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Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

Ellis Harrison (Bristol Rovers)
Congratulations to Ellis for his January League 1 goal of the month award which was seemingly well deserved for a fine individual effort that he successfully converted to produce a 2 goal margin and eventual good away victory for the team. He has been part of the Rovers first team squad for quite a few seasons, first establishing himself as an important part of the team that regained Football League status for the club. Although he probably cannot be classified as a prolific goal scorer, he has managed to find the net on a reasonably regular basis this season and is the joint leading scorer for the team to this point. Now approaching his mid twenties, the next couple of seasons or so should see him theoretically reach the peak of his career and it will be interesting to see where he can take his game if he continues the improvement he has generally maintained so far.

Elliott Hewitt (Notts County)
As a very young player with Macclesfield, at that time a League 2 side, Elliott made quite an impression when making his first team debut and the subsequent games he appeared in. It was quickly evident, as numerous clubs scouted his progress, that a move to a higher level of football was a very likely prospect for him. This did materialize as expected when Ipswich made the successful bid for his services. What appeared to be quite a coup for his new club failed to develop with any resemblance of what was predicted. A combination of injuries, loss of form and probably confidence issues restricted Elliott to few appearances for the Portman Road club, this eventually resulting in loan periods as his contract ran its course. Now in his 3rd season at Meadow Lane he is rebuilding his career with his manager recently making a comment that he is very capable of performing at higher levels than his present challenge. He has operated in a midfield role for the club after being used in a defensive role in his initial season with them. It does add versatility to his game and is still confidently used defensively when it is required. With Notts County one of the teams with the possibility of gaining promotion, League 1 football could be in prospect for Elliott next season.

Connor Roberts (Swansea City)
A loan period with Middlesborough seemed an ideal situation for Connor to build on the first team experience gathered on previous loans, adding the new challenge of Championship competition for him as well. That possibility was not forthcoming, the team struggled following relegation and Connor was restricted to 1 league appearance along with 3 in the EFL Cup. The consequence of inconsistent results produced a management change and a decision for change regarding loan players. Connor therefore returned to Swansea at the turn of the year, a time that coincided with a defensive injury crisis at the club, giving him the opportunity for a debut appearance in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. He performed well enough to retain his place in the team for the further 4 cup ties that have been contested as progress in the competition has necessitated replay victories. It has been an exciting few weeks for him as he has produced steady performances whilst gathering first team experience, also having made his Premier League debut when introduced as substitute with more than a quarter of the match still to be played. He will almost certainly have his name on the team sheet when Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday replay the 5th round tie and there will be confidence at the Liberty Stadium that they also have defensive cover for league matches should more injury situations arise.

Liam Shephard (Peterborough United)
Peterborough signed Liam prior to the start of this season after his contract at Swansea had expired in the summer. He has had a good run of matches in the team over the last few weeks maybe suggesting that he is now getting established as a regular first team player. It had been somewhat of an inconsistent season up to that point with Liam, absent in part with minor injury issues, making occasional appearances. In the past he successfully negotiated the League 1 challenges when loaned out from Swansea and so should become a valuable member of the Peterborough team moving forward. Liam will I am sure be pleased with this latest outcome as he attempts to continue improving his game and push his career forward.

George Williams (Fulham on loan at St Johnstone)
There was a boost in the confidence for Wales fans when George was promoted to the senior team squad as they had already started to believe that the team was progressing in a manner that could possibly end the wait for qualification for the finals of major tournament. His introduction as a substitute for his debut appearance for the team gave them a view of his attacking style of play that would give added strength to the squad and an extra option for the team when required. As he built up his international experience with brief appearances during qualifying games, a serious injury sustained in a league game saw him sidelined for 12 months and unavailable for the second half of qualification. He eventually recovered to be included in the squad that gave so many, great delight in France but was not used in any matches. Further injury issues have continued to disrupt his career since that time but hopefully he can put that behind him and make an impression in the Scottish Premier League over the next few months. A return to the sort of form that provided his breakthrough into the national squad would be welcomed by many, lets hope that he can do so and wish him all the best in his quest toward that achievement.

Having completed their eligibility for the Wales U-21 team at the end of last season, the group of players I have reviewed this week are what I term as former young guns. They are at a fairly crucial point in their careers, regular first team football is what will be needed to extend it in the ranks of full time professionals. What they have achieved already is worthy of praise, but I am sure that their ambition is to surpass it. Finding a means of continual improvement will be the key for a successful conclusion to that aim.

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Posted: Wednesday 21st February 2018
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