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    Young Guns blog (by John Jones) -  Tue 20 Aug 19.

    Nathan Broadhead (Everton on loan at Burton Albion)
    Nathan has steadily progressed from since his time as a schoolboy international when, coincidentally, a good friend mentioned he could well be one to watch out in the future. It was a correct forecast, as he graduated from the scholar ranks at the Goodison Park club and has gone on to increasingly influence games at club U-23 level as well as with the Wales U-21 team.  At the completion of last season, he gained a great deal of praise from his manager for having been a big part of the reason for the success gained by the Everton developmental team. This most probably in turn, provided him the opportunity to partake in first team pre-season preparations. It was a challenge he accepted with relish, his performances in the matches played, producing plenty of dialogue from Toffees fans that they were witnessing another of their own, showing readiness for first team time in competitive matches. Nathan has however been loaned out for the season to the Brewers. With further recent additions to an already sizeable Everton squad, it gives him an opportunity to play first team football on a regular basis. He has made no secret of his ambition to grace the Goodison Park playing surface in Premier League situations and this period may well provide the platform for him to eventually do so. His stint in the Midlands has certainly started very well and he is most likely amongst the fan favourites at the Pirelli Stadium already. Hopefully he can continue in that mode throughout the season, showing an ability to be a star performer at League 1 level and suggesting that he is more than capable of producing similar results if challenged with a higher grade of competition.

    Robbie Burton (Arsenal)

    Robbie is another who took full advantage of being given an opportunity to join first team pre-season preparations this summer. He not only did well enough to be given playing time in the matches played, he shone enough to secure more minutes on the field than what may have been previously anticipated. What the next step in his career will be, has not at this moment been determined. The manager has already shown a willingness to trust young talented players in first team competitive situations and that is certainly encouraging. It may be a decision to test him with regular first team football and with the window open for League I and 2 clubs to secure transfers until September 2nd, a loan arrangement may be an avenue explored to this effect. One imagines that there would be plenty of interested parties keen to talk to the Arsenal hierarchy if such a possibility is viable. Whatever develops over the days and weeks ahead, Robbie will I am sure have an extra amount of confidence to take forward from the summer events. Hopefully, his career will continue to take positive steps forward as he aims to take his game to the highest level possible.

    Mark Harris (Cardiff City on loan at Wrexham)
    Mark has certainly taken advantage of the opportunity to further his career by playing regular first team football. Loaned out for the season to the Red Dragons, he has scored in 3 of the four matches played so far this season, giving the fans a hope that he may at last, be the regular and frequent goal scorer they have been craving for, enhancing the prospect of finally securing promotion back into the Football League. Of course, the season is still only in its early stages and it is far too soon to make any lasting judgements, but it is a promising start. Hopefully it will turn out to be an ideal situation for both club and player. Mark has not only received praise from the manager for what he has done already, but confidence has been expressed for it to continue, along with an expectation for even better displays to be anticipated. This would not be entirely surprising, he has shown the ability to perform well when loaned out at League 2 level and of course has a couple of Cardiff City Championship game appearances to his credit already. Consistently good performances throughout the season and a good goal scoring record at its end would create a strong possibility of adding further to those parent club appearance numbers.

    Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield United on loan at Rochdale)

    Pre-season performances in 2018 impressed the Blades management enough for them to believe that Rhys would be a candidate for first team consideration at some point last season. A settled team, doing well enough to be at the upper end of the table convinced them that his progress would be better served with first team football elsewhere. This resulted in him going on loan to Barrow, with whom he spent most of the season. It was certainly to Barrows benefit, as he impressed both those he played with as well as opponents, with well above average ability for National League play. Uniteds return to the Premier League this season has prompted a decision that another loan period was the best course of action to progress Rhys career at this time and Rochdale are the beneficiaries of his services. He has settled in well at the club and already done enough during League 1 games to convince all those involved that he is a great addition to the team this season. The experienced gained and the improvements to his game that he seems able to make as he moves along in his career, will surely see him challenged by facing increasingly tougher opponents in the seasons ahead.

    Regan Poole (MK Dons)
    Regan has now moved on to Milton Keynes after a four-year association at Manchester United came to an end in the summer. Now he will be determined to show his adeptness to shine at League 1 level, tempting potential suitors to believe that he does have the ability to perform at the higher standards of the game. He certainly did receive a good amount of praise during the second half of last season when he returned to his former club, Newport County and helped them through a successful period. During his time at Old Trafford, his versatility was utilized, as he operated in both midfield and defence. This, however, may have impeded his progress at times and concentrating more thoroughly on one aspect of the game may prove a better choice to move his game forward. A man of the match performance on his debut for the Dons in this weeks League Cup tie will have surely thrilled both fans and management, strengthening their belief that they can consolidate their status on the return to League 1 or even climb up the league ladder back towards where the club was for a while in its former identity.

    Five young players, who almost undoubtedly will form an integral part of the Wales U-21 squad as they compete in the European U-21 Championship qualification matches over the next 14 months. With only 12 places available for the finals, most of them are expected to be filled by the regular power houses of European football. Two of those, Germany and Belgium, who are potentially very strong at all international levels, are grouped with Wales, making an expectation of progress beyond the group stage unlikely. I will however add that my opinion since the time of the original announcement of the groups has changed somewhat. I still find it difficult to expect anything better than third place in the group and good performances will be needed to secure that. The progress made of late by these young men, along with others who likely will be selected, does suggest to me that the Wales U-21 team should be more competitive in the games played, than I thought would be the case previously. Being able to go toe to toe with strong teams should add some further valuable experience to what they are gaining at present. The first two games will be played in early September. Though they are on home soil, it will first be Belgium and then Germany, so it will provide an early indication of how competitive the team will be.

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    Posted: Tuesday 20th August 2019
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