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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

    Ashley Baker (Sheffield Wednesday)
    Ashley has been on the bench for a couple of recent Championship games as well as the FA Cup 3rd round tie against Carlisle. This trend seems to indicate a good deal of confidence that he can be an effective player for the first team if required. It will also give Ashley a great deal of encouragement to keep improving his game, knowing that the effort will be rewarded. With the cup tie needing a replay to decide which club moves on to the next round, the possibility of first team game time may come at that time. Whether such speculation on my part materializes or not, it does seem that an opportunity could come at some point in the season.

    Tom James (Yeovil Town)
    Over the last few months Tom has established himself in the Yeovil first team defence with a long run of consecutive games. Predominantly as a right back, he has also filled in on the left side on a couple of occasions adding to the versatility of being able to operate in a central capacity as well. It is something of a reversal of fortunes, as after his move to the club at the halfway point of last season saw him almost exclusively on the bench during the remainder of it. In the first few games of this season, it looked as though it might be a repetitive occurrence as he was only used on an occasional basis. It can be assumed that what has happened since that time shows that Tom has become a valuable member of the first team as the club tries to ensure league status for another season. A good FA Cup 3rd round result gives the fans added pleasure, but enough points gained in League 2 games to stay clear of relegation issues will be considered more important than any possible cup glory. Hopefully both Tom and the club will eventually reflect on a satisfactory end to the season. From a personal point of view, Tom will be anxious to move his career in a positive direction. Whether it can return to the heady days of emulating his Premier League appearance remains to be seen. Though only the briefest of cameos as Cardiff bowed out of exalted company, it was considered one that had been well deserved after impressing as his scholar days drew to a close. He has certainly shown resilience to overcome the various challenges posed and may well realize that potential envisioned ahead of him by many. Time is still on his side and it may well be that he has the determination and dedication to play at higher levels of ability.

    Connor Lemonheigh-Evans (Bristol City)
    A starting assignment in the Bristol City first team that travelled to Vicarage Road to meet Watford in the 3rd round of the FA Cup gave Connor his debut appearance for the club at that level. The team was selected without consideration for a large majority of the players who have contributed to what has been an immensely successful season to this point. The game was deemed of lesser importance as consideration for the composition of the team playing in the 2 legs of the EFL Cup semi final games as well as continuing the strong challenge for promotion in league matches was in the mind of management. Even so, congratulations are much deserved as well the recognition that he was on the bench for the previous round of the EFL Cup. It may have taken a little longer than may have been previously anticipated, but credit must be given to Connor for continually building on his good displays for firstly the youth team and then the development team along with some loan assignments as he progressed well enough to finally make that elusive breakthrough. Even though it did come about through a case of priorities, a call to represent the first team of a club are not given without good cause and with his already exhibited perseverance and application, chances are that other opportunities will follow.

    Tom Lowery (Crewe Alexandra)
    Another Tom who has become well established as a first team player this season. It may well have been similar circumstances last season had not a long term injury disrupted what was shaping up to be a promising season for him. With his full recovery coinciding with the end of last season a renewal of his contract was offered and accepted. He has certainly repaid the faith shown in him by the club's management by becoming a regular member of the side, his only absences when unavailable for selection. It has been a difficult season for Crewe as they have struggled for positive results and consequently been in the lower reaches of the division. I am sure that Tom and his team mates will do all possible to preserve the club's Football League status.
    Alex Penny (Peterborough United)
    When no offer of a contract was made to Alex as he completed his time as a scholar at Hull City, his next move was into non league football. His ability became evident as he quickly moved up levels in those circles, enough for Peterborough to offer him the opportunity to sign a full time professional contract this past summer. It has proved a satisfactory arrangement for both sides as he has consolidated his place in the first team squad, gaining some playing time as well as numerous bench assignments. As he gets more accustomed to the demands of League 1 football, an increase in first team participation could well result.

    This week it is a review of players who have experienced some amount of delay in how they would have hoped their careers might have developed to this point. They can certainly be congratulated for what they have achieved this season and will be increasingly motivated to aim for even better times ahead. They are still very much young men who can have an expectancy that the peak of their footballing powers has not yet been reached. The first team experience gained makes them viable candidates for what is already a reasonably strong and competitive Wales U-21 squad, certainly adding to depth of talent in the group.

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    Posted: Friday 12th January 2018
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