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    page originally posted : Sun, 12 Jan 20
    Young Guns

    Mitchell Clark (Leicester City)
    Mitch was associated with Aston Villa for a good number of years, firstly as a schoolboy in their academy and then signing on scholar terms with them for his first experience of being employed in football on a fulltime basis. He performed well enough for their U-18 team to be also given game time in their U-23 team as a scholar and was signed on to a fulltime professional contract soon after reaching his seventeenth birthday. He continued on with the U-23 team after the expiration of his eligibility for the U-18ís and made his first team debut for Villa in the EFL Cup during the early weeks of the 2017/18 season. Fans who witnessed some of his performances believed he was a good candidate for further first team involvement, with Villa at that time finding it hard to successfully return to the Premier League, but he did not add to that solitary appearance. Just before the conclusion of the 2018 summer transfer window, agreement was reached to allow Mitch to join Port Vale on a season long loan and he played in almost all the Valiantís first team games from that time on. It was surprising to some that Villa decided against a renewal of his contract for this season as he had won numerous accolades for his performances, creating a belief in his capability of playing successfully at levels above League 2. His availability created an interest amongst Football League clubs keen on acquiring his services, but the decision was to accept an offer from the Foxes to become a part of their development squad. He has played in all of the U-23 and EFL Trophy games for the club this season. We shall wait to see what develops next rather than speculate blindly. Mitch has represented Wales at schoolboy, U-17 and U-19 levels and will become a candidate for further consideration if playing first team football at a good level.

    Tom Hill (Liverpool)
    I must admit that my first knowledge of Tom having any link with Wales was when noticing his name in the comprehensive list Neil provides for the young players in action. Obviously intrigued to know some further details about him, I found out that he was a first-year scholar at Liverpool after previously being coached in their academy system from a young age. He certainly took to his introduction to U-18ís football with aplomb, scoring quite a few goals for the team during their early season games and making him a very promising addition to the list of young Welsh players. Of course, moving on some weeks from that time, I can now mention not only that he seems to be performing very well, but that also, he has made his first team debut for the club. As has been well documented, it was a rather unique set of circumstances that presented the opportunity, but nevertheless a notable achievement to be selected from the deep and talented pool of development players available at the club. One of the youngest players to be involved in the game, all of the young group that played were credited in match reports and comments with having given a good account of their quality in the match and were considered to have performed in manner, against older and much more experienced players, that was a great deal better than the lopsided 5-0 defeat suggested. Tom has not, as yet been involved with any Wales teams, but that may well soon change, particularly if there are any preparatory matches later in the season for the 2020/21 season U-19 group of players. His usual position is as an attacking midfield player but does also exhibit some good defensive skills as he has played as a full back in Liverpool teams as well.

    Trystan Jones and Ben Margetson (Cardiff City)
    Ben and Trystanís careers have somewhat mirrored one another over the last few seasons as they have progressed through the development system at Cardiff. Both were introduced to U-18 football with the club when playing a few games for the team during the time they were on schoolboy terms. Signed on as scholars once they were old enough to do so, they played fairly regularly for the team during the following two seasons after doing so. In that period, they were also occasionally utilized to play in the U-23 team matches and impressed the coaching staff enough for them to be awarded professional contracts as their time of eligibility for the U-18 team came to an end last season. Both have played on quite a few occasions for the U-23 team this season and their aim now will be to not only continue to improve the quality of their play at that level but also to keep developing skills that could eventually get them consideration for first team involvement with the club.

    Lewis Webb (Swansea City)
    Impressive performances for Merthyr Town resulted in Lewis being selected to attend a training camp at the end of last season, conducted as a preparatory process for the group of players eligible to represent Wales in U-19 internationals this season. Swansea, already alerted to the quality of his play, negotiated for him to join their club and he signed on for them soon after that time. Young enough to be still eligible for youth team play this season, he has played on a regular basis for the Swansea U-18 team. Eager to push the advancement of his career, the club have also given him assignments as the goalkeeper in their U-23 team on occasion as well. Lewis has also been involved with the national U-19 squad this season and was in the team for qualification group matches a couple of months ago. As has been previously mentioned, the team managed to secure an impressive set of results and so will play in the elite qualifying round in the early spring. Lewis will very likely be selected for the squad that participates in those matches and the team will be faced with overcoming some extremely strong opponents in the quest to reach the final stages of the tournament to be held in the early summer.

    - John Jones.

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    Posted: Sunday 12th January 2020
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