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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

    Though it was good to have a break from the self-imposed task of trying to provide a weekly diet of young gun blogs, I have to say that in many ways I couldnít wait to get started all over again for the new season. Hopefully, I can compose some interesting reading versions as the weeks progress. Much of the credit if I am successful in doing so, will reflect the merits of the young Welsh players whose accomplishments make it an easy chore to afford them some praise. This was certainly the case over the past season as many of them made impressive progressions in their careers. It is not an unreasonable expectation to anticipate a continuation of this trend.¬†

    The end of the 2017/18 league season occurred more than 2 months ago and in fact closer to 3 months for most teams, but in the meantime, we have been supplied a regular diet of football as the play-offs were soon followed by international friendlies at various levels. For many of the senior international teams they were preparatory games for the quadrennial extravaganza that the World Cup has evolved into over the decades. Of course, for us, it was another anniversary to be considered, as it is now 60 years and counting since a Wales team was involved in the event. So be it, after the Euro odyssey, hopes were certainly raised but it was a case of not quite good enough once more. Now we face another minimum of a 4 year wait if we are to witness Welsh participation in the spectacle. Though it can only at best be a hopeful projection at this point, 2022 could well be the year that the drought is finally over.

    As the competition progressed through its early stages in Russia, Welsh players started their preparation for a new season, returning to their clubs as the pre-season schedule began. The first competitive games that they play will be in the various leagues but soon after will come international action as the senior team gets involved in Nations Cup fixtures and the U-21ís continue in their 2-year cycle of qualification games. Later in the season, qualification for the 2020 Euro finals will be under way and all the fans will be excitedly anticipating that another successful conclusion to that phase is within the teamís capability.

    A lot of looking into the future during the last few sentences. All it can be for now is conjecture, a reflection of a personal opinion that Wales fans might be enjoying some amount of pleasure as we move into the next cycle of tournaments. What is much more important for the present is whether the recent trend of young players successfully integrating into the senior Wales side and providing a means of improving the capability of the team can be maintained. If the answer to such a query is an affirmative one, an increasing probability of it translating into appearances of the team in major tournament finals might be a resulting consequence.

    Many proposals can be put forward to support such an optimistic forecast. The squad has a significant number of experienced players who are performing at a high level and can be expected to continue in this mode for the foreseeable future. They will crucially enable the introduction of young players into the team and be capable of guiding them in acquiring the experience of being involved high pressure matches. Ideally, as time progresses, the young players will help reduce the burden on their more illustrious team mates and a stronger team will evolve. The players who have emerged recently and are already incorporated into the squad have exhibited credentials suggesting they are capable of being strong performers at international level. Although the number of young players already contributing to the senior squad is impressive, it may well be that even more may develop well enough to warrant a consideration for inclusion. I think that it will be a very disappointing outcome if both the strength and depth of the squad is not significantly stronger in a couple of years than it is at present. If it does become factually so, the qualification process for tournaments should be an easier task to negotiate. It will certainly still be a difficult situation for the team to navigate, but one that may be less susceptible to being derailed by the unavailability of important players on occasion.

    My first effort for the new season certainly suggests an optimistic outlook is something Welsh fans should possess as they contemplate their future journeys following the team to various parts of the world and cheerfully enjoying themselves. I can certainly understand that there may well be an amount of skepticism amongst some who evaluate this forecast. There are numerous examples of past instances where expectations of success for the Wales senior team seemed a reasonable projection which eventually failed to materialize as envisioned. One of the reasons that can be put forward as an explanation for such disappointments is that the progress of some highly regarded young players failed to develop sufficiently to be helpful for the Wales senior team. It is a very high achievement to perform successfully at international level of play and it is almost inevitable that some of the present group will be thwarted in their attempts to gain such glory. Even so, it is my belief that there could still be enough that do gain the necessary experience to be impactful for Wales.

    As a closing statement, I will offer my salute to members of The Red Wall. I was fortunate enough to finally get an opportunity to be amongst the portion of them who were present at the game when Wales played against Mexico. I did get the pleasure of conversing with some and found the experience extremely enjoyable. I wish the very best for all of you in the future and hope that you will enjoy pleasant journeys and as much fun as possible along the way.  

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    Posted: Saturday 28th July 2018
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