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Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

Mitch Clark (Aston Villa)
Highly regarded by many Villa fans, Mitch made further good impression on them when involved with the first team during their pre-season schedule. As with other youngsters at the club who are similarly regarded, playing time in competitive games is a difficult proposition. An investment in the attempt to regain Premier League status has produced a very large squad of well established, experienced players. In the short term at least, these are the most likely selections for Championship games in the new attempt to go further than their elimination in last season’s play-off final. As happened last season, Mitch may well feature in Carabao Cup games but what happens after that will depend on the performances of both the team and its incumbents in league play. If the path ahead becomes crowded, there could be an inclination to accept a loan bid for Mitch’s services. On the international front, Mitch will be considered as a very viable candidate for inclusion in the Wales U-21 squad.

Rabbi Matondo (Manchester City)
Rabbi’s inclusion in the Man. City squad for their International Champions Cup participation was certainly a sign of how well he is doing at the club. Admittedly he did not get any playing time, but for a player that still has a season of youth team eligibility ahead of him it is fairly significant recognition. A very large squad with a major portion of their most senior players missing from it, it obviously does not suggest any imminent first team opportunities for him. The intent was most likely to acclimatize for the future and encourage him to continue the rapid development he achieved in his first full season at the club. Appearances in the U-23 team are likely to become increasingly numerous over the next few months and his name will surely be amongst those selected for the national U-21 squad later in the month.

Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield United)
Involvement in first team games during the pre-season preparations is an indication that management at the club have a high regard of Rhys’ ability and a possible first team debut in a competitive match may be forthcoming soon. He has certainly made excellent progress in the relatively short time he has been at Bramall Lane and was a prominent figure in the Wales U-21 team that played a couple of friendly matches at the end of last season. Rhys was not included in the matchday squad for the first league game of the season and so it becomes a question of whether the manager wants him to get first team experience elsewhere before using him in Championship game situations. A continuation of the rapid progress he has made will likely see him challenge strongly for a place in the Blades starting line-up.

Tyler Roberts (Leeds United)
A loan period with Walsall for the first half of last season confirmed what he had already indicated in previous loan situations. The talent he possesses allowed him to be a very good performer in League 1 football and made fans eager to see him experience football at a higher level. The move to Leeds when unable to agree on a new contract with West Brom gave him the opportunity to do so last January. An unfortunate injury prevented him from taking any further part in the season and so still awaits a first team debut with the Elland Road club. Fit again for the start of pre-season, the manager has used him as a substitute during evaluation of his new charges. He has generally made an impact when introduced, though he did stay on the bench during the club’s first Championship match. Undoubtedly, he will get his chance as the new regime tries to bring back glory days and hopefully he can prosper under their guidance.

Joe Rodon (Swansea City)
Captain of the Wales U-21 team, Joe has shown himself worthy of that role with the performances generated. Similarly evaluated when playing for the Swansea U-23 team, this prompted Cheltenham to seek his services for a loan period in the second half of last season. It gave Joe the opportunity to experience the demands of first team football, some good reviews were observed when reading game reports. He has seemingly carried those lessons forward as he managed to be a part of Swansea’s first team squad with a bench appearance as they kicked off their season. Representing his local club will I am sure have been his ambition throughout his lengthy association there and does look like it may come to fruition.

This week is something of a follow on from what I penned last time. A group of players who enhanced their reputations last season and will be expecting to add further to it in the months ahead. The new season would seem to be one that will be important in defining the success of their professional football careers, each are on the threshold of gaining first team exposure at a high level if they can continue to further refine their play to cope with demands that such occasions will bring. Doing so on a regular basis would certainly raise their profile in any discussion of the Wales senior squad composition. Ryan Giggs does have a strong group of players in those he has already utilized during his time at the helm, certainly bolstered by the potential of those that came under scrutiny last week. I do feel confident that the next young gun to join the list of Wales senior capped players will come from this group.

I will conclude my effort for this week by adding this observation. Based on what has transpired up until now, this week I have mentioned most of those with the strongest chance of eventually representing their country at senior international level. As will become apparent over the coming weeks, they are not the only candidates for such an honour. Without doubt, it is a dialogue of potential that I am generating. It is however about an exhibition of talent that has prompted observers to believe an ability to reach a high level of football performance is within their capability. Much hard work as well as those staples of determination and dedication must ensue to make it even a possibility. As I have stated previously, I do firmly believe that the Wales senior team will rival some of its past peak achievements as we look to the seasons ahead.

[photo embedded from twitter]

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Posted: Wednesday 8th August 2018
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