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        Young Guns Blog by John Jones

    page updated: Fri, 12 Feb 21 : 08:15 : refresh for updates [ scroll down to post your comments ]

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

    Matthew Blake (Swansea City - on loan at Cardiff Met) born 1999, Defender.
    With over a dozen years of association with Swansea, Matthew has progressed through the schoolboy academy teams and then two seasons as a scholar to become a fulltime professional player at the club. He is in his third season as a member of the U-23 squad and has appeared in approaching a half century of games for that team. The number would have almost certainly been significantly larger but for his unavailability recovering from some lengthy injury issues at times. Matthew will hopefully get some valuable first team experience, assuming the Cymru Premier league is able to resume matches in March as is tentatively planned. He has joined Cardiff Met on loan for the remainder of the season and will be intent on gaining the benefit other young Welsh players have done in loan spells in the league. He did play a couple of games for the Swansea U-21 team competing in the EFL Trophy during the 2018/19 season and so has a small amount of experience of playing against first team opposition. As a schoolboy Matthew was involved with Wales teams at that level and then played for the Wales U-17 team in the 2015/16 season.

    Declan Drysdale (Coventry City - on loan at Cambridge United) born 1999, Defender.
    A scholar with Tranmere Rovers, Declan impressed enough as a youth player to earn a professional contract with the club in 2017 and was a member of the squad as the team regained its Football League status at the end of the 2017/18 season, although he did only appear in one game. His contract was not renewed as Tranmere opted to supplement the squad with experienced players to ensure being competitive in League 2. Declan was without a club for a few months before signing for Coventry in January 2019. He made his debut for the club last season, playing in a couple of EFL Trophy and a league game before being loaned to Solihull Moors in late January 2020. He was only able to play in three games for them before the season was curtailed. For the first half of this season, he was loaned to Gillingham and gathered a good amount of first team experience playing in over a dozen games. He returned to Coventry in the middle of last month and a loan agreement with Cambridge was finalized on the last day of the transfer window. Playing for them at the weekend, he has undoubtedly made a good impression there, as I see Neil has noted his selection to the League 2 team of the week.

    ++Harry Pickering (Blackburn Rovers - on loan at Crewe Alexandra) born 1998, Defender.
    With more than a century and a half of first team appearances for Crewe, Harry will add further to that total as he remains at the club for the remainder of this season as part of the transfer agreement concluded on the last day of the recent window. Making his debut in the early part of the 2018/19 season, he progressively became more established in the team as the season unfolded and was a regular selection in the second half of the term. Other than injury absences, he has been a constant selection for the Railwaymen since that time. Next season the challenge for him will be to gain regular selection for the Blackburn first team. Blackburn were not the only Championship club with interest in securing his services, a sign that knowledgeable football personnel have confidence in his capability of succeeding at that level. Good performances in Championship games will certainly catch the notice of the Wales coaching staff and probably prompt an assessment of his eligibility status. As Neil has noted, an official confirmation will be required before he can be considered for selection and of course it will also be dependent on Harry’s decision on acceptance if an offer were to be forthcoming. The quality he has displayed, and the progress achieved over the last couple of seasons, certainly makes him one that we Wales fans should keep an interest in how the future unfolds.

    James Waite (Cardiff City) born 1999, Forward.

    Progressing through the development system at the club, James is now in his fourth season as a member of Cardiff’s U-23 squad. He has impressed enough to warrant consideration for first team involvement at various times and did make his first team debut when coming off the bench to play in most of the last quarter of an EFL Cup game at the start of last season. He has spent a major portion of last season and again this one on loan at Weston-Super-Mare AFC, where he has not only gained valuable first team experience but also became a fan favourite when attendance was possible. He has shown that he is very proficient at that level of play, contributing to the team both with his overall ability as well as providing a scoring threat. With non league football in an undetermined pause, he has recently returned to Cardiff and has been playing for the U-23’s. James made his debut wearing national colours when he played for the U-19 team during the 2017/18 season.

    Ben Williams (Barnsley) born 1999, Defender.

    Offered a trial with Barnsley in the summer of 2017, Ben joined the club after the completion of his time as a scholar with Blackburn. Its success, along with playing well in the following season for the Barnsley U-23 team consolidated his status at the club. In the 2018/19 season, he made his first team debut for them, playing in a double-digit number of games as the team gained promotion from League 1. Last season he continued his good form and made twenty appearances in Championship games. In August of 2020, he unfortunately suffered a serious knee injury and so has not been available for any games this season. At the time of its occurrence, Ben was projected to miss most and possibly all of the season as he recovered and rehabilitated back to full fitness. I am unable to give any update on the process, but we wish him as speedy a recovery as possible and a return to the Tykes first team. His performances in the latter stages of the 2018/19 season earned a selection for an end of season Wales senior squad training camp. It was not the first time Ben had been involved with Wales teams, having played in the 2014/15 Victory Shield Tournament when a schoolboy.

    ++ to be confirmed if eligible for Wales

    page posted: Fri, 12 Feb 21 : 07:45 refresh for updates [ scroll down to post your comments ]

    [ photo embedded from FAW cymru ]

    Posted: Friday 12th February 2021
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