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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones

    page updated: Fri, 28 Oct 22 : 07:40 :  refresh for updates

    To read all last season blog posts scroll through posts on the young guns page

    Joel Colwill (Cardiff City) born 2004, Midfielder.
    A second year scholar with the Bluebirds, Joel impressed the coaching staff during pre-season training well enough for them to expose him to some senior team playing time in those preparation games. Although he has not had first team involvement during the season, the decision to facilitate his progress toward that goal has obviously been made. Rather than have him playing youth team football, he has been a constant selection for the U-21 team, with the intent of it being a better challenge and allow him to accelerate the improvements in his skill set. I’m sure he wants to emulate big brother Rubin who is already a first team player for the club. Although there will be an element of competition with each other for a place in the team, their ideal scenario would be playing alongside each other at that level, what a delightful family occasion that would be. Joel has been involved with Wales teams from a young age and played in the 2018 Cymru Cup games. He made his international debut last season with the U-18’s and is a member of this season’s U-19 squad.

    Ronnie Hollingshead (West Bromwich Albion) born 2004, Goalkeeper.
    Affiliated with the West Brom academy from a young age, Ronnie was given his first exposure to U-18 football with a few games played when still a schoolboy at the club in the 2020/21 season. Last season as he began his time as a scholar at the club, he was the regular selection for the U-18 team, playing in a large majority of their games as well as making a half dozen appearances for the U-23 team. He is still eligible for the U-18 team this season, but the coaching staff have decided that he will predominantly play for the U-21 team and is considered a member of that squad. Ronnie’s association with Wales teams stretches back to his young schoolboy days and after playing in the 2018 Cymru Cup games has represented the nation at U-15, U-16 and U-18 levels along with playing for this season’s U-19 team. The absence of an U-17 cap was the result of no games for the age group caused by the pandemic.

    Will Jenkins-Davies (Plymouth Argyle) born 2004, Midfielder.
    Even though Will remains eligible to play for the club’s U-18 team this season, the quality of his play has persuaded the management team to consider him having graduated from youth football and regard him as a member of the first team squad these days. Playing regularly for the U-18 team as a schoolboy, Will continued to do so last season as he started his time as a scholar with the club. His progress was such, that a couple of months into the season he was on the bench for a league match and soon after made his first team debut when introduced for the second half of a Papa John’s Trophy game, following that with an appearance for the whole of the next match in the competition. More bench appearances with the first team in league matches eventually provided him a league debut with a very brief cameo at the end of a game. This season he has played in all the Papa John’s games along with quite a few league first team squad occasions and a couple more substitute introductions. The team is doing very well in League One, but it does seem as though Will’s participation is also likely in the coming months. He first played for Wales at U-16 level and was a member of the 2019 Victory Shield squad. He has subsequently been involved at U-17 and U-18 levels.

    Jack Kardogan (Newport County) born 2004, Midfielder.
    Signing on scholar terms with County a few weeks after the start of the 2020/2021 season saw Jack link up his hometown club after previously being affiliated with the Swansea academy. It proved to be a good choice by the management team as Jack’s performances with the U-18 team merited him earning a professional contract with the club at the end of last season. Jack’s only first team involvement has been a couple of occasions on the bench last season, one for an early season Carabao Cup tie and then in a late season league game. The only information I have for him this season is that he played in a pre-season game for the development team. Jack’s association with Wales teams started as a young schoolboy, appearing in the 2018 Cymru Cup games and then playing for the U-15 and U-16 teams. Last season he made an appearance for the U-18 team.

    Kai Ludvigsen (Swansea City) born 2004, Defender.
    A couple of games for the U-18’s in the 2018/19 season followed by another half dozen or so in the next one provided an insight into how the Swans coaching staff regarded Kai’s considerable quality in his days as a schoolboy associate at the club. Unsurprisingly he was signed on a scholar contract, and he began his time in that capacity at the start of the 2020/2021 season. Challenged by playing not only for the U-18’s but also in some games for the U-23 team showed that management were confident in his ability to continue his development at an accelerated rate. Unfortunately, injury issues produced a record that he was only available for a little over a dozen total games in each of the last two seasons and it certainly disrupted his progress. Even so, a management decision was made to offer him a professional contract for this season and the opportunity for Kai to show his value. He has seemingly fulfilled the criteria and has played in most of the U-21 team’s matches this season, hopefully he will remain injury free and be able to build on his achievements as he attempts to impress enough to warrant first team consideration in the future. A regular selection for Wales teams since his early days as a schoolboy, Kai has performed in the national shirt in the various age group teams and played well for the U-19 team a few weeks ago. He will, I’m sure, be aiming to continue that trend in the coming seasons.

    Chris Popov (Leicester City) born 2004, Forward.
    A schoolboy associate at Manchester United, Chris discontinued his time at the club and joined the Leicester academy for the final weeks of his time in that status. He did well enough in a few games for the U-18 team to be offered a scholar contract by the club and so signed with them to do so before the start of last season. It was a very successful season for him as he scored at a rate of one that approached a goal a game for the U-18 team. He also played a few games for the U-23 team and scored once for that team. This season, he has been playing in games for both the U-18’s and the U-21’s and although he is yet to get on the score sheet, that statistic will most likely be rectified quite soon. Able to operate either centrally or out wide adds an important versatility to his game and the Leicester management team have a high regard for his potential to eventually be a contributor in their first team squad. Chris first played for Wales as an U-15 and has collected further caps at U-16, U-18 and U-19 levels

    This week’s young guns are all excelling in their respective club development systems and are exhibiting the potential to be valuable first team contenders. Of course, it is the biggest step of all in their progression that needs to be navigated in order to achieve that success. It is also by quite a margin the most difficult, one that history shows us that only a small proportion of all the candidates in these situations are able to negotiate successfully. It is a task that needs the maximum amount of effort and resilience to overcome the obstacles that will undoubtedly appear to obscure or even destroy the apparent pathway. Hopefully, all of them can become successful in their quest, but the law of averages looms large as a predictor of a differing conclusion. We certainly can congratulate them for their achievements and wish them whatever luck they might be granted to help them continue in a positive mode into the future. I will close this week’s blog with a mention about those two years junior to the birth year I have discussed. Members of the Welsh U-17 squad who we can congratulate on their advancement to the elite round qualification matches later on in the season after their success in the preliminary phase tournament over the last few days. It must be noted that they not only progressed, but did so by being group winners against what I believe were strong opponents. Another example, along with the young men specifically mentioned this week, why we can only think optimistically when looking forward to future Welsh participation in major tournaments.

    [ photo embedded from FAW cymru ]
    Posted: Friday 28th October 2022
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