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    Young Guns update


    Young Guns by John Jones.

    Alex Bray (Rotherham United)
    Although it must wait until the end of the season to be finalized, agreement has been reached with his previous parent club Swansea along with a contract offer accepted by Alex that sees him join Rotherham on a permanent basis. In the interim he will continue with the January loan arrangement that transferred him to the club until May. After numerous games where he remained on the bench, Alex has seen some amount of game time as a substitute during the last couple of matches and is gaining experience playing Championship football through it. It may well be this will increase considerably over the next 10 or so games that remain. Although not mathematically certain yet, the relegation of the team down to League 1 is all but a foregone conclusion and so Alex and his team mates will ply their trade at that level when the 2017/18 season begins. He must have impressed the staff at Rotherham since arriving there, will have benefitted from this time spent with them and will hopefully become a key player for them as they will be determined to improve their results, maybe making a bid to regain their lost status.

    Ryan Hedges (Barnsley)
    Another ex-Swansea player, as his January transfer was a permanent one to the Oakwell club. He is also getting acclimatized to the demands of Championship football for the first time and has been used on a couple of substitute appearances up to this time, making some useful contributions when called upon. Barnsley are having quite a bit better season than a great many would have predicted at its start, making it that much more of a challenge for Ryan to secure a starting assignment in the team. Obviously, he is one it is believed can help the club going forward, assessed as having an ability to compete at Championship level. With it seeming as though a place in the play-off places is very unlikely, it is this scenario that is what both Ryan and the team will be attempting to have success in during the 2017/18 campaign.

    Tom Lockyer (Bristol Rovers)
    Tom is probably overdue another acknowledgement on my part in these weekly contributions. He has been an ever present in the heart of the Rovers defence throughout the season as well as appearing in the Wales U21 team during their games in September and October 2016. With that tenure at an end, the next possible international involvement for him is selection for the senior squad. Though that is not regarded as an imminent possibility, he can certainly be one that may get strong consideration in the future. Having obviously met the challenge of League 1 football in a successful manner, the next question to be answered is his ability to cope with higher levels of football. Though Rovers have adapted with mainly positive results in their return to League 1 competition, it does seem very unlikely that promotion beckons at seasonís end. Tomís prospect of playing above that level in the near term therefore rests in a move away from the Memorial Stadium. Whether there are suitors that will procure that outcome is not known and with the club also ambitious to climb the league ladder, there would be some reluctance to part with one of their key players unless it would be such that was viewed as beneficial to all parties. As fans, for us it is all a case of conjecture as we wait and see what develops, only becoming aware of what is happening when relevant news is released. Even if the status quo remains as we proceed into next season, it should also be remembered that Tom does have plenty of time on his side, he only reached his 22nd birthday during the last few days of 2016. On a personal note, he did enough to catch my eye as I watched him perform for the Wales U-21 team during their 2 September games. With some continued improvement and a development of ability to adapt to the more rigorous demands and silkier opposition skills, I do believe that he is a prospective Wales senior international player at some point in his career.

    Robbie Patten, Macaulay Southam and Jamie Veale (Cardiff City)
    Here are the 3 more experienced players in what has become a very young Cardiff U-23 squad. With the recent movement of a number of players to various clubs, the decision to have an avenue for some of the newest full time professionals to be a regular part of the U-23 team may well prove beneficial in nurturing the best talent toward first team involvement quickly. These 3 players must also be regarded to have that same potential as well as being considered being able to guide their younger team mates in games. Apart from Declan John who is in the first team squad these days, Macaulay is the only remaining í95 birth year player from what was a large number of Welsh boys who secured a scholar contract upon completion of their schoolboy status. He has done well, captaining the U-18ís during his time in that format and of course gaining a full time contract after it. Jamie has likewise caught the eye during his U-18 and now U-23 time, presently captaining that side. To my knowledge, Robbie is the only one of the 3 to have any Wales international involvement, doing so with the U-17 and U-19ís. All of them are eligible for this young guns category, Macaulay is a local Cardiff young man and though I do not know Jamieís birth place, having been in the Cardiff academy system since the age of 10 must surely also give him credentials to play for Wales if selected. Not only has the Cardiff staff made the decision to expose their youngest professionals to as much U-23 playing time as possible, their new philosophy seems to extend this to even younger players on scholar terms. In a recent match, it was even a case of introducing Robbieís brother Keenan who only very recently was offered a scholarship that starts in the summer, with a substitute appearance. It may well turn out to be a very tough assignment at times, but I am supportive of such moves. The sooner that they get an appreciation of the levels they need to initially attain and then quickly exceed if they are to progress toward first team consideration, then hopefully they will have a better understanding of the dedicated and determined effort needed to forge a successful footballing career.

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    Posted: Wednesday 15th March 2017
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