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page originally posted : Tue 26 Nov 19: refresh for updates
Young Guns

After a lengthy and much unanticipated break from what I hope are enjoyable blogs discussing the merits of young Welsh players, I return to the pages of the Dragon Soccer website where Neil kindly lets me share my thoughts with you. I apologize for not being able to do so for the last couple of months.

Coincidentally, it is an opportune time for a return to writing, as I can congratulate the senior team's success in reaching the final stages of Euro 2020. Though I stayed largely optimistic about the probability of them doing so throughout the campaign, there were certainly nervous moments along the way. Plenty has been mentioned already about the adversities they had to overcome and so I will leave it at that, excepting to say that it does give an indication of the strong character of the group, players and staff, in surmounting the challenges posed along the way. My hope is that the law of averages will become evident over the next seven or eight months, injury and lack of playing time issues will diminish significantly during that time, allowing a strong squad to be assembled for the finals. Undoubtedly, The Red Wall will be urging and cheering them magnificently, as the team tries to reproduce reasons for the euphoric celebrations witnessed in 2016.

Young guns and very recent graduates from that criteria were important contributors in the success and again, feeling plenty has been iterated about those facts I will not delve further other than to concur with the deserved accolades both spoken and printed. What I will mention though is that they were not the only young guns proudly and successfully representing the nation. A good result achieved by the U-21 team revived their hopes of remaining competitive in their qualification campaign after a couple of previous setbacks. The U-19 team also played in the preliminary qualification matches for next summer's Euro U-19 finals and qualified to progress on to the spring 2020 elite qualification stage from which the finalists will be determined. Though seeded as the third strongest team in their group of four, they secured two wins and a draw in their games, consequently advancing as group winners. Admittedly, hosting the games can be argued as having given some advantage but according to reports they were well worthy of the two-point advantage secured over their nearest rivals at the top of the final points table. In many ways, it was not surprising, as the squad assembled was considered a strong one.

Quite a few of the players selected have been progressing at an above average rate at their respective clubs, with many respected judges of talent suggesting that quite a few are prospective candidates for the senior national squad in the years ahead. As mentioned, the next phase of qualification will occur in the spring and with only seven places available for the finals out of the twenty-eight contenders who remain, success can only be achieved by winning the group in which they will be placed. Undoubtedly, it will be a tough task, but one they may possibly be capable of surmounting.

We certainly wish them the very best when that time arrives. It will be quite an interesting time for those of us that enjoy following the fortunes of Welsh teams that compete in these young age groups as during the previous international break, the Wales U-17 team successfully moved on to compete in the elite phase. It is, I believe, the first time for both groups to do so in the same season. A couple of weeks ago, the Wales schoolboys team participated in this season's Victory Shield series of matches, a competition in which they were unbeaten, ending up as joint champions with their Scottish counterparts. Our congratulations and best wishes to all of them. It certainly does seem to produce a feeling that not only do we have young guns capable of being competitive at a high level at present, but there well may be quite a few more that can repeat this example in future years.

In concluding this week's article, I will add some more words about next summer's Euro 2020 competition. Undoubtedly, for the team and of course us fans, participation in the event is of the utmost importance and there is no reason to doubt the prominence of such thoughts. What is also of significance is the added financial resources that will become available to the FAW as the consequence of qualification. Grass roots football and with it a continuation of developing talent in what is termed The Welsh Way will benefit from the commitment to plough as much available funds as possible into maintaining the system in the positive manner it presently operates. For now, we will enjoy the moment, but a continuation of such joys in the future will be the enjoyable hope for us to anticipate. It may provide the impetus for the realization of achieving the holy grail of Welsh football, participation in a World Cup finals tournament.

- John Jones.

[photo embedded from FAW Cymru ]
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Posted: Tuesday 26th November 2019
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