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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

    Jack Bodenham, Sion Spence and James Waite (Cardiff City)
    James finished his scholar status with the club at the end of last season, but the good progress achieved during those years was sufficient to persuade the offer of a professional contract which he accepted. Jack is also a 1999 birth year young man though his birth date in the latter part of the year sees him still eligible for the U-18 team and is in the final year of his scholar contract at the capital city club. Sion, a player who caught the eye and induced positive comments in his schoolboy international appearances, began his scholar time at the start of this season and will be aiming to eventually move toward first team consideration, a prediction made by some of those impressed with the talent he possesses. This is of course the ambition of all youngsters likewise involved as they try and forge a career in football, but need to survive extremely tough competition to achieve. James is into that next step of progression as he plays regularly for the U-23 team. Though slightly small in stature his tricky moves and eye for goals sees him involved even when the team is supplanted by senior squad players who are at times inserted to maintain match fitness levels. Jack, captain of the U-18 team in which Sion also plays regularly do also get some acclimatization to U-23 matches and will likely find that to be even more so as the season moves into its second half and important decisions will be pondered as management looks to the future. In the meantime, international football will most likely be the focus of these 3 as the announcement of the Wales U-19 squad selected for the upcoming qualifying tournament is imminent.

    Liam Cullen and Kieran Evans (Swansea City)
    Both Liam and Kieran are now in the full time professional ranks at the Liberty Stadium having been offered contracts at the completion of their time as youths. With the club having built a large and competitively successful squad at U-23 level both have been used sparingly up to this point of the season. Of course, they have eligibility for quite some time to come, having just started this part of their careers and it seems there might have been injury interruptions as regard to availability as well. Both played a big part in the successful Wales schoolboy team that was triumphant in the Victory Shield quest in 2014 and then moved on to U-17 international and club youth football where they also did well. It will take all their resolve to increase their playing time in the immediate future but hopefully they will work their utmost to improve and give both club and country the encouragement of having added options in their squad. Liamís ability to find the back of the net has been something of a constant positive in his career so far, a continuation of such a prowess would be impossible to ignore should he manage it in each new level he is challenged to do so. They will almost certainly be strong candidates for inclusion in the Wales U-19 squad.

    Dylan Levitt (Manchester United)
    As was Sion, Dylan is also a former Wales schoolboy international for the 2000 birth year group, though I believe that at times his contribution was hampered by injury. Affiliated with the Old Trafford club for a number of years by this time, he began his full time participation in football in the summer as he joined them as a scholar. He has been a regular member of the U-18 team since the start of the season, as one of the older members of the new intake maybe not overly surprising but still a feat to be complimented in view of the number of players at that level that are employed by the club. His name is another expected to be amongst the ones chosen when the announcement of the U-19 international squad is made.

    Pablo Martinez and Adam Pryzbek (West Bromwich Albion)
    Another couple of candidates for the soon to be announced U-19 squad. Adam, coveted by both the English and Welsh youth camps has been at West Brom for a number of years and has gained admiration in this way since his schoolboy days. He was involved in the friendlies against both Iceland and Switzerland, so it would seem very likely for him to be named for the qualifiers. Pablo moved to the Hawthorns on scholar terms in the summer having previously been associated with Reading. His initial appearances for Wales came as an U-17 international and was called up as a replacement for the Switzerland games. There is quite a strong pool of players who fill the central defensive positions that will vie for the limited spots required, so it will be a case of disappointment for some. Pablo seems to be making good progress as not only has he been regularly involved at U-18 level but has also been on the bench for the clubís U-23 team. Some of his fellow competitors for selection have similarly featured at their clubs, possibly making it a spoilt for choice situation for the decision making process.

    Brandon Oddy (Crystal Palace)
    A switch from his previous club, Norwich City, to the Selhurst Park youth system came about in recent weeks and Brandon has seemingly hit the ground running in his new surroundings with a number of goals already scored for their U-18 team. He was a selection for the squad that competed against Iceland but was on the standby list for the Switzerland games. He has previously represented Wales both as a schoolboy and U-17 international and his recent form will probably provide ample food for thought as the deliberation for a further need for his services takes place.

    This week, I have written in advance of the announcement of the U-19 squad and have concentrated on some of those that are available at this level. A few have been mentioned in some of the blogs I have penned in the earlier part of the season and those not mentioned so far will almost certainly be a source for inclusion in the weeks ahead. Wishing all who are part of the U-19 squad the very best and hoping for a successful outcome in the attempt to continue into the tournamentís next stage.

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    Posted: Wednesday 1st November 2017
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