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    Young Guns update


    Young Guns by John Jones.
    Liam Angel (Newport County)
    As a schoolboy on Cardiff's books, Liam was a regular member of a successful Wales U-16 team, but then maybe surprisingly not offered scholar terms. He moved on to Newport and has flourished in his time there. Although yet to make his league debut with the club, he was on the bench a few times last season and now in his second season with them he has appeared in one cup tie as well as being on the bench for numerous league games. As the team attempts to negotiate a path away from relegation worries, it may well be that a reliance on experienced campaigners will be the preferred option, but it seems to be only a matter of time before Liam will be on the field for league games. We will have to wait and see what transpires in the months ahead, the club may well find themselves with a central defender coveted by clubs further up the league ladder once more, if he can adapt to the demands of first team football.

    Ashley Baker (Cardiff City)
    Now in his second season as a full time professional at the club, Ashley has been a regular member of the U-23 team this season after featuring only intermittently last season. The format has also changed from being previously U-21 making it somewhat of a sterner challenge and so it may be an indication that he is progressing as expected. Though various factors could have been a reasoning, to my knowledge, Ashley did not play for Wales at schoolboy level nor appear in a squad at that time. He first came to my notice as a scholar at the club, playing regularly for the youth team and seemingly able to operate comfortably in any defensive position. Obviously, he did well enough to be retained as a professional, a feat that most from his year group that represented their country as schoolboys did not achieve. There is little doubt that there will be strong competition for a place in the next Wales U-21 squad. If, however, Ashley maintains his present form in the months ahead, he will surely be one of those considered for selection.

    Tommy O'Sullivan (Cardiff City)
    Having been involved with the Wales U-21 team during the last 2 qualifying campaigns, over the past 4 seasons, Tommy is now amongst the leaders of those gaining most caps at that level. Though this shows an ability to be competent in those circumstances, the limited amount of first team football opportunities in his career thus far does make his task of adding further representative honours seem unlikely in the future. With one substitute appearance in the FA Cup his only time of featuring in the Cardiff first team, he has gained some further experience in league football by going out on loan. A couple of months at Port Vale late in the 2014-15 season, was followed by 2 extended periods at Newport last season, amassing a good number of minutes on the field through a combination of starting and substitute roles, and so this shows that he does possess the ability to perform at League 1 and 2 levels. With Cardiff in a transition situation as they attempt to initially retain their Championship status and then would hope to get back amongst the challengers for a return to the Premier League eventually, first team opportunities for Tommy seem very remote. Though he must be well regarded at Cardiff, a difficult decision for club and player may be one of parting of the ways. This may be the best way forward for Tommy to gain the needed experience of first team football and possibly with determination produce evidence that he can be effective in the upper reaches of the league pyramid system. As an attacking midfielder, he does add the occasional goal for his team and if he can do this on a regular basis as well as make creative contributions in the role, people will certainly take notice.

    Tom Owen-Evans (Newport County)
    Another young player who has progressed via the club's academy, a successful youth development system very much needed by clubs such as Newport to provide a platform for a viable future. Tom made his first team debut just before the end his time with the youths and has continued progressing since that time. Though predominantly doing so as a substitute he has amassed a significant amount of playing time both last and this season. There was an interruption with a short loan spell at Gloucester 2 months ago, but he was reinserted in the match day playing squad on his return to the club. He has not been involved with any Welsh squads in any age group, but to the best that I can ascertain he does have Welsh eligibility even though he is Bristol born. Hopefully, he can continue to move his career forward and in doing so catch enough attention, thus rectifying the lack of national involvement in the future.

    Theo Wharton (Cardiff City) enough
    Theo has been on the fringe of the Wales U-21 squad for a good many years, his cause for making a greater impact often disrupted by injury. He has been a professional at Cardiff for quite some time, obviously, an indication that they think highly of him. This will be the last mention for Theo in the young guns articles as he has pledged his international future to St. Kitts and Nevis. With a relatively limited number of players in the professional ranks, it is always something of a blow to the Wales cause to have a depletion in the candidates. It is however a wonderful honour for him to be able to represent the homeland of his grandparents and I am sure that many you will join me in wishing him the very best of good fortune for the future.

    Ben Woodburn (Liverpool)
    This week cannot be allowed to pass without offering congratulations to Ben on making his Premier League debut and then surpassing that feat with his EFL Cup achievement. Many of you have been anticipating such accomplishments and now will come an even greater amount of suspense to wait on his international future. Although undoubtedly extremely talented and no doubt worthy of the opportunity presented at his club, there will also be an amount of caution going forward. Both the Liverpool and Wales management teams will I am sure, gauge carefully when to progress with his Premier League and senior international appearances.

    Posted: Tuesday 6th December 2016
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