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Pablo Martinez (Bristol Rovers) born 2000 Defender. Joining West Brom at the start of the 2017/18 season to become a scholar at the club, Pablo had a successful time over that season and the next one. He not only played regularly for the U-18 team but also made five appearances for the U-23’s in his first season. He played in around half the U-18 team games in the second season and was unavailable through injury which restricted his appearance total. The positive impression produced when he played, persuaded the West Brom management team to retain his services, and so he signed a professional contract and moved into the U-23 squad for the 2019/20 season. It was a season severely disrupted by injury occurrences, allowing him to make only seven appearances and as a result, West Brom declined the opportunity to renew his contract. Without a club at the start of last season, Bristol Rovers invited him to trial with them in the first weeks of it, gaining a positive enough of an impression to sign him as a member of their development squad. A few weeks later, Oxford City managed to secure his services in a loan agreement as they enjoyed success in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy. With non-league football severely disrupted by the pandemic, it reduced Pablo’s opportunities of playing first team football, but he did make the most of his participation in their FA Trophy run. Returning to Rovers to resume his season, he gained first team participation with some occasions on the bench and eventually made his first team debut with a starting assignment. His performance in a defensive midfield role ensured that he gained regular selection, playing in eight of the nine games as the season drew to its conclusion. An injury situation sustained in pre-season, resulted in Pablo’s unavailability for the first couple of months of this one, with his return to fitness in recent weeks seeing him selected on the bench for the first team once more. His aim now will be to accumulate minutes on the pitch, convincing management he is again capable of providing a positive impact. As a schoolboy, Pablo was affiliated with the Reading academy and represented Wales at U-17 level at that time. He played for the U-19’s a couple of seasons later by which time he was a West Brom player.
George Ratcliffe (Cardiff City) born 2000, Goalkeeper. In an association lasting well beyond ten years by this time, George has progressed through the various academy teams at the club and started his scholar status with them in the 2017/18 season. The successful period at youth level resulted in Cardiff securing his signature on a professional contract and his transfer to the U-23 development squad. As he started out on this new phase of his career, he was loaned out for the 2019/20 season to Barry Town of the Welsh Premier League and George gained valuable first team experience with them prior to early termination of Welsh football during the pandemic lockdown. Now considered a member of the first team squad at the club, George has been on the bench a couple of times for them last season but still awaits the occasion of his first team debut. There is no doubt that management have the confidence in his ability should the need arise, but it may well be that another loan arrangement to gain further experience may also be an option considered. George has been a regular selection for Wales teams over the years, collecting caps at all the intermediate levels, and doing so as a member of most of the U-21 squads that have competed in games over the last three seasons.
Billy Sass-Davies (Crewe Alexandra) born 2000, Defender. Moving from their academy to start his time as a scholar with Crewe in 2016, Billy played regularly for their U-18 team during that 16/17 season as well as playing a few times for the U23 team. The following season he was given his first team debut with an appearance in an EFL Trophy match. He also played extensively in the development teams, in fact doing so more times for the U-23 than the U-18 team and then gaining praise when playing in games for Colwyn Bay during a short-term loan period in the spring. He became a fulltime professional member of the U-23 squad at the start of the 2018/19 season and gained further first team experience when assisting nearby non-league teams on monthly loans, culminating with him making his league debut when playing a couple of games near the end of the season. Some more short-term loans and some cup game appearances for Crewe occurred in the abbreviated 2019/20 season and then during the last one accumulated plenty of first team experience at National League level, initially on a month’s loan at Altrincham and then during the second half of the season at Yeovil, where he played more than twenty times. This season, Billy has been a member of the first team squad at his parent club and after bench appearances in the early weeks has been playing regularly for the team in recent weeks and receiving praise from the manager. Billy first played for Wales in U-19 competition, having been in training camp squads as a schoolboy. For the last couple of seasons, he has collected a good number of caps playing for the U-21 team.
Sion Spence (Crystal Palace ¿" on loan at Bristol Rovers) born 2000, Midfielder. As a schoolboy, Sion was a member of the Cardiff academy system for quite a few years and played regularly for their U-18 team in his last season in that status, having made his debut for the side in the previous one. At the start of the 2017/18 season, he became a scholar at the club and caught the attention of many when scoring twenty goals in the twenty-two games he played for the U-18’s. In his second season injuries restricted his appearances to only thirteen occasions for them and his goals ratio also suffered, though he did manage to score seven times. The following season, as a fulltime professional with the club, he was loaned out to the WPL’s Barry Town for the first half of the season and played in most of the first team games during the period. Returning to Cardiff, injury reduced his availability and after those few games a decision was made to release him at season’s end. He was however, soon after, a Crystal Palace player. They signed him as a member of their U-23 squad. He played more than a dozen matches for the team last season, helping them gain promotion in their first season of competition at the elite level of development football. A loan assignment with Rovers this season, has given Sion the opportunity to experience first team football at a higher level. Making his debut for the club in an EFL Trophy game, that and another game in the competition were his only appearances in the early weeks of the season. He had some occasions of being on the bench for some league matches and then made his introduction at that level for the final regulation minute of a game. It was however sufficient time for him to score the winner. His next opportunity arrived when introduced off the bench with a little over ten minutes remaining in extra time of an FA Cup replay match. With the team facing a two goal deficit, he was quickly on the scoresheet to reduce it. The team then managed an equalizer, and the stage was set for Sion to convert a dramatic winner once more. It has earned him a bit more game time without producing any further drama. Very understandable, Sion is still in very much of a learning mode when opposing the caliber of player he is now facing, attempting to develop and refine his game to overcome the obstacles in place. What has happened will have certainly boosted his confidence, helping him as time moves forward. It will also have endeared him to many of the fans, who will be hoping that he can become a regular goal scorer and help the team toward success. Sion has represented Wales throughout his career in football, starting as a schoolboy and then progressing through the U-17 and U-19’s, to being a regular inclusion in U-21 squads for the last couple of seasons.
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