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To read all last season blog posts scroll through posts on the young guns page
Daniel Barden (Norwich City - on loan at Livingston) The news announced a few weeks ago that Daniel has needed to put his football career on hold for a period whilst he receives treatment to overcome his illness, is one that I am sure all of us Welsh fans are unanimous in wishing him a full and the speediest recovery possible. As a youngster, Daniel was affiliated with the Arsenal academy system and in the 2017/18 season began his time as a scholar at the club. After a couple of months of the following season had elapsed, he was allowed to move on to Norwich and complete his scholar eligibility with them. Doing well enough in those few months to earn himself a professional contract with the Canaries prior to the start of the next season, the next chapter in his career took place when he joined Bury Town on a loan assignment. Not only gaining valuable experience of playing first team football, Daniel did so in impressive fashion, gaining plaudits for his performances. In the very early part of last season, Norwich needed him to play for the first team in a Carabao Cup tie. Management had expressed confidence that he was a very capable deputy for the two senior goalkeepers who were away from the club on international duty, and confirmed their opinion after the game, praising his display. As the season moved along, there were three more first team appearances. At the start of this season, Norwich agreed to Livingston’s approach to take him on a season long loan at their club. He has played in one cup game for the club and has been on the bench for all of the SPL games up to the time of his unavailability. Daniel has also been kept busy over the years, as he has represented Wales as a schoolboy, then U-19 and earlier this season was a member of the U-21 squad. It is hoped that his present circumstances are just a brief interlude in his football career and that he will be once again cheered by appreciative fans.
Kieron Evans (Cardiff City) born 2001, Midfielder. After having been given an introduction with a few games the previous season, Kieron played regularly for the Cardiff U-18 team in his last season as a schoolboy associate at the club. He began his time as a scholar at the club in the summer of 2018 and continued in the same vein over the next couple of seasons, successfully earning a professional contract in 2020. Last season as he started his time as a member of the U-23 squad, he made an impression on the management team which resulted in him having a bench assignment for an early season Carabao Cup tie and then as the season progressed further occasions of likewise selection for four league games as well as an FA Cup match. He did not make his first team debut until this season, when he was initially introduced off the bench for some late game minutes on a couple of occasions. After a short period of being out of the matchday squads, he has been utilized in recent weeks and earned starting assignments. His spirited all action displays, along with the quality he has shown, has certainly endeared him to the fans and particularly so as he is one of their own. In his youth days, Kieron had a very good goals per game ratio in relation to his midfield role in the team and continued that in a less pronounced fashion in his U-23 games. It does seem possible that he can also contribute in this way for the first team as well, doing so would certainly add to the adulation already received from the terraces. Although Kieron was included in Wales training camps as a schoolboy, he did not make his debut for the nation until doing so at U-19 level. He has been a member of some of the U-21 squads this season but did have to withdraw from the one that has just completed its games.
Rhys Hughes (Everton) born 2001, Midfielder. Joining the Everton academy system after having been a member of Wrexham’s previously, Rhys became a scholar with the Toffees at the start of the 2018/19 season. For the two seasons of his youth tenure, he was only missing from the U-18 matchday squads on a couple of occasions, captaining the team on a number of occasions. Everton had no hesitation in the decision to extend his career at the club and signed him to a professional contract partway through his second season as a scholar. He moved on to become a member of the U-23 squad at the start of last season and played regularly for that team and continues to do so this season. The high quality of Rhys’ displays in development football had the Everton management team contemplating that the next step in his progression may be facilitated by gaining first team football experience through a loan agreement, the decision being made that the best oversight would occur if he remained at the club for the present. It does seem that such a scenario will take place next season with a possibility that it could be an option in the upcoming January window. Rhys has also been busy playing for the Wales U-21 team this season and has now collected caps at all intermediate levels, having done so as a schoolboy, an U-17 and an U-19 player in previous seasons.
Terry Taylor (Burton Albion) born 2001, Midfielder. As a schoolboy, Terry was associated with the academy teams of his native city, Aberdeen and then on completion of this time, Wolves negotiated for him to transfer to their club and become a scholar with them. He played regularly for the Wolves U-18 team during both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons and then became a member of the U-23 squad at the start of the 2019/20 season and played regularly for the team. He did make his first team debut for the club when coming off the bench in an EFL Cup tie in 2019. He spent the first half of last season on loan with Grimsby Town and played regularly in League 2 games for them, returning to his parent club at the start of the January transfer window. Just prior to the end of the window, Burton Albion came to an agreement with Wolves on the terms of a transfer and so he moved across the midlands at that time. He has played on a fairly regular basis for the Burton first team since that time. Qualifying for Wales through parent eligibility, Terry played for the national schoolboy team in the 2016/17 Victory Shield matches. He was then recruited by Scotland and played in an U-17’s friendly match against Wales for them, as well as in further games during European qualification. He reunited with the Welsh shirt when selected for the U21 squad in the 2019/20 season and has remained a regular selection for them since that time.
After having mentioned Daniel’s circumstance earlier in this article, I believe this is an appropriate opportunity to express a likewise sentiment with regard to former young gun David Brooks. There is no doubt that we are most interested in hearing news of an eventual complete recovery and is the cause for celebration that we will be most excited about. Following that will hopefully be a return to playing football and though of lesser importance, we will further celebrate if they regain the performance levels exhibited before being sidelined.
I cannot complete my comments this week without offering a massive congratulatory salute to the Wales senior squad upon their successful attainment of a second place finish in their World Cup qualification group and the progression to the play-off matches. They did it in enough style to warrant a home tie in the semi-final round which will provide some amount of advantage. The path is undoubtedly difficult, one that will need the team to perform at near the maximum of its capability to ensure positive results, but we can still retain an optimism that a place at the World Cup Finals next year can be achieved. An added congratulations is offered to the U-17 squad that were successful in their qualification competition and therefore progress to the elite qualification stages in the spring.
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