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Young guns blog update

 

Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

This week, as was previously indicated, it is the young men from the '98 and '99 birth years who fall under the spotlight. These players were part of the Wales U-19
squad that was very competitive last season and which narrowly, some would say unluckily, failed to progress to the next phase from the qualifying tournament in which they beat England, the team, who would eventually become the European champions at that age level. Without further ado, I will move on and give you my synopsis of what these youngsters have already done and what the future may hold for them.

Nathan Broadhead (Everton)
There can be little argument that Nathan has performed very well when wearing the national shirt. He has generally contributed in a positive manner at each age level he has been involved with, his goal scoring feats in numerous instances helping create positive outcomes. It has also been the case of his time as a youth player at Everton although this was somewhat stunted when he moved up to U-23 football with the club last season. Moving up in an age group is always a big challenge and often a disadvantage when faced with players a number of years older and more physically imposing. Hopefully with a season under his belt he will get significantly more playing time with the U-23's this coming season, although if he does it will have been because he has succeeded in competing for limited opportunities in what is a large and talented squad that Everton has at that level.

Mitchell Clark (Aston Villa)
Mitchell is a defender who can operate effectively either in a full back or central role. He was used in both capacities for the Villa youth team as they negotiated their way to the semi- finals of the FA Youth Cup last season. He was also extensively used in the club's U-23 team and amassed a good number of appearances for them as well as those for the youth team. Now he has completed his tenure as a youth, it will exclusively be U-23 football that confronts him. As Villa seem intent on using all means to try and get back into the Premier League and they add further players to an already large first team squad, it is unlikely that he will get an opportunity for senior team play in the next few months. His track record so far does make me admit that I am unwilling to completely rule it out also adding that the club could be anxious for him to get first team football experience and allow him to leave on loan. Mitchell was a regular member of both the Wales schoolboy and U-17 teams. He was selected for the U-19's but withdrew before the competition and it was likewise for the U-20's at the Toulon tournament.

Cameron Coxe and Mark Harris (Cardiff City)
Both Cameron and Mark have had some involvement with the Cardiff first team squad during the pre-season preparations. It does seem unlikely that they will be in the team at the start of the season as the manager will almost certainly go in his preferred route of using experienced players. There may be some chance that they could get in the picture for the EFL or to give it its latest identification the Carabao Cup. Though I mention the use of experienced players, the manager is not unwilling to give young players an opportunity as was seen with Mark last season, but rightly so, they will need to earn his trust in order to make it happen. Both and possibly one or two other youngsters at the capital city club have exhibited the potential to continue the trend of Cardiff producing some very accomplished players over the years and this will certainly be a help to Welsh international football if realized.

Regan Poole (Manchester United on loan at Northampton Town)
Having made an impressive introduction onto the scene as a tender aged youngster with Newport, Regan quickly gained admirers higher up in football circles with United ahead of their rivals in procuring his services. A fleeting first team appearance as a late substitute within a few months of arriving at Old Trafford suggested a continued progression. Last season was one of solely being involved in U-23 football at the club as well as representing Wales in U-21 and U-20 competitions. Now comes the chance of gaining more first team experience with a season long loan to Northampton arranged. Hopefully he will show his adeptness at coping with football at League One level and suggest he can survive the demands of sterner competition. It will be interesting to note how he will be used at the Sixfields club. Having performed as a defender for Newport, his ability has also allowed for him to be used in a defensive midfield role. Having to admit that I cannot comment on what the future may hold for him position wise as I have only seen a small amount of his play, that being in midfield. Perhaps being very harsh in saying so, my opinion is the need in improvement of protection and use of the ball to compete at higher levels in that role. Of course, he is still gaining the experience, improvement can be anticipated. Versatility is certainly a feather in any player's cap, but it has also proved to be a hindrance for an occasional one's full development. Quite a long dissertation on Regan here and done with the realization that I may well need to swallow my cautious words and will gladly do so and humbly apologize when necessary.

Tyler Roberts (West Bromwich Albion)
Undoubtedly a shining star in the making is the verdict of those of us who follow Welsh football to the point of keeping abreast of news of schoolboy players upon their introduction to international football whenever available. Tyler has continued to shine as he continues along a path towards possible Wales senior international football since a first knowledge of potentially being someone special, I first garnered some 4 to 5 years ago. Now on the verge of being ready to be tested in the Premier League, the Albion management team have a decision to be made as to what the next step may be. Do they retain him in the first team squad or allow him to gain some experience being loaned out to a Championship club. Those seem to be only options that may be considered as we await for what develops.

Matthew Smith (Manchester City)
Another player where a projection of what may develop in the season ahead is difficult. He is still at an age that makes him eligible for youth team football but having already been promoted to U-23 football circles on numerous occasions last season and accomplished praise when utilized, it seems wise to not to speculate. He is certainly on a fast track so far and it is only the circumstances of a very large and both experienced and talented first team squad as well as a similar scenario in the development system at the club that leaves uncertainty in any projection I might imply. I think it is fair to say that management at the club have shown a willingness to give the very best of their youngsters some amount of opportunity but it may be too soon in his career to envision such possibilities for Matt this season. With an urgency for a position at the top of both domestic and European football at the club and a financial backing that provides funds to acquire those considered of the highest quality required to perform in the Premier League, it can maybe be summed up, that the road is open but is extremely steep, requiring the maximum of effort and abundant ability to negotiate. Matt will have a successful career, determining what it will entail to achieve it is unpredictable.

Ben Woodburn (Liverpool)
What can I add that is not already known or projected in discussing Ben's meteoric rise to his present standing and possibly even greater things to come. Nothing is the honest answer but my ego pushes me to make an attempt at delivering some worthwhile sentences. One year ago from now, he was an intriguing new name that had made a good impression on Liverpool fans after his exploits in some of their pre-season games. Although he had been noted as a potential star representing the Wales schoolboy team as well as with the Liverpool youth team in the prior few months as he made his first steps into full time football, it is unlikely that the vast majority of the Anfield faithful had an idea of his talent. By now he is firmly established in the Liverpool first team squad. Management will however probably use a cautious route in his utilization. It does not necessarily mean a lack of playing time with the club hoping to be involved on many fronts and a diet of bi-weekly games anticipated for a large portion of the season. Ben will also almost assuredly be a member of the Wales senior squad as they contest the remaining games in the qualification process.
   
I come to the end having highlighted a fascinating group of young men whose fortunes are undisputedly linked to the future of Welsh football. Though, at present, the Wales senior squad is well served by an accomplished group, a number are however nearing the veteran stage of their careers and transitioning to replacement candidates is a necessity that is on the horizon. The prospects for fans of the Red Dragon witnessing a team that continues in the competitive fashion of present times is exciting if some of those here can bridge the gap. With Ben the exception, it is a case of cheering those who have performed magnificently of late over the next couple of months or so, with a certainty of boisterous celebration if participation for matches at the pinnacle of world football competition is achieved. Handing over to the next generation for continuation in the same vain would come after such times.

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Posted: 8:13am Tuesday 8th August 2017
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