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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

    The first international break of 2019 is now completed, and members of The Red Wall will feel reasonably pleased when reflecting on the outcomes. Results were satisfactorily achieved by the senior side even though performances were lacking some authority. Still, the qualifying campaign is off to a positive start and for those hoping for a reprise of the events of 2016 when thinking of Euro 2020, it for now that is the main objective. Unfortunately, the U-19 squad were unable to match their opponents in the elite qualifying group games, but it was known before hand that they faced a daunting task. The U-21 qualifying campaign does not get underway until after the start of next season, but preparation for it was conducted by holding a training camp. A group of 22 players was assembled and does suggest that enough quality is again available to provide a competitive team.

    Niall Collins and Aaron Heap (Oxford United)
    Affiliated with Wolves in his younger days, Niall moved on to join Oxford and graduated through their youth system. Now a first year professional with the Uís and a member of the development squad at the club, his intention will be to eventually push for an opportunity at first team level. He has been gaining some experience of senior football as a result of being loaned out to local non-league clubs and this should aid him towards this goal. Aaron is likewise in his first year in the pro ranks and a development squad player but has had some amount of first team exposure with a couple of late appearances off the bench in Checkatrade Trophy matches. He was named on the standby list for the Wales U-19 squad that was selected in the early part of last season and then a short while later was selected for the Northern Ireland U-19 squad, also making his debut for that team at that time. Now, after accepting the invitation to join the Wales U-21 training camp, will likely have a decision to make. It is assumed that he will be approached when Northern Ireland ponder selection for their U-21 squad.

    Harry Clifton (Grimsby Town)
    Harry has established himself not only as a first team squad member but also a regular performer on the field for the Mariners. In his four seasons as a professional at the club he has maintained a steady improvement throughout this time and after a season on loan in the previous one, last season he appeared frequently in the first team during the latter part of it. He has been able to build on that experience during this one and as a local has endeared himself to the fans who are always pleased to be cheering for one of their own. Seemingly he will be a strong contender for inclusion in future Wales U-21 squads, particularly so if he keeps shining for Grimsby and continues the improvement exhibited in reaching his present status.

    Morgan Roberts (Northampton Town)
    A young man who celebrated his 18th birthday just a few days before the end of last year and so is still eligible for the Cobblers youth team. Morgan has however not been limited to an involvement with the youth team and has been given an introduction to football at first team level. Making his debut for the senior side when called from the bench during a Checkatrade Trophy match, he has also been on the bench for some League 2 games, getting some amount of playing time when utilized occasionally. His manager is of the opinion that the quality of his ability is such, that with some adaptation and increased confidence he can be a very important player for the team, possibly to an extent that eventually takes him to higher levels of play.

    Ryan Sears (Shrewsbury Town)
    Ryan has been featured earlier in the season, but his inclusion in the U-21 squad along with other achievements lately make him worthy of another mention. Making his first team debut when needed to start for a league match in the early part of the season, he then had starting assignments for Checkatrade Trophy games. He has performed well enough to have become a constant inclusion in the league matchday squads for the second half of the season. Although his time with the first team has been almost exclusively as a bench player, there is no doubt that the management staff have every confidence that should he be needed, he can be a capable first team player.

    Ben Williams (Barnsley)
    Ben has also been mentioned a few months ago and is another deserving some extra praise as the season has moved along. Joining Barnsley as a development squad player at the start of last season, he has progressed into becoming a first team squad member during this one. Of late he has moved this on a step further by getting numerous starting assignments for a Barnsley team that are very strong challengers to be one of the teams who gain promotion from League 1 at the end of the season. Ben has already represented Wales in his time as a schoolboy and will certainly be a candidate for selection to the U-21 squad next season.

    The selection process for next seasonís Wales U-21 squad will not be an easy one. Numerous good quality contenders will be under consideration. Added to those who attended the training sessions will be players with previous U-21 experience who were unavailable, as well as some of those who were part of the present U-19 group. It should result in the fielding of a strong competitive team and provide valuable experience for some future contenders for the senior squad. In the meantime, the young guns who have already graduated to senior level international football will be tasked with keeping the Euro qualification hopes in a positive mode when involved in the next games just after the end of the season.¬†

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    Posted: Thursday 11th April 2019
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