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Oliver Cooper (Swansea City) born 1999, Midfielder. Affiliated with Swansea teams for the past decade, Oliver impressed as an academy player and moved on to be a scholar with the club at the end of his schoolboy days. His performances as a scholar then warranted the receipt of a professional contract in the summer of 2018 and so he became a member of the U-23 squad at the club. He continued developing his game at that level well enough to be elevated to first team involvement this season and has regularly appeared on the bench in Championship matches for the last couple of months. His first team debut occurred when introduced off the bench during the recent third round FA Cup match and his aim now will be to push as hard as possible to make his league debut as well. He has also been rewarded for his good play this season with selection for the Wales U-21 squad, although his time at that level now comes to an end as the team will have no more competitive matches until next season. His goal now will be to eventually get regular game time at first team level and in that way push closer to selection consideration for the Wales senior team squad.
Daniel Hawkins (Salford City) born 2001, Forward. After playing for the academy teams at Swansea as a schoolboy, Daniel was offered and accepted an invitation to become a scholar with Hull City. Though he did reasonably well when playing for two seasons with the Hull U-18 team, also making a few appearances for the U-23 team, his association with the club was not extended beyond that time. As a result, Salford recruited him to join their development squad at the start of last season. Doing well on short term loan assignments with nearby clubs Marine and Stafford Rangers as well as for the club’s development team last season has seen Daniel make his first team debut for them in this one. He has played a total of four times, three in EFL trophy matches as well as in an FA Cup tie. His quest now will be to get first team involvement in League 2 matches. A good goal scoring record when out on loan and for the development team persuaded the coaching staff to give him the opportunity of first team game time. Now he will need to show that he can do so against tougher opposition and if he is successful, then league appearances will follow.
Keenan Patten (Cardiff City) born 2001, Midfielder. Joining the Cardiff academy system as a nine year old, Keenan has obviously impressed the coaching staff at the club over the years as he worked his way to an eventual professional contract in 2019. As a member of the club’s U-23 squad last season, he was loaned out to Penybont for the first half of it and played regularly for the team as he gained valuable first team experience in the Cymru Premier league. He returned to Cardiff for the second half and played regularly for the U-23’s in the short period before all football activities were stopped. He has continued playing for the U-23’s this season and done well enough to have gained a place on the first team bench for their most recent half dozen matches. He will now be hoping that the manager will give him his first team debut as soon as possible and demonstrate that he is worthy of game time at that level. Keenan has also been regularly involved with Wales teams from his schoolboy days and onward. He was a member of the schoolboy squad that competed in the Victory Shield in the 2016/17 season and was then selected to represent the nation at U-17 level in the following one. Last season he helped the U-19 team gain success in the UEFA competition for their age group, one that would have seen them gain experience playing against strong opposition in the elite stage had there not been the need to cancel the matches.
Scott Smith (Wigan Athletic) born 2001, Midfielder. Scott moved into the ranks of the fulltime professionals at Wigan for the start of the 2019/20 season after the completion of his time as a scholar with the club. The retention of his services to become a member of the U-23 squad was hardly surprising, as he had provided strong performances for the U-18 team and captained the side regularly over the two seasons of youth team play. The Wigan development teams at that time competed in a regional Category 3 status and were dominant in many of the competitions they were involved in. A resulting elevation into a Category 2 status was consequently achieved in 2019. Scott played regularly for the U-23 team last season as they were tested by stronger opposition and justified their promotion by gaining substantially more victories than defeats prior to the early termination of the season. This season, Scott was injured in one of the earliest U-23 games and needed quite a few weeks of recovery before returning to full fitness. When he did so, he played a couple of games for the U-23 team and has then been on the bench for most first team games played during the last couple of months. It does seem that it is only a matter of time before his first team debut occurs, quite likely it may have occurred earlier in the season had he been available for EFL Trophy matches. Scott’s first involvement with Wales teams was participation in an U-19’s training camp at the end of the 2018/19 season. Last season he played his first game in an early season friendly match and was later a member of the squad that progressed from the UEFA U-19 Championships preliminary qualification group. Nathan Shepperd (Brentford) born 2000, Goalkeeper. After playing for Swansea teams for a number of years, initially as a schoolboy and then as a scholar, Nathan’s time at the club came to an end as there was no offer of a contract to continue with the club beyond his time in the U-18 squad. He was however without a club for only a short period as Brentford signed him to become a member of their development squad in the summer of 2019. Performances for the Brentford B team in the 2910/20 season greatly impressed the coaching staff at the club and they praised not only his terrific skills, but also his determination and dedication to continue developing improvements in his abilities. As preparation was taking place for the present season, Nathan was injured when playing in one of the pre-season games, a situation that was originally evaluated as needing about a month of recovery time. It did however require a much longer period for him to regain full fitness and he was only able to resume playing in December. He has quickly shown that the quality of his play is not diminished and rewarded with his first involvement in first team games when appearing on the bench in their recent third round FA Cup tie. Nathan’s good form at club level alerted the Wales U-21 selectors and he was notified in early March last year that he had been chosen to be in the squad scheduled to play a game later in the month. Football came to a halt a few days after that time and so the match was postponed. He was of course unavailable when the U-21’s resumed their games this season, but he will still remain eligible for selection next season and so will be aiming to be named when the next squad is announced.
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