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    Young Guns Blog
    by John Jones

    page updated: Mon, 6 Mar 23 : 08:02 refresh for updates

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

    Sam Bowen (Newport County) born 2001, Midfielder.
    An association with Cardiff City that had lasted well over a decade, came to an end last summer when Sam signed for Newport. His progression through the various stages had seen him reach one of his goals at Cardiff when he made his first team debut last season. He made a total of four appearances for the team but as the season came to an end a decision was made that he would be allowed to leave. The Exiles had no hesitation in offering him a contract with them, Sam’s total of a dozen appearances in all competitions, provides confirmation he is considered a valuable member of their squad. His aim will now be to build on his achievements and establish a regular starting assignment in the team. Sam’s international career began when playing for the Wales U-15 team and then the U-16’s as a schoolboy. It then continued when he played for the U-17’s in the 2017/18 season and soon after, before the end of his eligibility for the younger age group, began to collect a total of well into double figures of caps for the U-19 team. This was followed by an U-20 appearance and a handful for the U-21’s.

    James Connolly (Bristol Rovers) born 2001, Defender.
    Developing through the academy and then as a scholar with Blackburn Rovers, James became a full professional at the club before an injury disrupted last couple of seasons with them subsequently triggered his release in the summer of 2021. Signed by Cardiff City as a member of their development squad, he made a very favourable impression playing for their U-23 team in the first half of last season and Rovers secured his services on a loan assignment in January last year. He played a big part in helping them gain promotion from League 2, prompting a successful negotiation with Cardiff to achieve his permanent transfer to the Pirates. Excepting for a two month period when he was unavailable after injury, James has been a regular starter for Rovers this season as the team attempt to consolidate their League 1 status and aim to gain Championship membership in the future. Along with James’ move to Cardiff came a declaration of Welsh eligibility, making his national debut when playing for the U-21’s last summer.

    Kieron Evans (Cardiff City – on loan at Torquay United) born 2001, Midfielder.
    Making good progress in his time as an academy player at Cardiff, the coaching staff decided to introduced Kieron to the challenge of U-18 football in the 2016/17 season and then in the following one, the last as a schoolboy, he played in half of the team’s games. Starting his time as a scholar with the club in 2018/19, he continued to impress and in 2020 became a full professional. Playing in the development team in 2020/21, he earned a half dozen bench appearances in league and cup games with the first team. Last season, he eventually made his first team debut, when introduced off the bench late on in a league game, making four more appearances in the Championship and then playing the extra time portion of a third round FA Cup tie before being loaned out to Linfield in the Irish Premiership. He is on a season long loan at Torquay this season where, after coming off the bench in their early matches, he has become a regular starter and considered a very important contributor for the team. Kieron was involved with Wales team training camps as a schoolboy and has played for the U-19 and U-20 teams before being on the bench for one of the U-21 games last season.

    Rhys Hughes (Tranmere Rovers – on loan at Chester FC) born 2001, Midfielder.
    A lengthy association with Everton for Rhys came to an end when he was allowed to join Tranmere prior to the start of this season. He had made good progress in his time at the Goodison Park club, regularly playing for their academy teams, then for the U-18’s as a scholar and ultimately for the U-23 team as a professional. The decision to release him resulted in him becoming a member of Tranmere’s first team squad this season and was a member of the matchday squad in all their games for the first half of the season. Although he accumulated nine appearances in that time, a large majority of it was spent on the bench and so a loan period for the remainder of the season will provide much more first team experience as he assists Chester. Rhys has had plenty of involvement with Wales teams over his career, first playing for his nation as a schoolboy and then for the U-17’s and U-19’s before being a regular contributor for the U-21 team over the two seasons before his eligibility was completed last year.

    Callum Jones (Hull City) born 2001, Midfielder.
    Affiliated with TNS as a schoolboy and then with Oswestry, Bury signed Callum to become a second year scholar with them. Upon its completion, Hull negotiated for him to join them, and he has been with the club since the summer of 2019. Initially signed as a development squad player, Callum did well enough to earn a first team squad contract in January 2021, one that has been very recently extended for a further two seasons until the summer of 2025. This shows that management regards Callum as an important member of their squad and likely to add significantly to the limited playing time he has accumulated thus far. Callum did gain some further first team experience when loaned out to Morecambe for the first half of last season and added a few more during an injury shortened period with Grimsby in the latter part of it. Callum made his Wales debut playing for the U-20 team in the autumn of 2020.

    Daniel Williams (Swansea City – on loan at The New Saints) born 2021, Midfielder.
    In his dozen years of being associated with Swansea, Daniel made steady progress in the academy teams, becoming a scholar in 2017 and doing well enough to be a member of the U-23 squad as a professional at the start of the 2019/20 season. Regularly playing for the U-23’s, he had a few times on the first team bench in some league and cup matches in the 2020/21 season. He was able to negotiate the next step last season, making his first team debut as a starter in a Carabao Cup tie and also playing the whole game in the next round. There were also some bench appearances in early season league games as well as one in the third round FA Cup tie before he joined Dundalk on loan for the start of their Irish Premier League campaign in February. A successful time getting first team experience with them culminated when an injury was serious enough to require a return Swansea some weeks earlier than projected. This season he has joined Cymru Premier side The New Saints on a season long loan, an arrangement that is proving beneficial to all involved parties. He is gaining an excellent amount of first team experience. Participating in training camps as a schoolboy and then on standby lists as an U-17, Dan first featured on the field wearing the national shirt when playing for the U-19’s. He also played for the U-20 team in the 2020/21 season and last season was a starter in seven U-21 games.

    [ photo embedded from FAW cymru ]
    Posted: Monday 6th March 2023
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