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YOUNG GUNS BLOG UPDATE

 

Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

Mitchell Clark (Aston Villa)
Mitch has been one of the stand out players for the Aston Villa U-23's throughout the season, his strong defensive qualities an obvious benefit for the team and this being enhanced by the versatility to fill in anywhere along the back line when the need arose. There was some exposure to first team duty in the early season cup matches but he has solely been involved with the development team since that time. Such a scenario is bound to be frustrating for him, but there is some solace in knowing his path forward is presently hindered by the large number of experienced players also competing for the first team places. With Villa intent on promotion, the tendency toward a conservative selection policy is understandable. On the international front, Mitch captained the Wales U-19 team in their autumn matches and his aim now will be to become part of the national U-21 squad. He was almost certainly strongly considered for the recent squad and though again there is good quality competition, he will surely take the next step along the international ladder before too long. He recently signed on to extend his time with Villa and so they must be confident of his eventual progression to regular first team duty at the club. If Premier League football does feature at Villa Park next season, a loan assignment to prepare for such intense competition may be preferred. I think that the likelihood of first team football with some amount of regularity is one that can be strongly anticipated for Mitch next season.

Jay Foulston (Newport County)
The pre-season accolades afforded Jay by his club manager certainly brought his name to my attention. His inclusion in the senior squad and then some exposure to first team football in EFL Trophy matches further underlined that he was someone to take note of. As a first-year scholar at the club, his main emphasis has been directed toward play for the youth team this season, but obviously an opinion that he has qualities which, if they continue to be developed, can produce increasing first team appearances is perceived. His recent selection for national recognition as part of the U-19 squad shows that he is also on the radar of coaches at that level as well. With his 18th birthday still more than 6 months away, time is very much on his side as physical development will continue along with the honing of his football skills. It certainly is the hope of clubs such as Newport to produce as many first team players as possible through their development system. This could help not only consolidate but possibly improve their Football League status over time. Of course, successful young players are often coveted by wealthier clubs, but this does have a consolation of providing finances to continue a repeat process of the philosophy.

Dylan Levitt (Manchester United)
In the summer, Dylan started a new phase in his football career as he became a scholar at the Old Trafford club. Since that time, he has been a regular starter for the U-18 team as well as some involvement in the U-19 squad. A recent video was released to showcase his passing skills, this inducing accompanying comments that suggested a favourable comparison to the ability shown by Paul Scholes as he forged a magnificent club and international career. Not the ideal burden to place on the shoulders of a young player perhaps, but should he come close to emulating that sort of quality as a senior team member, the adulation of Red Devil and Dragon Nation fans is guaranteed. He represented Wales in the U-19 matches earlier in the season but had to withdraw from the squad that recently travelled to Croatia. He will have another season of youth eligibility for the next campaign, one that will hopefully see him continue to progress in a positive manner and provide plenty of material worthy of mention in young gun blogs.

George Thomas (Leicester City)
Since the eventual successful pursuit of Leicester in arranging the transfer of George from Coventry City, he has been busily performing well for the U-23 team at the club. Having previously experienced regular first team football, he is I am sure anxious to do so again as soon as possible. Now, of course, the bar is raised regarding the quality of the competition he needs to overcome to reach his goal. I think it is fair to say that George is meeting the challenge head on, getting good reviews in the matches played. With Leicester in a comfortable mid table position, though they will want to continue in a positive manner, the urgency to gain matchday successes will be somewhat lessened. Some speculative comments have suggested evaluation of younger players in Premier League competition is included in the thoughts of management as they look beyond the present season. If this idea is instigated, George is apparently amongst the favourite candidates for selection. It will certainly provide encouragement as well as a first-hand view of the consistent quality of play needed to get game time on such a stage if he does get the opportunity.

James Spruce (Bristol Rovers on loan at Farnborough Town)
James will I am sure be focused on each game over the next few weeks as the season draws toward its close but will be spared any extra anxiety with the knowledge that he starts next season with the club. He will become a full time professional upon completion of his time as a youth player with Rovers in the summer. It will be the ideal culmination of what has been a season that he will look back fondly upon. Impressive early season form in the youth team was highlighted by selection in the squad and then playing for the Wales U-19 team in the European qualifying tournament for that age group. Management at the club decided after this that the greatest benefit would then be gained by exposing James to the demands of first team football and so he has been made available for loan assignments with non-league teams, the latest of which is at Farnborough. Next season, the challenge for him will be to find a means of gaining minutes in the first team for the Pirates and build on it to achieve a regular place in the team. Continuing the determination and dedication that has seen him reach his present status will be needed and I am sure he will apply himself to do so.

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Posted: Wednesday 4th April 2018
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