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    Young Guns Blog by John Jones

    page updated: Fri, 18 Nov 22 : 09:00  refresh for updates

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

    Ryan Astley (Everton – on loan at Accrington Stanley) born 2001, Defender.
    This season’s loan arrangement with Accrington Stanley has finally provided a means for Ryan to show his adeptness in coping with the demands of first team football and he has in fact done so in a manner that has produced pleasure for both the club’s management and their fans. He settled well and quickly became a regular choice for the team. I’m sure there will be a wish for as speedy a recovery as possible and a return of his availability in the next few weeks, as he recovers from his recent injury. Ryan has over the last few seasons, displayed the abundant quality of his abilities, as he excelled in Everton’s development teams and so it is hardly surprising to witness his accomplishments this season. A more pertinent statement is that it will be very interesting to see how the future now unfolds for him. Ryan has also been a constant selection for Wales teams over the years, starting out from his young schoolboy days and onwards. He then continued at U-17, U-19 and U-21 levels, captaining the teams on most of those occasions. He has now completed his eligibility for all, but the senior team, and his aim now will be to collect a cap at that level. Competition for selection to the squad is already set at a high standard and one that seems to be increasing, but I believe that Ryan will add that achievement to his resume in the coming seasons.

    Daniel Barden (Norwich City) born 2001, Goalkeeper.
    Two seasons ago, Daniel was thrust somewhat unexpectedly into the spotlight when international duty for others prompted the need for him to become the goalkeeping choice for Norwich’s Carabao Cup tie. The club’s management expressed confidence in his worthiness, and he did not disappoint them with his performance. He had gained first team experience the previous season when loaned out to local non-league team Bury Town and received plaudits for his goalkeeping prowess when assisting that team. As the 2020/21 season progressed, there was further need for his services in the Canaries first team when he played in a couple of mid- season league games and an FA Cup tie. Last season, a means to provide some further first team experience was arranged when a loan agreement with Scottish Premier team Livingston was deemed beneficial for all concerned. Unfortunately, after being with them a few weeks, Daniel received a cancer diagnosis, and his career went on hold as he received treatment. Thankfully, he is now recovered and back at Norwich this season and has played for the U-21 team. An associate, then starting out as a scholar with Arsenal, Dan played for the Wales schoolboy teams at that time. Completing his time as a scholar at Norwich, before becoming a professional with them, he then played internationally at U-19 and U-21 levels.

    Isaak Davies (Cardiff City) born 2001, Forward.
    A prolific goal scorer throughout his time in the Cardiff development teams, Isaak had played for their U-18 team a couple of dozen times over the two seasons prior to becoming eligible and signing scholar terms for the 2018/19 season. Completing that phase of his career, he became a professional at the club for the start of the 2020/21 season and progressed well enough with the U-23 team to warrant a few bench appearances for the first team. He made his debut for the team last season and acquitted himself with a proficiency to deserve appearances in more than a couple of dozen league games as well as a couple of FA Cup ties. It has certainly been a very frustrating season for him this time around, as injury has kept him unavailable for its entirety so far, with a hope that he is now getting close to full fitness and will be able to resume with the team during the second half of it. The management team will be delighted to have him added to their options when it occurs. Isaak is another who has represented the nation’s teams from his earliest schoolboy days and played in games at each level up to the U-21’s. His form last season even prompted some amount of discussion of his consideration for senior team involvement. Hopefully, he will reestablish his inclusion in the Cardiff first team, and regularly appear for them, reigniting that speculation once more.

    Jack Vale (Blackburn Rovers) born 2001, Forward.
    As a member of The New Saints (at that time TNS) academy, Jack impressed the scouting group at Blackburn, thereby being recruited by them to become a scholar at the club. His tenure in development football was as good as the Rovers staff had hoped as he was soon not only scoring goals for the U-18 team but also coping with the challenge of being elevated to the U-23 side. He became a full professional for the 2019/20 season and continued his progress, eventually making his first team debut as a late substitute in the penultimate game of that pandemic disrupted season. The 2020/21 season was anticipated as platform for Jack to establish himself in first team football, but some injury issues stifled his chances. Loaned out to Rochdale for the second half of it, similar situations limited him to only three appearances with them. Last season a loan assignment at National League side Halifax Town provided him with further first team football experience until his return to his parent club for the second half of it. Good performances for the U-23 team lead to him earning some first team squad selections and he made two more appearances with late game introductions off the bench. This season, Jack has established himself as a regular first team squad member and though most have been off the bench, he has accumulated eleven more league appearances. He has also played a big part in the club’s three Carabao Cup games, recently scoring his first senior goal in a match. His intent now will be to secure an even more prominent role for the team and help them to success. Jack has collected an impressive number of Welsh caps over the years, starting from his time as a young schoolboy and continuing through the age groups excepting for a few occasions when he was unavailable through injury.

    The months, weeks and now days have been scratched off the calendar until we are now just four days away from the kick off as I complete this week’s offering for you. Wales playing in a World Cup game will be a new experience for most of you, but as those of you that read my first article of the season know, it is the second time around for me. It has taken an awful lot of calendars to reach this point, one I always held a belief could arrive someday if my health would permit it. Along the way, I cannot deny that there was also plenty of doubt, an awful lot of despair and an anxiety that something would always conspire to deny us when we got close to that final step. We can now enjoy the moment, anticipate our increasing excitement as we draw ever closer to it and then cheer the boys on, as they will undoubtedly give their all to provide the nation with as much pleasure as possible. We are of course hoping, and feeling reasonably confident, that we have more than three games of this latest venture at a major tournament to witness and then we can have some celebratory times ahead if we are correct. I do believe the team has the potential to do well, but also feel a likewise statement can be made about the opponents. I will finish by borrowing the words so inspiringly and eloquently expressed by Michael Sheen. Let there be crimson thunder created by a red storm, as the sons of Speed and Page, rekindle the spirit of Murphy’s boys of ’58. A thanks also to Chris Coleman who successfully negotiated that first leap over the barrier, creating a magnificent display of Welsh pride, putting us on a path leading to the pinnacle of our Welsh football supporting dreams. That is all for this time, I will take a one week break and have another installment for you in a fortnight’s time.            

    [ photo embedded from FAW cymru ]
    Posted: Friday 18th November 2022
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