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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

    Ryan Harrington (Aberdeen)
    After completing his schoolboy tenure and a scholar contract with Everton, Ryan was not offered a professional contract to remain at the club. This left him in a situation, similar to many young players as they reach that stage of their careers, as clubs and their management staff have to make decisions that best meet the requirements needed for success. It must be a great disappointment to all who find themselves in such a scenario, but it is one that happens to the major portion of youth players. For most it is a realization that their dreams are altered significantly as they try and decide the next steps in their lives. In the short term, matches are arranged whereby youngsters who find themselves no longer affiliated with a club can try and impress representatives of clubs interested in increasing their rosters. They are organized into opposing sides and play in a game as the talent on display vie with one another to catch the eye. By which means Ryan was invited for a trial period at Aberdeen is unknown. It was one successfully completed as he was offered and accepted terms and is at present a regular member of their U-20 team. He will, I am sure, be anxious to progress at the club and create an opportunity for first team consideration as soon as possible. Though time is somewhat on his side having recently celebrated his 19th birthday, he will need to make the most of this second chance at forging a career as a professional footballer. For a great many of those that take part in what are termed exit games as they try and move on from youth football, it is at best the prospect of part time football in the lower tiers that beckons them. Whether they can overcome what must be some disillusionment and a feeling of being discarded is probably an obstacle needing to be addressed. An adjustment to performing in less exalted circumstances after what one may describe, at least in relative terms, of being previously in a pampered situation is also one likely to be a challenge. There are cases of success stories for the ones who at times found themselves quite some distance down the ladder of success and be eventually revered by fans as they persevered to rebuild their careers, in some rare cases with excellence shining through. It is very much the exception though as most need to find alternate employment, even if they can supplement their income with some football earnings.

    Presently Ryan has managed to avoid falling out of full time football employment and we wish him the very best of fortune for the future. He was regarded as one of the more prominent players as he performed whilst wearing the national shirt at both schoolboy and U-17 level football. We certainly hope that he can return to a level of play that will see him again regarded as one that can be considered worthy of representing Wales in future times.

    Rollin Menayese (Bristol Rovers)
    When Cardiff City decided to restructure their development team policy, concentrating on providing more opportunities for those in their scholar ranks and very recent graduates from that scheme to be involved in U-23 team play, Rollin became a casualty of that decision-making process and was released from his contract with the club. This resulted in him being offered a chance to play in non-league football. This is generally the next step for those who find themselves no longer involved with Football League clubs and often becomes a test of character as they rethink how to proceed with their lives. For Rollin, it was a case of being in the ranks of the part timers for only a 6 month period at Weston-Super-Mare as it ended when invited by Rovers to sign for them. He is now considered part of the first team squad at the Memorial Stadium club although he predominantly plays in the development squad. He has however made the bench a few times for first team matches as well as making his debut when introduced as a late substitute in an EFL Trophy match. A couple of weeks ago he made his League One debut as a starter for the club and proceeded to play the whole 90 minutes. He is another to whom we extend our best wishes in forging out a future in the full time game.

    Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield United)
    Rhys was a player that I became familiar with his name when I saw it listed amongst the group of youngsters invited to attend a training camp conducted to narrow down the selection process for the eventual Wales schoolboy Victory Shield squad. This was for the 1999 birth year group and after that time, I did not see it again until it appeared as a selection for the Toulon tournament squad, that being a replacement for an unavailable candidate in the originally announced party. He was unable to be available to fulfill this invitation as he had commitments to examination dates that conflicted with the games at that time and so had to be withdrawn from consideration. Although I am admittedly using guess work to add this part, it seems, as though Rhys continued with his academic education rather than pursue a life in football upon his immediate arrival at school leaving age. It appears that he continued his association with his schoolboy club Swansea during this time but then joined the Blades in the spring of this year. He is a regular member of their U-23 team and apparently making a good impression in his performances for them. He was involved with the U-19 squad that played friendly games against Iceland and Switzerland, so it would be expected that he will be in the squad that will soon be named to compete in European qualification matches in the early part of next month. He is seemingly doing very well now he has joined the full time footballing fraternity and we wish continued success in his quest for him as well.

    Quite a lot of words considering that only 3 young men were the subject of review this week. Avid followers of Welsh football fortunes crave for as many as possible who are eligible for selection to represent our nation, to be highly successful. This generally means that our focus is on those already in Premier League squads or considered to be potentially so in the future near term. As we have seen in recent times, this is what is needed for the senior team to be in a competitive mode for qualifying or tournaments. These young gun articles attempt to provide news about as many young men vying to create a successful professional career as is possible to find information to convey, but undoubtedly it is those who seem to be on track towards potential stardom that generate the most notice. This week, the message delivered is how precarious a path this can be for so many of them. No matter what status the eventual outcome of their life in football arrives at, it needs to be remembered that even those who fall by the wayside have exhibited an impressive amount of football talent along the way. They have separated themselves from almost all of the junior players that started the journey with them and by quite some margin from most. The cream of the crop as it were, when they arrive at the end of their schoolboy football days. Even so, they move on to a situation where there is still a separation process to overcome and the attrition rate along the way is extremely high. The variables that potentially arise as a youngster attempts to successfully negotiate a path towards full employment terms are numerous but assuming that physical attributes are not compromised, much of what is achieved is then by overcoming a mental challenge. Somewhat mirroring life in general, those who are willing to produce the biggest effort are usually the ones who enjoy a good career. It is certainly not easy to do, sometimes it is even hard to understand the importance of it at a tender age, but dedication and determination are very much key factors. Allied with these comes an attitude that provides a willingness to occasionally forego pleasure moments when there is a need for extra effort. I will stop there, as I am feeling as though I am long overdue coming to an end with this blog.

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    Posted: Tuesday 24th October 2017
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