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Young Guns update

 

Young Guns by John Jones.
 
When I started my contribution to the website with the intent of providing weekly articles, I also envisioned that there would be a mid season update to go along with my original evaluation of the most prominent players that was presented in the first 3 offerings.

We are approaching the mid point of the season, both in terms of games played as well the time element. The festive season is also just around the corner and though this heralds the traditional frenzy of matches for first team players, it does also bring a much quieter time for the U-18 and U-23 teams who are given a short fixture break. In other words, this seems the ideal time for me to carry out my intent and it is what I plan to do over the next 3 weeks.

This week I will concentrate on the '94 and '95 birth year young men. This is in fact the graduating class of the young guns school as it were, their time with the U-21 squad is at an end and so the only option is senior international football in the future.

Tom Lawrence is certainly the stand out performer over the last few months and so it is with little surprise that he is a regular feature in the senior squad and will likely continue for some years if he maintains his present form. Tom Lockyer has certainly answered the questions posed to him so far in his career. A permanent fixture in the Bristol Rovers starting line-up for quite some time and seemingly adapting very well to a new experience of League 1 football. He has also performed adequately for the Wales U-21 side and so it is just a matter of finding out if he gets an opportunity to be challenged at a higher level of football and his ability to cope if it happens. Lee Evans started the season by securing a regular place in the Wolves team, but has been missing since that time with an injury. I have to be honest and say that I expected to see him return to action in a short time as I did not see what sort of injury he had suffered and assumed it was not a serious one. It is a good number of weeks now since his name appeared in any Wolves team, hopefully he can regain the early season form once he is fit again. Louis Thompson is another that can be considered to have had some positive reviews in the limited appearances at Norwich. Injury disrupted the chance to possibly secure more playing time, and again we will await and see what develops. Wes Burns has gained some valuable experience thus far, with a combination of starting assignment and substitute appearances garnering him a substantial number of minutes on the field. Aberdeen must therefore be pleased with the contribution his loan arrangement has provided. Though it obviously is a success, it is difficult to judge to what extent. Performing well in the Scottish Premier League is I am sure not easy, but without wishing to be demeaning to it, Scottish football is some distance below the level it was once considered and so it is hard to relate its equivalence in the English pyramid system. Josh Sheehan, Ryan Hedges and Liam Shepherd have all managed to perform well enough to be regular first team members, loaned out at Newport and Yeovil respectively, by their parent club Swansea. Josh has in the past been regarded by some as one who could forge his way into first team plans at the Liberty Stadium and a rejuvenation in form could see him move in that direction once more.

Both Declan John and George Williams are senior international players who have given a good account of themselves whilst proudly wearing their national shirt on the field of play. It would seem at the present time that they are unlikely to add further caps in the near future, as they have not enjoyed the best of times so far this season. Declan did have a run of games in the Cardiff first team earlier in the campaign, this both occurring and being disrupted through manager changes at the club. It remains to be seen if he can reclaim his place under difficult circumstances, the manager likely to want to rely on as many experienced players as he can muster with Cardiff in a dire fight to avoid relegation. George had many fans excited as he proved to be an effective impact player in his senior international appearances. Just as he was considered to be forging an impressive international career, a serious injury had him sidelined for a long time and he has not been able to rekindle his marauding skills to anywhere near the same fashion since that time. Jordan Williams is another whose career has been interrupted by a long term injury situation, this happening at a time when his footballing future was looking very bright and senior international recognition was about to give Wales an added depth to their squad as a minimum of expectation. He has fully recovered from that unfortunate episode and is in the rebuilding process of talent ability, his determination to get back to and then beyond where he had been, being hampered by niggling injuries that are causing periods on the sideline.

There are some other players from these couple of years who have given Wales good service in the U-21 capacity. However, this is some distance away from determining who of these, if any, may add senior international honours in the future. Generally, it requires regular first team football at a fairly high level to warrant inclusion in the senior squad and it is not a criteria that has been established in this case. They are certainly not the only ones as many of those named in this article are facing similar circumstances. They do, however, seem to be ahead of the others.

To complete this week's penned effort and personal opinion, I will conclude with this thought. I have mentioned in some past musings that under ideal conditions, at least 2 and preferably 3 from each birth year achieve a place in the senior squad in order to give it a continuity of relative strength. In their time as schoolboys and youths the 95 set seemed destined to fulfill or even surpass this, but the situation at the moment would appear to fall well short of such assumptions. In comparison the 94 boys was a much less heralded group but seem to have the upper hand right now. Of course, time and events can sometimes quickly change such perceptions and they are all young enough for this to possibly happen. On the other hand even the more successful football careers are not that many years long and so these young men do not have a plentiful amount of time to reach such a goal if it is what they desire. I certainly wish them whatever luck is needed, also knowing that determination, dedication and possibly even some sacrifices are a means of making luck more viable.

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Posted: Wednesday 14th December 2016
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