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    Young Guns update


    Young Guns by John Jones.
        This week, I will start with somewhat belated comments on the U-19 games played in North Wales earlier in the month. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing conclusion to the qualification tournament, as the tie breaking process devised by Uefa twice worked against the chance for the Welsh team to progress to the next phase of qualification.  Nevertheless, I think that the team should be congratulated for both the valiant effort and impressive displays. As I was not in attendance at the matches, I am relying on reports along with some very helpful comments received from Neil, in order to provide my take on events. The first game apparently was one of good Welsh possession but no end product against a Greek team who were probably worthy 2-0 winners at the end of the day. This was not the start anticipated, but things certainly moved in a positive direction when a strong England team were beaten 3-2 and then Luxembourg were eventually on the wrong end of a 6-2 score-line. Six points from 3 matches would automatically ensure qualification in most cases, but it was not to be this time. Rather than reflect on that issue, the fact that it was a very talented squad in this age group is a far more important subject to discuss. It was not a surprise for most who follow Welsh football from schoolboy level and onwards that such results were achieved as it has been well chronicled that such potential was evident in this group of young men. Obviously, the loss to Greece as well as conceding 2 against Luxembourg does dampen the enthusiasm to some degree, but also may provide some lessons that can be carried forward. The plaudits that were handed out in the reports were very much focused on the goal scoring feats and according to the descriptions they were certainly well deserved. It must also be added that I have it on good authority that there were some very good performances throughout all facets of the team and this is an indication that it is a blend of collective strength along with some individual excellence that makes them a force to be reckoned with.

        It is a shame that they will not be able to challenge in the latter stages of this seasonís U-19 tournament, although it should be noted that quite a few of the team will still have eligibility for the 2017/18 tournament. It would have been an added layer of experience for them to pit their wits against the stronger teams that remain in the competition and also have the possibility of being in the finals of a tournament. There is however something of a silver lining to lift the gloom from the previous statements and that is the news that a Welsh U-20 team has been invited to participate in the prestigious Toulon tournament in May of 2017. This is an opportunity for a Welsh intermediate team to get acclimatized to conditions experienced in a tournament finals scenario with a series of group games as well as an added match should they finish in the top two of their group. It does also provide the chance to play against sides from various world confederation areas.

        I am not sure what criteria is used to define the maximum age of the players that are eligible for the Toulon tournament, but it is certainly one, possibly two years older than that which was relevant for the present U-19 squad.  Even so, I would expect quite a few of these players to be involved next summer unless there is a dramatic reversal in the progress they are making during the remainder of the season. It does seem as though it is pertinent for them to be moved along to a higher level of international football in an assessment of when they may be ready for consideration for the senior squad. Of course, there will be competition for places from the older group, some of whom have already shown that they are very worthy contenders and so it will be interesting to see the names when a squad is announced.

        The second part of my offering for this week is a critique/explanation of the articles that have been featured on the website for the last few months. I had been a fan of the young guns contributions from their inception, finding them both very enjoyable and informative and looked forward to reading each one when they became available. When I made the proposal to Neil that I was willing to be the author for this seasonís young guns, I also knew I was accepting the responsibility of trying to compose articles that would at least approach the standard of what had been published in the past. I am sure that all of you that visit the website are very appreciative of having it available along with the quality of information it contains. When one considers that Neil does it purely as a hobby and has to balance a full time occupation and family needs as well as doing so, I am sure you will join in with me in congratulating him on quite a special achievement. This was also another consideration for me, I wanted to make sure I attempted to provide information to supplement the good content that already existed. For the initial few weeks, I offered a modified version of something I had done in the past which Neil had published. It was an assessment of the most prominent players based on past achievement along with what information I could find about their pre-season performances. After this I gave a personal view on what I had witnessed live about the performances of the U-21 team. My intention going forward was to copy the format of what had gone on before, a weekly update of recent notable successes of young Welsh men on the football field. With the fear of probably being repetitive in terms of praising the same players often, I carried on the similar format that I had started with, delving deeper into the pool of appropriate players and giving a general description of their progress, maybe at times, producing names unfamiliar to many who follow this column. As it is with Neil, doing this is a hobby, one that I enjoy immensely, adding that I have the good fortune of not having the distraction of full time employment to worry about. Even so, It does take up a good portion of my spare time to get information and produce something with some relevance to what a reader might enjoy looking at. As mentioned previously, it is a labour of love and I enjoy navigating through the various club sites to try and gather the details. These websites are generally very good and I have no complaints, but it is obviously mainly focused on the first team and the development and youth team news is added as a side issue. This is what makes it difficult for me to develop enough of a weekly update as has been previously done in young gun versions. The reports often tend to be brief as well as line-ups not being included on many.

        As I move forward, I hope to be able to continue with the standard I have managed so far. If there are any helpful suggestions for ways to improve or some better way for me to be able to get access to information, I would greatly appreciate all help that may be offered. I do not profess to be an expert on the subject and welcome ideas that could help me become more knowledgeable. I will close with apologies if it has become longwinded.

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    Posted: Monday 28th November 2016
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