Owen Bevan (AFC Bournemouth – on loan at Yeovil Town) born 2003, Defender.
Continuing his time from being affiliated with the club as a schoolboy, Owen became a Bournemouth scholar at the start of the 2019/20 season. As well as playing for the U-18 team, the coaching staff deemed his competency to be appropriate enough for the challenges to be accelerated and so he was soon playing for the U-21 team as well. He was integrated into the first team group for pre-season training and preparation matches before the start of last season and it was likewise before the start of this one. This season he continued to be involved with the first team squad as the competitive games commenced and it resulted in him making his debut when introduced off the bench for the last quarter of an hour of their Carabao Cup tie. It was followed a few days later with an introduction to Premier League competition when thrust into the last almost ten minutes of their next game. Soon after that came the arrangement of the loan at Yeovil. Owen spent the second half of last season at Truro where he did well and the coaching staff and himself all agreed that regular first team football with the National League club would be the best option for him to pursue at this time. Owen has continually represented Wales since his time as a fifteen year old and this season he moves on to become a member of the U-21 squad.
Oliver Ewing (Leicester City) born 2003, Midfielder.
As an associated schoolboy player with Fulham, Leicester negotiated for Oliver to join them upon reaching his sixteenth birthday and become a scholar at the club at the start of the 2019/20 season. Progressing through the Foxes development system, Oliver is in his second season as a member of what is now termed their U-21 squad. He is highly thought of by the coaching staff and is considered a likely candidate for first team duty having been involved in training sessions on numerous occasions. It may well be that but for some injury interruptions he may have already made his debut, with his only first team involvement to this point being a couple of occasions on the bench during European competitions last season. Over the years, Oliver has accumulated a sizeable collection of Wales caps representing the nation in consecutive Victory Shield tournaments as a schoolboy, captaining the team in his second season of doing so. He has then played for the intermediate level teams when competition was possible and is a member of this season’s U-21 squad.
Patrick Jones (Huddersfield Town) born 2003, Forward.
Wrexham recruited Patrick to join their academy after he was noticed as a standout player in local football soon after becoming a teenager. He then moved on to join Huddersfield a couple of months into the 2019/20 season, having celebrated his sixteenth birthday earlier in the summer. Having to wait until the turn of the year for his international clearance, he then began playing for the Huddersfield development teams and showed the coaching staff they had made a wise choice in attaining his signature with his performances. He continued to impress the following season, to such an extent that he made his first team debut in a January 2021 FA Cup tie. This was followed by a couple of Championship appearances off the bench soon after. He remained on the bench for the next two matches before an injury rendered him unavailable for the remainder of the season. Last season proved to be a frustrating time for Pat, as injury and some setbacks during recovery prevented him having from having any continuity in his appearances for the B team until late in the season. It has been a much better time for him this season and he has already made five appearances in Championship games and though all have been off the bench so far, he has totaled more than two hours playing time in doing so. It seems that it will not be long before he gets a starting assignment for the team. Patrick first played for Wales when selected for the Victory Shield squad in the 2018/19 season and made his debut at U-21 level at the end of last season after progressing through the various intermediate teams.
Charlie Savage (Manchester United) born 2003, Midfielder.
A long time member of the Manchester United academy teams as a schoolboy, Charlie became a scholar at the club at the start of the 2019/20 season. He easily succeeded in his quest of gaining a professional contract at the club and became a member of their older development squad at the start of last season. He certainly did not rest on his laurels with that achievement, as he showed the skill and determination that enabled him to be involved with first team training sessions, his reward for displaying the quality he possesses was a call off the bench to make his first team debut in a Champions League match. This season he has carried on his progression by impressing the new management team and gained positive reviews when given an opportunity in pre-season competition. Ideally, the biggest benefit at present may have been to gain as much experience as possible at a good level of first team football, a scenario that could have been attained through a loan assignment. He has however remained at United and is seemingly pushing hard for that chance to get some more senior side playing time. Charlie made his Wales debut when he played for the U-18 side in 2020/21 season and then played a handful of times for the U-19’s last season. He is now a member of the U-21 squad and his aim will be to emulate father Robbie and collect caps at senior level.
Fin Stevens (Brentford – on loan at Swansea City) born 2003, Defender.
Joining Brentford from non-league club Worthing in the summer of 2020, the then seventeen year old Fin quickly made an impact in his new surroundings and became involved in first team training sessions. He made his debut when introduced off the bench in an early October Carabao Cup tie and the following month became a regular matchday squad member in Championship matches. He did make a couple of brief appearances in what amounted to more than a couple of dozen of those occasions and played the whole of their two FA Cup games. Last season, as Brentford competed in the Premier League, he was on the bench for more than half of their matches, making his debut at that level with a late substitute appearance. He was also a starter in some of their cup games. This season, he was on the bench for a couple of Premier League games and played in their Carabao Cup match before Brentford agreed to allow him to be loaned out to Swansea for the season. Hopefully, he will be able to capitalize on getting plenty of game time in the Championship and be ready to push on further when returning to his parent club. Alerted to his Welsh eligibility, the national coaching staff selected him as a member of the U-21 squad in the latter half of the 2020/21 season and he has remained a regular in the team since that time.
This week, it is a group of 2003 birth year young guns that I have discussed and each one has achieved a level of competency at an above average rate. They are all on the cusp of getting game time in the first teams of their respective clubs and will want to do so on a regular basis as soon as possible. So far, they have exhibited the potential to realize this ambition and it is quite possible they will be strong candidates for such assignments in the next year or so. As Wales fans, we can feel optimistic about the prospects for our national teams going forward. They, along with the other members of the squad provide a projection that the U-21 team should be competitive when opposing some of the regularly dominant teams at that level. Assuming that this does in fact become a realization, candidates for senior team duty would increase substantially in the coming seasons.