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    Young Guns Blog index


    page originally posted : Fri, 13 Mar 20
    Young Guns

    As we leave the winter months and move into spring, it is accompanied by the resumption of the international calendar. With that in mind, I have decided to preview upcoming events that will be of interest to Welsh fans.

    As I assemble my thoughts to try and provide you with some words that will be at the least, an enjoyable read and hopefully somewhat informative, I will also look back at what has already happened this season. Though I am not necessarily attempting to present my view in a manner that totally reflects an order of importance throughout the content, I will start with some of points of interest that will be foremost in the opinions of the vast majority of Welsh fans. The starting point has to be qualification for the Euro 2020 tournament and the range of emotions experienced by fans as the various results were compiled along the way. I must admit my optimistic view the squad was sufficiently strong enough to gain the necessary points required for qualifying, was severely tested on occasion, but an acknowledgement is also required, that what certainly seems more than a fair share of injury issues, did hamper proceedings. For those of us that not only immensely enjoy the present, but also ponder and postulate into the future, we were anxious to witness a continuation of the momentum created by what was achieved in Euro 2016. We believed that the quantity and quality of those developing their careers toward a standard beneficial for the Wales senior team was on an upward trajectory and consequently anticipated an increasing strength in depth of the squad. This has I believe, proved to be so, in my opinion it played an important role in ensuring participation in Euro 2020 and the elated feelings when qualification was assured.

    Moving on to be more specific about the young guns, the reason I compose these weekly offerings, those who are now regarded as regular squad members for the senior team certainly provided an important contribution toward achieving success. Also conspicuous in both the squad and the team were many who were included in the young guns category, as I define it, until the completion of last season. It does equate to the average age of both the squad and team being about as low it has ever been, making them maybe a little short on experience, but certainly not so on quality.

    Neco Williams is a young gun that hitherto has not been associated with the Wales senior squad, but that fact is almost certainly about to change very soon. I have followed his progression through the Liverpool development teams with a great deal of interest over the last three seasons, believing that there seemed to be a future senior international coming through the ranks on Merseyside. Even so, I have an admission, the projection of that outcome becoming a possibility this season was not at the forefront of my thoughts until quite recently. The Reds have had a magnificent last couple of seasons and finally the holy grail the fans have craved since the inception of the Premier League is about to be achieved. Many of their players are of the highest quality, amongst them their right wing back who has been a very important as a contributor in their successful run. Neco made his first team debut earlier in the season and in his few appearances, performed very well. The fans are enamoured with him, confident, even though the team possesses a high quality, international class player in his position, a more than adequate replacement is available should it be necessary. Though he has only played a few times, he is obviously benefiting by being involved in first team training and wise enough to use the time as a valuable learning process. Without doubt, Neco is the biggest success story of the season, but he is by no means the only young gun to make his first team debut this season. There have been quite a few of them in fact. It is admittedly only a first step, but with the continuation of the hard work endured as well as a determination to continually search for improvement that has resulted in them making their present progress, the outlook does look good. Many are also still very much in their teenage years which means that physicality along with skills, are positive trends that can be anticipated, a good recipe for an optimistic opinion. Added to these, are those that have not yet experienced the euphoria of entering the field of play in first team circumstances but seem to be getting very close to doing so. Being incorporated in first team training sessions as well as receiving plaudits for performances in development team matches are indicators to suggest my instincts are correct. As mentioned, it is a first step, in many ways a big and important one but also with a lot more dedicated effort required in the future. What we hope these young men establish, is a career of regular first team football at a high level of competition and in that way become strong candidates for inclusion in successful Wales senior squads.

    It is about to be a busy time for Wales teams at all levels, all but the senior squad in important competitive situations. The U-21ís will resume the qualification matches for the finals of their competition which is scheduled for the summer of 2021. A mixed bag of results has been achieved so far, they will be playing a couple more games in the sequence that takes them to the latter months of this year. Though not considered amongst the favourites to qualify, they are reasonably competitive within the group and the games are important in gaining valuable experience for the players, some of whom will eventually be involved with the senior squad. The U-19ís and U-17ís will play games in the elite stage of their respective competitions, with the prospect of achieving a place in the finals later in the summer an incentive for success. Competition for such an outcome will however require overcoming formidable opponents with only the best of those who started out, remaining in the competition. The U-19ís may possibly have a very small advantage, being on home soil to host their three opponents, hopefully another boost will be provided by a passionate throng of support. The U-17ís travel to Poland, who are hosts to the group participants in their case. They face differing scenarios in terms of possible progression. The U-19 finals will comprise eight teams, meaning only the group winners go through. The U-17ís will have double that amount and so group winners along with the best seven of eight runners-up contest the finals. It must be admitted it will be a daunting task for both squads, but one I certainly believe is not beyond their capability. It will take performing at, or very close to, the maximum of their ability, both individually and collectively, for further participation to come to fruition. As fans, of course, wish them the very best of fortune, confident that all concerned will produce the utmost of their efforts in the quest. Before I finish, I propose a salute to the developers of the Welsh Way. Our sense of national pride is unavoidably elevated with the greater significance of events that give us cause for celebration. Our immense thanks goes to the visionaries, organizers and supporting crew, who have overseen the system producing the marked improvement in the quality of Welsh football teams over the last decade and more, giving us a multitude of reasons for exhibiting plenty of pride in what has already been achieved, along with a feeling that the future may possibly become brighter in that respect. I think it is time for me to shut up and so I will leave it there. I will be back to my normal routine with next weekís issue.

    Before I submit this to Neil for the posting, I will add these few words. In light of the most recent of announcements and postponement of sports events, some of what I have mentioned have become moot points. I will however leave it as composed over the last few days and as everyone else, follow upcoming developments with interest. There are many young guns that have not received a mention in this seasonís series and so I will continue to provide a weekly young guns blog for Neil, provided he wishes me to do so. In the meantime, I wish all of you the very best. - John Jones

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    Posted: Friday 13th March 2020
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