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        Young Guns Blog by John Jones

    page updated: Fri, 17 Sep 21 : 07:38 : refresh for updates

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

    Sam Bowen (Cardiff City) born 2001, Midfielder.
    With his father having been a player at the club, it was hardly surprising that Sam became affiliated with Cardiff from a young age, once he showed promise that he might be able to follow in those footsteps. Progressing through the academy teams and then as a scholar, he became a fulltime professional with the Bluebirds in the summer of 2019. After quite a few occasions on the bench over the two previous seasons, Sam made his first team debut for the club when he played in the second round Carabao Cup match a few weeks ago and will now want to repeat that experience as soon as possible. It is very stiff competition he needs to overcome to do so. It is not only the experienced members of the squad that are competitors for selection, but he is also one of a good number of young players at the club all considered viable candidates for potential first team involvement. He has obviously continued to develop his game well over the seasons and will I’m sure be determined to add further to it in his quest to become a regular performer in front of the Cardiff City Stadium fans. Having started this article a couple of hours before Cardiff City’s game, I can now add that Sam has made his league debut when starting the game as a late injury replacement. I was going to mention that the manager is confident that the young players can be beneficial for the squad and decided to retain them at the club in preference to allowing them to go on loan. He is obviously true to his word but does have the difficult task of balancing team needs along with providing times of giving the youngsters a chance to gain that valuable and necessary experience. Exciting times for Cardiff fans as they cheer for those who have grown up amongst them. Sam has emulated his father during his representative occurrences for the national teams, having featured from the earliest of times as a schoolboy and then through the age group teams to be a current member of the U-21 squad. He will be hoping that he can complete his collection of caps with appearances for the senior side as his dad did a generation ago.

    Christian Norton (Stoke City - on loan at Cheltenham Town) born 2001, Forward.
    Christian first came to the attention of the Wales coaching staff when he was a second year scholar with Southampton in the 2018/19 season and was selected for the U-19 squad at that time, helping the team progress to the elite stage of their age group competition that season. He had a very successful season at club level as well, scoring at well above a rate of a goal every other game and was signed to a fulltime professional contract at its end. He moved on to the Saints U-23 squad the following season and again was a member of the Wales U-19 squad that reached the elite round, one that was eventually cancelled as the pandemic disrupted football. After that one season with the U-23’s, Southampton decided not to renew his contract with them and so he became a free agent. As he performed in trials, Stoke invited him to do so with them and he did well enough to persuade them to sign him as a member of their U-23 squad in early November 2020. From that point, it was something of a meteoric change of fortune in his career, as within a span of only a few weeks he was promoted to the first team squad in February 2021. He became a member of the matchday squads for the rest of the season and combined a significant number of bench appearances with a similar number of game participation events. He also gained the praise of the manager for his performances. His involvement this season has been appearances in two Carabao Cup matches and management decided to allow him to be loaned out to Cheltenham so that he can get regular first team opportunities. His good form last season resulted in selection for the Wales U-21 squad and was also selected for their recent game. He was however unavailable through injury and was therefore withdrawn.

    Jack Vale (Blackburn Rovers - on loan at Halifax Town) born 2001, Forward.
    Blackburn signed Jack to join their scholar programme after he had impressed as a schoolboy in the TNS academy. It has proven to be a wise assessment by the Blackburn scouting staff as Jack became one of their most prominent U-18 team players, securing a professional contract in the summer of 2019. He continued his progression and as the disrupted 2019/20 season drew towards its close made his first team debut when introduced off the bench for the last quarter of an hour of Rovers’ penultimate match. Much was anticipated for Jack to consolidate his inclusion in the first team plans for last season, but unfortunately it was a time dominated by injury issues as much as anything else. A decision to allow him to join Rochdale on loan for the second half of the season was hampered by further injury situations and so he was only able to make a few appearances for the team. Blackburn had hoped to arrange a suitable loan assignment for him this season, but the window closed without an agreement being successfully obtained. A loan with National League club Halifax Town has now been arranged and hopefully Jack can benefit from playing first team football at that level and show an ability to produce impressive displays in his spell across the Pennines. Jack played for Wales as a schoolboy and then continued to do so for the U-17’s and U-19’s. He is now a member of the U-21 squad and although selected in the previous couple of squads, he stayed on the bench at that time and did not make his debut until their most recent match. It certainly was an occasion he will never forget, as he did it in style by scoring a hattrick.

    Daniel Williams (Swansea City) born 2001, Midfielder.
    Making his first team debut for the Swans in the first round of this season’s Carabao Cup game, Daniel provided enough evidence to his new manager to select him for the team that competed in the next round as well. He in fact impressed enough to establish himself as a member of the first team squad and though yet to make his debut at that level, has been on the bench for four league games as well. It is not completely surprising for him to reach such a situation, as Dan has made a steady progression through the various Swansea teams for well over a decade. It can be considered as somewhat unassuming, although obviously appreciated by his coaches and teammates, it has had only a little fanfare to herald it, a good bit less perhaps than has been uttered about his contemporaries. It may have a vague similarity to how Joe Allen’s career developed when he was a youngster at the club. Of course, there is a long way to go before appropriate comparisons could be made, but should Dan develop into a player with the quality close to resembling Joe’s stellar attributes, then club and country will have much to celebrate and fans of both would greet him in delighted adulation. Dan was another debutant for the U-21’s earlier this month adding to the caps received when he played at U-19 level a couple of seasons ago.

    Four players who are members of the U-21 squad and along with quite a few others, are players gaining valuable experience at a good level of first team football. It is an indication of why we can believe that not only is the senior squad on a potentially improving trend, but the same path can be sensed occurring in the intermediate teams as well. Undoubtedly, it is far more important for resources to be focused on ensuring that the senior team has all its needs fulfilled to gain the maximum success possible. This is what generates the funds necessary for the Wales FA to promote further improvements. If, however, the intermediate teams can also remain on an improving trajectory of competitiveness, it could also be of benefit over time for the senior team, as those who eventually make it to that level will have gained some extra international experience along the way. To finish off this week’s article, I will comment on the U-21 game I have made some reference to. As mentioned, Jack made a significant contribution with his hattrick, but all concerned, players and staff, deserve a congratulatory salute. Such an emphatic victory as what was achieved, would not have been possible without a strong team effort to compliment good preparation. It was against a team who probably was not as strong as they have been in past times, but certainly not an easy team to defeat. There will be stronger opposition to be confronted in future games but I’m sure they will be severely tested by this group. We can maybe look forward to some more positive results as the competition progresses.

    page posted  Fri, 17 Sep 21 : 07:38 : refresh for updates

    [ photo embedded from FAW cymru ]

    Posted: Friday 17th September 2021
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