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    page originally posted : Sun, 16 Feb 20
    Young Guns

    Owen Beck (Liverpool)
    Last season, in his first year as a scholar with Liverpool, other than some occasions on the bench, Owen did not feature in any of the club's U-18 team games. It is not at all surprising as he was by many months the youngest of the group and in almost all cases, a year and more, younger than the fulltime members of the youth squad. It was, however, not a wasted time period for him and he has capitalized on the experience gained competing with those squad members. This season he has made appearances in all but one of the games the team has played to this point. On the bench in the initial games, he made appearances in all but one of those. Gaining a starting assignment after that, he has been a constant selection in that role for the dozen or so games played since then and obviously an important contributor in the successful run the team is having. Listed as a midfield player, it would seem he operates as a wing back and has managed to score a couple of goals himself, as well as creating opportunities for his attacking team mates. It may well be, he is impressing the coaching staff sufficiently for him to be given contract that will see him challenge for playing time with the U-23 team next season. A schoolboy international, Owen has also played for Wales at U-17 level when he was part of that age group. A continuation of the progress he is achieving at present will likely result in selection for next season's U-19 squad, adding the next step in his national representation honours.

    Matthew Blake and Joe Lewis (Swansea City Joe Lewis on loan at Torquay)
    In their second season as fulltime professionals at the club Matthew and Joe had, of course, successful times as academy players and then scholars in order to have achieved their present status with Swansea. As members of the U-23 squad, both have played quite a few games at that level, although Matthew has had some periods of unavailability due to injury issues. As Joe is on a season long loan at Torquay, he has not featured in this campaign. He has been doing well and is a regular starter for the National League club and will be working on developing the experience he is gaining in order to take his game to as high a level as possible. That, as it is for all players, is the aim for both of these young men. Joe received some extra recognition earlier in the season when called up to join the Wales U-21 squad, both having previously played for Wales at U-17 level.

    Ryan Sears (Shrewsbury Town)

    One of the pleasing aspects of perusing football lineups of late has been to see Ryan's name reappear in the Shrewsbury first team selections. After signing a professional contract following on from a successful time as a youth team player at Shrewsbury, Ryan was allowed to go on a season long loan to his hometown club Newtown in 2017/18. He immediately adapted to the demands of first team football in the Welsh Premier League, becoming a constant selection in the side and was praised for important contributions in what was a reasonably successful season for the club. Returning to Shrewsbury last season, Ryan capitalized on the experience he gathered in the Welsh Premier League as he established himself as a first team squad member. An injury situation allowed him to make his first team debut in an early season League One match and then he played in some EFL Trophy games. As the season progressed, he became increasingly involved in league matchday squads and was gaining more and more playing time as it was drawing to its close. Unfortunately, in the last game of the season, he sustained a serious knee injury which required months of initially, recovery after surgery and then rehabilitation. He has obviously worked diligently to regain full fitness and having done so has continued hone his skills to get back in the first team picture at the club. Another of the very pleasant and impressive stories that have emerged about young Welsh players during the season. Ryan attended the training camp for prospective candidates for the Wales U-21 squad, conducted in the spring of last season. His intent will be to produce some strong showings for the Shropshire club, getting himself consideration for inclusion in future U-21 squad selections.

    Morgan Roberts (Northampton Town)
    Morgan made his first team debut for Northampton with an introduction onto the field for the final minute of the team's last game of the 2017/18 season after having featured on the bench a couple of weeks earlier. Last season he added some more minutes, playing in an EFL Trophy match and some substitutions in league matches as well. During all this time he was still eligible for youth team participation, doing so to help the Cobblers have a fairly impressive showing in the FA Youth Cup last season. Undoubtedly, there was no hesitation in signing him as a fulltime professional in order to continue his development with the club. This season, after getting some playing time in EFL Cup and EFL Trophy matches in the early weeks, he has been allowed to join two local non-league sides on short term loans. This provided him the opportunity of experiencing a further amount of first team football and in his most recent spell at Banbury was credited with exhibiting a high quality of skills. This has resulted in his inclusion in many of the Northampton first team matchday squads since his return. Morgan was also amongst the group present at last season's national U-21 training camp. Having only recently celebrated his 19th birthday, he is eligible not only at present but also for the following U-21 qualification series, which starts in the 2021/22 season.

    - John Jones.

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    Posted: Sunday 16th February 2020
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