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    Young Guns update


    Young Guns by John Jones.
    Dylan Bollard (Leicester City)
    A first year scholar at Leicester, Dylan seems to be getting a good amount of time in their U-18 team lately to add to an occasional introduction he had to that level of play earlier in the season. He did not feature in the club’s FA Youth Cup team but that is not at all unusual as the tendency is to use the older and likely stronger lads in such circumstances. If he continues to progress as he seems to have done in the short time he has been employed on a full time basis, then next season will almost surely see him involved in those type of matches. As far as I am aware, Dylan has not represented Wales at any level as yet but was a part of the group that convened at a training camp for the 2000 and younger age schoolboys a couple of years ago.

    Mitchell Clark, Jack Coates and Josh Williams (Aston Villa)
    It is not the first time that I have made mention of Mitch this season as I had written about his numerous appearances in the U-23 Premier League for Villa up to that time as well as his inclusion in the original Wales U-19 squad for their European qualification matches. He has continued a combination of featuring for the U-23s as well some intermittent U-18 ones. He has been a constant selection for the youth team when they have contested FA Youth Cup ties and was in the team that was eliminated by the very narrowest of margins this past midweek. Jack and Josh were also in the squad but were unused substitutes for that match. All 3 are ’99 birth year young men and I have been keeping an eye from time to time as to how their progress has been over the last couple of seasons. It is Mitch who it appears has made the better of it as can be ascertained from my comments but it must also be added that both Jack and Josh have also been on the field with some amount of regularity for the U-18’s as well. With birthdays in the early and late spring respectively, the time for Mitch and Jack to play at that level comes to an end this season, Josh will still have another season of eligibility, an autumn birthdate being the reasoning for it. Josh has spent at least some, possibly much of his growing up years in the Staffordshire area but apparently was born in North Wales. I have not been able to determine the birthplaces for either Mitch or Jack, the only clues I could find seem to suggest that they were also born in Wales, but that may not be correct.

    Gethin Jones (Everton – on loan at Barnsley)
    There were quite a number of movements involving young guns during the January transfer window and though injuries have disrupted the chances of some of them to shine, it would be very hard to dispute that Gethin has been the most impressive of them in the last few weeks. He has performed well in a somewhat unfamiliar left sided position in the Barnsley team that has been having quite a successful season. Fitting into a team doing well is often an easier proposition for players but it is countered by the intensity required in this case as Barnsley are amongst those vying for an end of season play-off participation in which fighting for every point gained is so important in an extremely competitive division. It is very encouraging to see Gethin doing so well in such a situation, particularly as he had only very limited first team experience prior to this. It is likely that some are not at all surprised by his success as he has indicated a potential for it by doing well for the Everton U-23 side and also for the Wales U-21’s over the last few seasons. It is quite a big step from that to Championship football though, one that the large majority of his peers are unable to make, so I feel he should certainly be applauded for it. Although the Wales senior squad is settled at the present time with only an amount of uncertainty about who might be the incumbent in one or two spots, Gethin has now put himself in a position where he is knocking on the door with quite a bit louder effect than would have been previously attributed. Definitely a situation that adds strength in depth of what one might refer to as the extended squad.

    Matthew Smith (Manchester City)
    The FA Youth Cup is getting quite a lot of mention by me this week as it was Manchester City who were the victors in the quarter final match that ended Aston Villa’s participation in this season’s version. With the game tied at 1-1 and seemingly going to need extra time or possibly penalties to determine which team was to progress, Matt settled the affair in the 87th minute. According to the match report, he not only controlled the ball in a crowded penalty area but also adroitly made the space required for him to place the shot that provided a winning margin into the net. Quite an advertisement for his composure in a situation that would likely have generated a frantic response from many. He is in his first season as a scholar at City, so another accolade is warranted as he has claimed a regular place in the youth team throughout his time with them in what is a very crowded scenario, loaded with high quality personnel, in that age group. Normally the midfield pivot as he was in the afore mentioned match, he has comfortably occupied the full-back spot as well when assigned to that role on an occasional basis. With a number of those in his age group as well as others from adjacent years already making an impact that seems to indicate future stardom, it is very easy for them to be tagged as an advent of another golden generation. Much as that would please me for it to be so, I think it is a little hasty to make such a forecast until they at least progress through to regular first team football. If only a reasonable proportion of them do achieve regular high quality football, the prediction will certainly have a high probability of being correct, so you know that I am wishing each and every one of them all the very best in pursuit of their dream.
    I will close this week’s version with an acknowledgement to Emyr Huws who has found a very good temporary home in his loan spell with Ipswich Town. Though a few months too old to belong in the category of young guns as I have defined it, I think he deserves a brief mention and some congratulatory words for getting regular first team football once more. Wishing him the very best for the remainder of the season and beyond and look forward to witnessing him challenging for a place in the Wales senior squad and as great a career as possible.

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    Posted: Tuesday 28th February 2017
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