page updated: Fri, 27 Aug 21 : 06:15 : refresh for updates
To read all last season blog posts scroll through posts on the young guns page
Tom Davies (Cardiff City) born 2003, Defender. After playing in the Cardiff academy sides for a couple of seasons, Tom played his first game for the club’s U-18 team at the start of last season. It was a successful first year as a scholar for him, as he established himself as a regular member of the team and played in most of their games as the season went along. Judging from those statistics, I suspected that he may be given an opportunity to be challenged at the next level of development with appearances for the U-23 team at times this season. My expectations were certainly proven to be lacking in much knowledge about his capabilities, as he made enough of an impression on the management team at the club to be given the chance of performing in some of the first team games as they played their pre-season preparation matches. Their estimation of his ability was further confirmed with him making a first team competitive debut when named in the starting eleven for the first round Carabao Cup match. Although it was a tough challenge and his inexperience at that level of football initially provided some nervous moments from him, he quickly adapted, his display in the game earning the plaudits of both staff and fans. He has definitely announced his presence to many fans previously unaware of his talent and I’m sure that they may well get to see him given some more chances to become one they would be very proud in cheering for, as a local lad in a Bluebirds shirt. Tom earned his first Wales cap when playing for the U-18 team against England in the spring and will be adding to his collection this season. He will be a member of the U-19 squad announced a few days ago that will compete in a friendly tournament next week as preparation for the European qualification games for the age group taking place in October.
Ryan Howley (Coventry City) born 2003, Midfielder. Ryan has been affiliated with Coventry teams for over a decade, playing for the various age group academy teams until he joined the club on a fulltime basis as he started his time as a scholar with them at the beginning of last season. He had undoubtedly impressed his coaches as he progressed through those various sides, as only a few weeks later, the management team offered, and he accepted to join the club on fulltime professional terms as soon as he had reached his seventeenth birthday. A continuation of a high regard for his ability has ensued since that time as he has made his first team debut when given a starting assignment in the team that recently contested the first round of the Carabao Cup. He obviously did not create an adverse opinion in regard to his ability to perform on such occasions, as he was on the bench for the team’s most recent match in the Championship. It does seem that he may be given a taste of the competition at that level of football in the foreseeable future and I’m sure he will want to capitalize on the opportunity when it does arise. Although he has been involved in training camps in previous seasons, Ryan has not earned a cap at international level for Wales, but that statistic is about to change next week when he will be a member of the U-19 squad that travels to Croatia for the friendly tournament arranged for that group. His aim will be to make a favourable impression on his international coaches, in the same manner as he has done at club level.
Fin Stevens (Brentford) born 2003, Defender. Becoming aware of his potential following some strong performances as a sixteen year old in non-league Worthing FC’s first team during the 2019/20 season, Brentford instigated a move to secure Fin’s services before the start of last season. Envisioned as being a member of their development squad as he progressed toward first team involvement over the next couple of seasons or so, the management plans were soon accelerated when they assessed he could be of value in first team circumstances on a more immediate basis. A bench assignment for the first round Caraboa Cup match at the start of the season was his only involvement until returning for a similar selection in the fourth round tie a few weeks later. He made his first team debut in that match when introduced off the bench in the latter stages of the game. Soon after that time, he became a member of the matchday squads for league matches and remained so for a large portion of the season with a couple of dozen such selections. His only appearances in league matches were two very brief ones, but he did play the entire games in the two FA Cup matches that the team contested. Brentford, of course, had a very successful 2020/21 term and are now a Premier League club, in the process of adjusting their squad to try and be sufficiently strong to retain that status beyond this present season. Fin is still considered an integral part of the first team squad having been a member of the travelling squad for their second league game and on the bench for this week’s Carabao Cup tie. He will almost certainly be given some opportunities in the coming months, but understandably, a cautious approach will likely be the policy as he builds up experience in the demands required to cope with the quality of opposition both in abilities and strength. Having only recently celebrated his eighteenth birthday, he has certainly achieved a good deal to this point. A potential for further improvement as he benefits from training with high quality players and his physical development continues, provides an expectation that he may eventually become a top class player. Once Fin came to the attention of the Wales management team and they confirmed his eligibility, he was incorporated into their future plans and has already gained two caps at U-21 level. He will add to those as this season progresses.
Over the previous two weeks, I featured the young guns who are involved with the Wales senior squad at present, the three young men in this week’s discussion are ones we can anticipate as being candidates for possible consideration in a couple of seasons or so. In order for it to happen, they will have to build on to the capabilities already exhibited and secure regular first team football opportunities. They could of course make rapid progress over the coming weeks, thereby enhancing that process by some margin. Replacing those who are deservedly current squad members will require some impressive displays, but that will not be their only obstacles to achieving senior international status. There is a substantial number in their age group and adjacent ones that seem to be marching on a similar pathway. It could well be a fun time being a Wales fan in the coming seasons if my crystal ball is working correctly.
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