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    Young Guns Blog index



    Young Guns Blog by John Jones.

    James Waite (Cardiff City)
    The team sheet for the Cardiff City U-23 games during the last few weeks has contained many unfamiliar names when compared to the official squad ledger. It is my assumption that the club are evaluating potential new signings that could not only strengthen the team but also over time compete for first team involvement. As the season moves along, a continual process of evaluation of present needs increasingly involves thoughts toward the future, as the end of season decisions management conduct, come closer into focus. Along with other well regarded young players at the club, James has continued to be a part of game day squads as this process has been carried out. It does seem to give an indication that his performances have been of sufficient quality to retain a confidence that he is progressing in his career. In his first season at this level, he has not only played regularly for the U-23 team but was also recognized on the international level when part of the Wales U-19 squad earlier in the season. Although there is still plenty of time for things to change, the Cardiff first team are at present performing well enough that promotion into the Premier League is possibly within their means. A successful conclusion of this goal will bring about changes. As we all know, it becomes even more difficult for young players to be afforded any first team involvement when a club competes in Premier League matches. For now, we can give James credit for what he has achieved and assume that he is determined to meet the challenges ahead.

    Ben Williams (Barnsley)
    The club's decision to employ Ben as part of their developmental squad is regarded as one that they are pleased to have made. He has been a constant inclusion in the starting lineup of the U-23 team throughout the season and although unused, was named as a substitute for FA Cup 3rd round tie that the first team contested. This will have given him encouragement to continue improving his game as much as possible and so impress enough to produce more first team opportunities. Ben is another in the first year of full time professional football after his time as a youth player at Blackburn. He does seem to have adapted very well to these new challenges and will be hoping that he is on a path toward a good career in the game. I imagine that with a sizeable Welsh contingent at Barnsley and national senior team representation by some, Ben would be pleased of recognition that could add to his involvement with Wales at schoolboy level.

    Ben Woodburn (Liverpool)
    Ben's name has appeared in renditions of this season's young guns on a much lesser frequency than happened during the previous season. At that time, he was on the way to much greater prominence on the national level as he made excellent first team contributions and gained the attention of many previously unaware of his talent. This season, his absence from the first team has garnered about as much discussion as anything else mentioned about him. From a Wales fan point of view, this is understandable, with a belief that as he gains increasing first team experience, so does the likelihood of a greater prominence in the national team. His club have however made the decision that best fits their needs, and this has to be respected as one that could well be best for Ben in the long term. Their opinion that he does not necessarily need to gain extra first team experience elsewhere seems to be confirmed when considering that even though there was the potential for a plethora of interested candidates, there was no positive response when overtures about securing a loan agreement with the club were made. Considering that he is young enough to retain U-18 eligibility until the end of the season, the competitive elements that he is involved with at the club are above those of almost all of his peer group. He is also producing good performances in the matches that he plays and so does not suggest any complacency in his endeavour to continue developing his game further. Of course, he has already made his presence in the national senior side one that has been exciting for the fans, with the possibility of even more and better to come prominent in the minds of most, causing something of a frustration that it may be delayed in the present circumstances. An alternate view of all that is going on may in fact not only be of most benefit for Liverpool but also for Wales, is the best way to look at it.

    The month of March signals the return of international matches to the football calendar and for the Wales senior team, the first matches since the appointment of Ryan Giggs as their new manager. It will be for participation in the China Cup with the need for long travel and good opposition making it far from easy to anticipate a successful start to the appointment. A disappointing conclusion to the World Cup qualification process has not reduced an expectation amongst many Wales fans that something approaching the euphoria of France 2016 is again a good possibility. It is not an unreasonable assumption, the introduction of young guns into the squad in recent times has added fuel to this fire as it were, their performances suggesting that the strength of the squad has been bolstered by their presence. Other talented youngsters are also making strong positive strides in their careers, a continuation in this manner will see them moving ever closer to senior team consideration. It is best to regard such optimism with some amount of caution but hopefully the positives will far outweigh the almost inevitable disappointments that are likely to happen from time to time.

    There will also be a return to action for the U-21 team as they resume their European qualification campaign. They will be determined to rectify the potential damage that the results of home matches in the autumn did to their hopes for qualification after what had been an encouraging start to the process.

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    Posted: Wednesday 7th March 2018
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