Scoring a winning penalty in a shoot-out situation is at the very least an extremely satisfying situation for any football player, often one that sticks in the memory bank for a long time. The importance of the occasion, of course, magnifies both the accomplishment and the subsequent reminiscences. In this case, it is only a group stage EFL Trophy match, but still undoubtedly memorable. Arsenal defender James Sweet is the player I am referencing as having made the achievement, when he helped his U-21 team gain the extra point at stake after having tied opponents Swindon Town in the regularly allotted time of play. It is his second season as a member of the squad, having graduated to full professional status in 2022 at the completion of his time as a scholar at the club. Regarded as a midfield player as a schoolboy and youth, his combination of skills as both a defender and an attacker produced a decision by the coaches to use him in a wing-back capacity last season. He has responded positively, and the experience he gained playing somewhat regularly has seen him observed as producing eye catching displays by those in attendance in the three games the team has played this season. His aim now will be to progress toward first team football in the least time possible. Impossible to even speculate in what manner, but easy to say that it will inevitably happen, possibly relatively soon. James played for the Wales U-15 and U-16 teams as a schoolboy but was then recruited by England, whom he represented in their U-17 team. He however returned to donning the red shirt and the dragon on his chest at U-19 level and his quest now will be to earn further caps as an U-21 representative. He is surely a candidate the selectors will consider but does have to overcome tough competition to do so successfully. Emulating James by performing admirably in the Arsenal academy teams, defender William Sweet has earned the opportunity as a scholar, starting that phase of his career this season. Three years the junior of his brother, William operates as a central defender and has played for Wales at U-15 level. Further updates could occur later in the season.
Sheffield Wednesday defender Sam Reed is a very new name for the followers of news about Welsh players. He has not been ratified as being eligible at this point, but hopefully confirmation will be forthcoming at the appropriate time. Sam performed in non-league football prior to Wednesday signing him to a professional contract a few weeks ago and has become a member of their U-21 squad at this time. At 20 years of age, he is relatively a latecomer to full-time football circumstances but that is not necessarily an insurmountable barrier. Though undoubtedly unusual, previous prospects on a similar path have successfully hurdled over the obstacles, some even constructing notable careers. Playing for Brighouse Town last season, Sam was a selection for the Northern Premier League team of the season, a sign that he was very adept in that standard of football. It is however a sizeable step forward in the technical ability of the opponents he now encounters, but he has capably handled the challenge in his first couple of matches, persuading some observers to entertain the thoughts of him being a first team candidate sooner rather than later.
Midfielder Charlie Savage was allowed to leave Manchester United in the summer when they accepted a bid for his transfer. His new club Reading are undoubtedly pleased with their acquisition, as he has not only played in all but a few minutes of their games this season, but also received high ratings from watching adjudicators. A continuation of such opinions will certainly include speculation that the time he spends playing League One football could be only a brief period of his career. He did gain good experience at that level when assisting Forest Green Rovers on loan during the second half of last season and had been involved with the Manchester United first team in training and pre-season activities over the past two seasons, making his lone appearance as a late substitute in a Europa League match. Charlie first played for Wales at U-18 level and then accumulated a handful of caps with the U-19’s before becoming a member of the present U-21 squad. It could be, that in time, he could be challenging for family leadership in total number of Wales caps. Another recruit for Reading this season is defender/midfielder Tivonge Rushesha, whom they signed after a successful trial period with them. Tivonge was previously a scholar and full professional at Swansea prior to his release by the club at the end of last season. He had excited many a Swans fan in earlier seasons as they envisioned him becoming a regular first team member. He did make one appearance when introduced as a substitute for a Carabao Cup match four seasons ago, but extensive periods of injury recovery and rehabilitation severely stunted his career since that time. We can but hope that such circumstances do not reappear for him and wish him a fruitful future time in football, maybe rekindling hopes of more national team involvement and adding to the caps collected at U-17 and U-19 level. He has made a couple of appearances for his new club, starting a Carabao Cup match and making a substitute appearance in a league match but he will probably be mostly involved with the U-21’s in the near term.
Red Wall favourite, Joniesta, joined Gillingham prior to the start of the season, thereby becoming a teammate of midfielder Dom Jeffries who is now in his second season at the Priestfield Stadium club. Dom was a scholar at Newport, playing in six first team games in the EFL Trophy team and making some bench appearances for league matches before spending a season in non-league football where his performances persuaded Brentford to sign him as a member of their B team squad. He did not disappoint his new club, producing strong performances during his season in the development team and consequently Gillingham successfully bid for his services in the summer of 2022. Again, it resulted in satisfied new employers as he played regularly for the team throughout last season and again this season, although he was not in the squad for their most recent game. I am presuming it was an injury absence. Dom has no history of involvement at national level, but his first team experience must make him a candidate for the Wales U-21 squad, for which he is eligible this season and next. It must be mentioned that the selection process for the squad is far from an easy task, there are many more players who are exhibiting a competency of being viable candidates than available places on the roster. I am certainly confident the coaching staff will be diligent in assessing all the information available, enabling them to make the best choices.