’m not involved. I am trying to stay confident and I know what I can do so the rest does not matter. But I came here to play and to grow stronger as a player.

“I am not the sort of player to simply wait and get my money — I want to be playing.

“I would be happy to go on loan if I am playing, maybe until January. But if the situation is the same after that, I will have to try and find another club.”

U’s manager Boothroyd said: “Players want to play football and Joel is not playing.

“I want to give young players like Tom Bender a chance and the squad is too big at the moment. My door is always open to players and I would rather they would speak to me about any issues they have, rather than the press.”