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Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

Nathan Broadhead (Everton)
I'm sure that there was delight for Nathan, family and friends when he made his debut for the Everton first team recently. It is a reward for the hard work to continue improving his skills that he must have pursued in order to get selected for that match squad. Having that all important first taste of senior team football will hopefully spur him on to remain dedicated and determined, so that in time the occasion is repeated. There is a great deal of effort that needs expending if such an expectation is to become reality. With a very large majority of the first team squad rested for that particular game, it was in many ways those generally on the outside looking in that were the players used for it. Without doubt, congratulations are in order, a big step forward was achieved. Nathan will be motivated to aim for another opportunity, knowing the task that confronts him better than most. A refinement of his skills to a level that secures promotion to the first team squad and after that an even greater challenge, that of regularly competing with his training partners for selection to a matchday squad. We wish him well in this endeavour, knowing that if he is to become successful, a good deal of energy and some amount of sacrifice will have been required.

Mitchell Clark (Aston Villa)
After making his first team debut and being on the bench for a couple of other games in the early season EFL Cup ties, since that time Mitch has been solely involved with the club's U-23 side. With Villa intent on promotion, accumulating a large and experienced squad to facilitate the ambition, it has made it extremely hard for their promising young players to have senior team consideration. It is very much to Mitch's credit that he did achieve the selection, a sign that he is regarded as one for the future at the club. How management will proceed with his development is unclear. Could a loan be arranged to accumulate first team experience? No answer can be forecasted at this point. Mitch will, I am sure, devote his efforts toward a mode of continual improvement and feel confident that rewards will be forthcoming with that approach.

Chris Mepham (Brentford)
Though his time on the field has been limited, Chris is very much part of the first team squad at Brentford these days. With a central defensive partnership that has been available and consistent, Chris has spent most matchdays watching from the bench. Management at the club are convinced that should any change be necessary, they have a perfect replacement ready and waiting to fill the void. This assessment has been substantiated when Chris has played for the Wales U-21 team as he has performed well against skillful opposition. As time progresses he will undoubtedly amass more game time and become a valuable player for both club and country.

Joe Morrell (Bristol City on loan at Cheltenham Town)
Those of us who can only surmise events through reported means can easily make some wrong assessments. I can certainly admit that as Joe had been introduced into the first team at a very young age, I assumed more appearances were likely whilst still a scholar at Ashton Gate. As a schoolboy representing Wales he was a prominent player within the group and the follow up when he moved into full time football seemed to be continuing in similar fashion. Reviews of his contributions at U-18 and then at U-23 levels were often positive and yet that progression into first team football seemed tantalizingly out of reach. A loan in non-league football maybe indicated that somehow that things were not moving as anticipated for Joe and those of us that long for success for all Welsh qualified players if possible, were seemingly to experience a disappointment in this case. Joe has been on loan at Cheltenham during the past few months where his displays in League 2 surroundings have thrilled all concerned with the club. It does seem that higher levels of football are well within his reach and through an understanding that he possesses the dedication and determination required for continual refinement of his undoubted talent, things seem to bode well for Joe in the seasons ahead.

Regan Poole (Manchester United on loan at Northampton Town)
An immediate success when introduced into the Newport first team as a 16 year old, the next step in his career took him to Old Trafford. Though only for a brief period, a first team appearance for the red devils was the consequence. Last season was one of involvement with the U-23's at the club. Now, on a season long loan, he is gathering more first team experience with the Cobblers. They seem to be using him in a defensive midfield role, a position that he is quite adept at filling. The opinion of those who possibly can best assess him, is that it is as a central defender is where his future lies. This is a position he has very capably filled in the past. Ideally, from a Wales point of view, having him playing in his best position and being challenged to perform at the highest level within his means would move him closer to consideration for senior team selection.

Joe Rodon (Swansea City)
It is slightly surprising that Joe has not made a first team appearance with Swansea in any competition. His strong displays for both the Swansea U-23's and the Wales U-21's has seemingly gained him numerous admirers in position of authority at other clubs, even residents of the Premier League amongst them. It is admittedly a large step forward in class when confronting Premier League opponents in comparison with any other competitors faced, but it is a dilemma confronting many young players that the test of their ability at this level is almost impossible to achieve except in isolated circumstances. It is something of the chicken and egg story, without experience comes a reluctance to trust their capability. Hopefully in Joe's case a resolution can soon be initiated, helping him garner first team exposure and thus continue his development.

George Thomas (Leicester City)
Proven credentials of more than adequately coping with League One football resulted in George's move across county borders, becoming future first team prospect at Leicester. His play at U-23 level with the club has brought mention of possible elevation to the first team squad. Either this or a loan period to play Championship football is the next logical step in his career, seemingly one or the other is likely to happen in the next few months. George is an integral part of the Wales U-21 team, making important contributions that have helped produce successes. What lies ahead could well be exciting for both Leicester and Wales fans.

Harry Wilson (Liverpool)
It was certainly unfortunate for Harry to have his pre-season interrupted by injury which hampered any chance to compete for first team football at Liverpool. The latest gossip seems to indicate that the association of club and player is coming to an end. Although disappointing for him not too have made a bigger impression on the Kop faithful than he did, it is almost certainly the best way forward in Harry's career. Establishing himself as a regular player in the first team of a club is the priority for him to develop into one so many have suggested and hoped he would eventually become. He has answered any question that may have been posed about his competence at the levels he has been regularly tested with a resounding positive response. His goal scoring capability, many times doing so in a manner that has provided an extra thrill for those watching, places him in the desirable recruit category for many teams. If he can replicate this in first team football, he will quickly become a fan favourite of whichever club he represents. The challenge does become a more difficult one to overcome as the opposition encountered improves in quality and those who succeed usually assess and hone their talent in a manner that best contributes to team needs. Those who know Harry well are impressed by his work ethic, enthusiasm and willingness to accept responsibility, excellent qualities for a person to be deemed in possession of. A devotion to such tendencies will surely increase the likelihood of gathering first team experience, an important factor which will determine whether he eventually adds further Welsh caps to his collection.

This week has been a continuation of the midseason review of the young guns who have made an impact over the last few months, a total of 14. 3 are already members of the senior international squad, reason for an element of optimism when attempting to predict how well the team will perform in the coming years. Potentially, the remainder of this group could assist in strengthening the squad further, increasing the possibility of creating exiting times and the national fervour that would be an outcome.  For it to develop, a willingness to learn and adapt to meet the challenges as well as strong work habits, will have undoubtedly have been exhibited. An accompaniment of good fortune is often a necessary part of gaining success and as fans, we wish as much of it as possible for them.

A concluding remark to say Happy New Year to management, coaches, players and fans of all Welsh football entities and especially so to regular readers of Dragon Soccer items is all that remains. I also look forward to 2018 and the continuing use of my brain to try and pen enjoyable reading episodes of young guns blogs.

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Posted: Saturday 30th December 2017
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