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Ryan Astley (Everton), born 2001, Defender Although he has been listed as a member of the U-18 squad for the past couple of seasons, Ryan has played around two-thirds of his games for the club's U-23 team. That statistic alone shows that he is progressing at a rate well ahead of the majority of his age group peers, but what can also be added is that management have commented with a lot of praise for some of his performances. Some have been against opponents both substantially older and with a greater amount of experience than he has. It cannot be regarded as particularly surprising, as Ryan was predicted to have an outstanding future when his ability and poise was evident during the time he captained the Wales U-16 team in 2016. His next challenge will be to continue to exhibit his talent at first team football level. When that may be, is unclear at present. It depends whether Everton will loan him out and if that is the case, it might be quite soon. Unless there is a further change in the scheduling, Ryan will be on duty with the Wales U-19 team in November, contesting for a place in the finals of that age group UEFA competition due to be held next spring. He and his fellow defenders were credited by the coaching staff for providing a strong base as the team successfully progressed as group winners when the qualification games were played in 2019.
Daniel Barden (Norwich City), born 2001, Goalkeeper Norwich signed Daniel a couple of months after the start of the 2018/19 season when Arsenal agreed to allow him to leave their development programme in search of a better opportunity. He became the Norwich U-18 team goalkeeper for the remainder of the season, doing well enough that the club offered him a full professional contract. Last season, he was loaned out to non-league club Bury Town, his performances for them pleasing management of both his temporary and parent club. With the need to reorganize the schedule for this season, the conflict of EFL Cup games being played in the international break created the need for Daniel to make his first team debut for Norwich. With their two senior goalkeepers unavailable because of international duty, the manager expressed complete confidence that he was a very adequate replacement option. Although the result for the team was a defeat, Daniel did give a good account of himself with his performance. It may well be that his next first team duty will again be on loan as he builds up experience towards being ready for regular appearances in the Championship. Daniel was a member of the Wales U-19 squad that played in last season's UEFA tournament and it is expected that he will be in the squad that plays in the Elite round in November.
Morgan Boyes (Liverpool ¿ on loan at Fleetwood Town), born 2001, Defender Last season was certainly an eventful one for Morgan as he started out on his professional career after the completion of a successful time as a scholar at Liverpool. Having been involved with Wales teams from his time as a schoolboy and onwards, he was credited with providing accomplished performances for the U-19 team as they successfully negotiated progressing to the Elite round of the age group tournament. A few weeks after that, he made his first team debut for Liverpool as part of the young side they fielded against Aston Villa in the EFL Cup. Although the game ended up in defeat, Morgan and many of his young teammates were praised for making it much tougher on Villa than they imagined it would be. A few weeks later, Morgan was again on first team duty when named on the bench for Liverpool's 4th round FA Cup tie earning another appearance when introduced as a late substitute. It impressed enough for Fleetwood to negotiate for his services on a season loan. Missing their first game of the season when on duty with Wales, Morgan was on the bench for their first two league games before making his debut in the 3rd round EFL Cup tie against Everton and then retaining his place for the next league game. It does look as though he will gain plenty of valuable first team experience over the coming months. Morgan made his debut for the Wales U-21 team in the game played in early September but may return to the U-19 squad for the November Elite round matches.
Callum Jones (Hull City), born 2001, Midfielder Joining Hull in the summer of 2019 to become a member of their U-23 squad, Callum quickly gained a regular place in that team. His good progress for that team was rewarded with a couple of bench appearances for the first team in July as the Championship resumed play to complete the season. He has continued his association with the first team this season, introduced as a late substitute in a league match before starting two games, the first in an EFL Trophy match and then in the third round EFL Cup game. He is obviously doing well, and one can anticipate increased playing time in league matches as the season progresses. As Neil has already mentioned in his player updates, he is eligible to be selected for the U-19 squad that will compete in the upcoming Elite round. Callum has not been involved with any Wales teams up to this point, but it seems that will change if he continues impressing as he has been doing. His name adds to what is already a strong pool of players available for selection and will provide something of a dilemma for the coaches as they make decisions about the composition of the squad. What they would term as a pleasant headache and a reason for fans to have an optimistic opinion for future Wales teams.
Jack Vale (Blackburn Rovers), born 2001, Forward Jack's much anticipated first team debut for Blackburn occurred in the late season as the club played one of their games in the resumption after the covid-19 delay. He was included on the bench for the team in three games and in one of those was substituted in for the final quarter of an hour. It was an occasion many had predicted after seeing his performances for the Blackburn U-18 and U-23 teams. Jack was pushing hard to convince management that he could be a productive option for the team this season when an injury shortly before the start of the season disrupted those efforts. He is still sidelined at present, but the expectation is that he will soon be fit enough to play again. His return to action will almost certainly be for the U-23 team as he will have to try and impress once more to warrant first team consideration. There was some speculation that he might be allowed to go out on loan to get experience but that will be dependent on both fitness and the path forward for football with regard to restrictions. Jack was selected for the Wales U-21 squad in all of the international breaks last season and so although still eligible for the U-19's did not play for that team. He could become a candidate for the Elite round squad, assuming he is back playing by that time.
Ryan and Morgan have been selected for the Wales U-21 squad that was announced a day or so ago and are accompanied in it by four others who are eligible for the 2001 year U-19's. Two more are of course in the senior squad. There are still many potential obstacles they need to overcome to develop into first team players at the higher levels of the game but what they have achieved so far signifies that it is a realistic possibility. Added to this, is that though their absence is a detraction, there are still a substantial number of good quality players available to provide a capable squad for the U-19/20 group that is selected for the friendly match in a couple of weeks. As mentioned previously, it bodes well for the future. .
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