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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

    Declan John (Cardiff City on loan at Rangers)
    I first became aware of Declan when reading a match report of Wales versus England in a Victory Shield encounter and he was considered the star player in an impressive Welsh win. After that he became a scholar at Cardiff and progressed to earn a professional contract at its end. This coincided with the Bluebirds finally returning to the top division after a half century absence. An injury sustained by the expected incumbent left the door open for Declan to make his first team debut as the club started their season in the Premier League and though it was a tough baptism with the team struggling for positive results, he did well enough to have a run of some months in the side. Injury also resulted in the Wales senior side necessitating a candidate to fill their needs and within a matter of weeks Declan had moved on from being a youth player to regular appearances in the Premier League as well as a senior international with a couple of starts in his national side assigned to his name. All was riding high, but with Cardiff unable to prolong their status amongst the top clubs beyond that one season, Declan was replaced in the side as the club made defensive changes in the attempt to avoid relegation. The return to life in the Championship was rough for both club and player as a succession of managers tried with little success to move the team in a positive direction. Declan made some sporadic appearances as well as being away from the club on loan assignments, the latest of which is for this season at Rangers. He has certainly enjoyed his time in the Scottish Premiership, getting a long run of first team appearances and creating speculation that Rangers will invoke part of the loan agreement allowing them to sign him permanently at its end. Whether or not that occurs, he is enjoying a brighter part in his career than he has for some time at the moment, hopefully this can continue in increasingly positive fashion for many years.

    Jordan Williams (Liverpool on loan at Rochdale)
    A succession of injuries has caused interruptions in Jordans football career from his days as a schoolboy and onwards. He has certainly been able to overcome them each time, but it has most likely slowed down the progress he may have made but for such instances. After an impressive time as a scholar at Liverpool, he signed a professional contract with them, moving on to play in the development team which was involved in U-21 competitive games. This was the equivalent of the present PL 2, now designated for U-23 teams. A continuation of his good form resulted in a first team debut at Anfield when he came off the bench during an EFL Cup match. Later in the season he was loaned for a few weeks to gain first team experience. The next season another loan arrangement started with him getting good reviews, but a serious injury after a few games ended his season and necessitated many months of recuperation before he regained full fitness. This coincided with the start of last season when he was an integral part of the Liverpool U-23 team from beginning to end. Jordan was again with the U-23 team at the start of this season, but moved to Rochdale at the end of August when they agreed a loan arrangement for him. He has been in their first team throughout his availability until a suspension and then injury has seen him miss recent games. Undoubtedly Rochdale have been happy to secure his services although it has created a small dilemma on the team sheet. With a namesake already on the books, it is by his other given name Michael that we find reference to him when looking at the line-up for matches. What develops in future for Jordan is hard to even hazard a guess about what it may be. Liverpool obviously hold him in high regard, a renewal of his contract would have been highly unlikely if this was not so, but with a long list of players in a similar situation of trying to secure a place in the first team squad, it may be a case of those that impress the most will remain. Ideally for Jordan, showing that he can command a regular place in a Championship team would be a progression in his career. A development of that sort of situation would bring consideration for inclusion in the Wales senior squad. Speculating about such things often bring incorrect conclusions, we will just have to wait and see what happens.

    Joe Wright (Doncaster Rovers)
    Joe has been a constant member of the Doncaster defence this season as the club try to consolidate their position in League One after last seasons successful promotion campaign. It will be a long hard season for each team in the division, every point gained seemingly vital each week. The congested table, with so many teams within very few points of each other will likely leave promotion and relegation fates in the balance until almost the last minutes of the season. In this respect, Rovers management and fans will be rooting for Joe and his colleagues keep the strong defensive resolve they have exhibited this far to continue. Joe is a Welsh international player, having been capped at U-21 level in the European qualifying campaign prior to the present one. He did withdraw from participation in the final couple of games as he was at that time placing his full concentration on establishing himself as a viable member of his clubs first team squad following his transfer there from Huddersfield Town. Undoubtedly, on a personal level this has been a successful quest for him, should he keep his career moving in positive fashion there may be consideration for more international recognition.

    Gethin Jones (Everton) and Josh Sheehan (Swansea City)
    Both of these young men had a successful time on loan assignments last season. Gethin suffered an early season injury on duty with the Everton U-23 side and has just returned to full fitness having missed a considerable number of weeks in recovery. Josh assisted Newport County last season as they eventually recovered from a very poor start and barely avoided relegation. He was injured some weeks prior to the completion of the season and though I believe he is now close to regaining his fitness has not featured in any competitive action for Swansea. Hopefully they can regain the form which saw them getting first team action on loan.

    This review has been a continuation of what was started in my previous blog. It has been a discussion of those I have termed former young guns, they finished their eligibility for U-21 international football at the end of last season. As was seen, some are already contributing to the fortunes of the Wales senior team and will hopefully be joined by others in the future.

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    Posted: Tuesday 12th December 2017
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