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    Young Guns update


    Young Guns by John Jones.
    Ashley Baker (Sheffield Wednesday)
    I am sure that, as I was myself, most if not all followers of Welsh football were surprised to find that Ashley has been signed by the Hillsborough club. It does seem counterintuitive that though deemed surplus to requirements at Cardiff, he would join a club firmly placed in the playoff picture in the Championship whilst his old club are in a struggle to avoid relegation from the same division. He will of course be involved initially with the U-23 squad at his new club but there must be those in the scouting department at Wednesday that believe that he has the potential to supplement their first team in the future. Hopefully this will be the case, he did well in the first half of the season as a regular member of the U-23 team at Cardiff City Stadium and the change of scenery may help him kick on to better things. The changes at Cardiff does make room for younger players to get increased game time in the U-23 matches and this may prove to be a fruitful decision. If these younger players are believed to have the potential to become a first team player, then it does make sense to help them experience stronger competition and have them make the big step sooner rather than later. It is a difficult balancing act for any manager as instincts are tilted towards experience when long term success could well be better served by acclimatizing young players as soon as possible. Every team strives to have effective academy systems that provide players for the first team and in general those that have the best rate of doing so do fare well. Cardiff have had a reasonably good track record in this respect and will hopefully continue in this manner.

    Alex Bray (Swansea City on loan at Rotherham United)
    It is very good to see Alex get another opportunity to have some first team football experience. He was making enough of an impression at Swansea to have been involved with the first team squad during the 2014/15 pre-season and the arrangement of his loan to Plymouth was regarded as a move for him to gain some experience and success then a return to the Liberty Stadium ready to be considered for the senior team. The time on the field with Argyle was but a brief few minutes when injury curtailed his time with them. The severity of it consigned him to a 15 month period of repair and rehabilitation before his return to play in the Swansea U-21 team in early 2016. It does speak volumes to his determination for him to have done enough for the Millers to have acquired his services for the next few months. It certainly will be a tough challenge to thrive in Championship football but it does speak highly of the opinion Rotherham have as they are in need of players who can help them turn their season around significantly to have any hope of avoiding relegation. How Alex performs will go a long way in determining his footballing future as his present contract at Swansea comes to an end this summer.

    Lee Evans (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
    With another 90 minutes of first team football under his belt, Lee is hoping to make a case for regular inclusion in the Wolves starting side. He was in the team that effectively nullified Liverpool's vastly superior possession statistics, providing an effective contribution to a very good team display that culminated in an unexpected FA Cup win at Anfield. Having recently discussed Lee's situation after their 3rd round win I will leave it at that this week. I will just add that it was good that Harry Wilson was given a place on the bench for Liverpool in the same game. Unfortunately, the pattern of the game resulted in Liverpool using experienced players as substitutes and so he did not get any game time. It does however indicate that there is a desire from the Liverpool management to give him some more time on the field if the appropriate circumstances allow it to happen. 

    Ryan Hedges (Barnsley)
    Ryan spent the first half of the season on loan at Yeovil and was the recipient of some good reviews during his time there. He did not feature for them in the last few weeks as he was out with an injury but seemingly that is not a concern now as his new club acquired him on a permanent deal from Swansea at the end of the transfer window. The Championship will be a step up in the competition in comparison to where he has featured previously, though Barnsley are obviously confident he has the talent to succeed at that level. He will have a familiar face to greet him as Gethin Jones played numerous games for the Wales U-21 team with him and the squad at Oakwell seems to be an ever increasing Welsh contingent with a handful of Welsh qualified players in residence.

    Owain Jones (Swansea City on loan at Yeovil Town)
    With Ryan departing from his loan spell with them, Yeovil recruited the services of Owain as a replacement. It will give him a first taste of first team football in the EFL and so an opportunity to see if his skills allow him to thrive in this new challenge. It comes at a good time as Owain has shown enough ability to produce more than competent displays for the Swansea U-23 team and so now he will face something of a sterner test and hopefully show that he is ready to meet it and progress his career along.

    With the transfer window now over, we can reflect on quite an interesting scenario developing for a good number of young gun players. It is encouraging that in many cases the outcome of the moves gives the means for these young men to be challenged with situations that if successful will develop their careers in a positive manner. Hopefully there will be many good reports that will be commented on in the articles I anticipate providing in the coming weeks. There were also Welsh players not in the young guns category that changed clubs and it is hoped that all of them will have good fortune on their side. I will make a quick comment about a couple of them. Emyr Huws made a move to Cardiff at the start of the season, this seemingly being one that would be very good for both parties in the deal. Unfortunately, his career has stagnated over the last six months or so, an outcome that I must admit being surprised by. Now a loan move to Ipswich has been instigated, the hope will be that he can get things back on track. There can be little doubt that he has enough talent to succeed at Championship level or possibly better, as past descriptions of his exploits have indicated. Maybe this move will give him the motivation to show on a regular basis that he belongs in such company and then to push for inclusion in future senior Welsh squads. Sam Jones is the other one that I am going to write a few words about. After taking a break from pursuing a football career for more than a couple of years, he has been moving up the ladder of non league football in fairly rapid fashion and now his latest transfer sees him join Grimsby Town to start his Football League career. Now in his mid twenties, he has met the challenges presented to him with aplomb over the last three years. It will be interesting to see how much further he can progress in rejuvenating his career now that he has resurrected his appetite for the game.

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    Posted: Friday 3rd February 2017
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