Young Guns Blog by John Jones. Ryan Barrett (Newcastle United) It has been good to see Ryanís name reappear in Newcastle team line-ups in recent weeks. Utilized by the clubís U-18 side in the first few games of the season, there was a lengthy absence prior to his return to starting for the team in December. A second year scholar at St James Park, Ryan did not make many appearances for the U-18ís last season. A mid-year birthday allowed him to be eligible to sign up for full time football with the club, but did mean that he was considerably younger than most members of the squad at that time, consequently providing some explanation in the difficulty of gaining a place in the team. His return of late to perform in Newcastle colours has not only been for the U-18ís but also for the U-23ís, a sign that Ryan is now considered capable of playing at that next higher level. Hopefully, there will be plenty of other opportunities during this second half of the season as the coaching staff evaluate performances and decide which players will be offered professional contracts as their time in the youth system comes to an end. Having already played internationally as a schoolboy and with the U-17ís, Ryan is I am sure keen to add to his cap collection and will want to place himself in a situation of challenging for selection for the older age group Wales teams in the future.
Jac Davies (Cardiff City) Jac has been involved in almost all of the Cardiff City U-18 teams games this season with a mix of nearly equal starting assignments and substitute appearances. As a schoolboy, he was a member of, and represented Wales in the Victory Shield internationals and then became a scholar at the club at the start of last season. Primarily considered a defender, he has at times been also used in other positions. This signifies some versatility in his game and he has in fact managed to help the team by scoring a couple of goals this season. Whether Jac will be as busily involved with the U-18 team for the remainder of the season as has been the case so far, is dependent on the decision of the coaches. He has played a couple of times for the U-23 team lately and though he would undoubtedly be important as the younger group attempt to continue with what has been a very successful season so far, there may be more emphasis placed on the adaptation to U-23 football as future squad compositions are contemplated. Though Jac was not selected for a Wales squad during his time of eligibility for U-17 internationals, he was in the U-19 squad last season that played a couple of friendly games against Croatia. This was in preparation for the team to play in this seasonís UEFA U-19 qualifying games, for which again he was not selected as part the squad. He was far from being alone in this situation, quite a large group of players who have been developing impressive careers were available and so it was inevitable that all could not be included. Jac will be hoping that he can continue to hone his skills to a level where a call up to a national squad in the future will happen.
Tom Hillman (Newport County) Second year scholar Tom has made a couple of first team appearances earlier in the season for the Rodney Parade club. He made his first team debut as a starter in a Checkatrade Trophy match and entered the game as a substitute in another. He is obviously a young player well thought of at the club, as he has also made a few bench appearances in league games but as yet has not had any minutes of league play. It is difficult to judge if he will get another opportunity during the remainder of the season as it probably depends on the teamís placement in the league table. It may be preferable to keep experienced players in the team, if a¬† challenge for promotion or play-off places is still viable as and when the final few games approach. If not, and a suitable occasion does arise. it may be deemed as a useful test of his ability and assist in the decision about his future
Joe Low (Bristol City) Son of former Wales U-21 international Josh, Joe has maintained the family tradition of collecting Wales caps with his appearances for the national U-17 team earlier in the season. A first year scholar with City, he has made regular appearances for the U-18 team throughout what has transpired of this season. Not only that, he has also played a few games for the clubís U-23 team as well. It does seem that a policy utilized at Ashton Gate, is one of giving opportunities for their youth players to get game time at this next level of play whenever it is considered to be appropriate. It is obviously a challenging situation for such young players, but also one that could be a very important part of their football education. It gives them a taste of what is necessary to be able to compete against older, more mature and possibly stronger opposition, a criteria that every young player is faced with and must overcome, to have an outcome of a successful career. With a large contingent of promising young Wales talent at the club, it is hoped that such a policy is one rewarded by the development of highly valued home grown talent.
Tivonge Rushesha (Swansea City) First year scholar Tivonge has been on the team sheet for all of the Swansea U-18 team games this season, having a starting berth for all the matches excepting for a couple of times when he entered onto the pitch as a substitute. This resulted in his selection for the Wales U-17 squad that competed in the UEFA qualifiers for their age group a few months ago. Certainly an impressive start to his career in full time football, one that will hopefully continue on an upward curve in the weeks, months and years that are ahead. With Swansea in a mode in which some of their best young talent are given an opportunity to secure a regular first team involvement, Tivonge and others will be positively encouraged to work as hard as possible to be amongst those that represent the senior team and be cheered by the many thousands attending the Liberty Stadium stands.