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    Young Guns Blog index


    Young Guns Blog by John Jones

    page updated: Fri, 2 Dec 22 : 09:55  refresh for updates

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

    Brandon Cooper (Swansea City) born 2000, Defender.
    After making excellent progress through the Swansea development teams, Brandon made his Swansea debut in an early 2019/20 season EFL Cup match, having become a full professional at the club that summer. He then played a few games on loan at National League club Yeovil in early 2020 before the pandemic cancelled any further games. Match reports with numerous mentions of outstanding performances in the first half of the 2020/21 season when loaned out to Newport County, prompted Swansea to recall him for the remainder of it and an expectation that he could help the first team. An ankle injury during a training session in his first few days back ruined the prospect and effectively the remainder of the season. Last season, Brandon played in four of the early Championship games, an injury creating the need for him to be replaced in the fourth one. This again placed him at a disadvantage and there were only three more bench appearances up to the midpoint of the season. A January loan assignment at Swindon gave him another opportunity for first team game time, but a knee injury after playing in eight straight games for them aborted his season once more. As he was still completing his return to full fitness as this season began, he remained at Swansea during the transfer window and has been playing regularly for the U-21 team after missing the first few games. Brandon has represented Wales throughout his career, starting as a young schoolboy and then in all the intermediate teams. His cap collection now amounts to well over three dozen and he captained many of those teams he played with.

    Niall Huggins (Sunderland) born 2000, Defender.
    It has been a frustrating last twelve months or more for Niall as he persevered for a return to full fitness after sustaining an injury so soon after joining Sunderland early last season. It was therefore very pleasing to see him return to their first team lineup in their last game before the World Cup break. A schoolboy associate and then a scholar at Leeds, he progressed well through that phase of his career and earned a professional contract with the club. He continued developing as he played for the U-23 team and in the 2020/21 season impressed well enough to earn some first team bench time. Making his debut when introduced early in the second half of a Premier League game, he received a good review of his performance, but it was his only first team appearance for Leeds. Late in the transfer window at the start of last season, Sunderland successfully negotiated his transfer and then the injury occurred after only a couple of games for them. He will certainly be wanting to make amends for that missing time during the second half of this season. Niall was involved in training camps for Wales teams as a schoolboy, but then did not play at intermediate levels until selected for the U-21 team and has collected four caps with that team.

    Luke Jephcott (Plymouth Argyle – on loan at Swindon Town) born 2000, Forward.
    Joining Plymouth as a fourteen year old after impressing in local football, Luke did well at the club and became a scholar with them. He continued earning praise, doing well enough to be offered a full professional contract when his time with the U-18’s came to an end. He made his first team debut when starting an EFL Trophy game in the 2018/19 season and then made a further nine league game appearances although most were late introductions off the bench. In the 2019/20 season, management decided he would benefit from more extensive first team football and so he was loaned out to Truro City. His goal scoring exploits with them initiated a January recall to his parent club and he continued in good scoring form for the Plymouth first team. Having played well over a century of matches for Plymouth, an early season decision to agree a loan offer from Swindon has resulted in him playing regularly for them and he has contributed with some valuable goals as the team strives for League Two promotion. Luke was involved with Wales teams as a schoolboy and then his good club form saw him frequently selected at U-19 level, collecting more than a dozen caps in the process. An identical scenario evolved when he moved on to U-21 eligibility.

    Billy Sass-Davies (Crewe Alexandra) born 2000, Defender.
    Now an established member of Crewe’s first team squad over the past couple of seasons, Billy’s long tenure at the club has seen him steadily progress through their development system to reach his present status. Initially making his debut as a second year scholar when playing in their EFL Trophy team, he is now on an approach to making a half century of first team appearances. Added to this is other first team experience gained from many short term loan assignments at nearby non-league clubs as well as a period with National League side Yeovil Town. His goal now will be to continue this positive trend and become a regular selection in Crewe’s starting eleven and further develop his career. A dozen caps, initially at U-19 level and increasingly so with the U-21’s has somewhat mirrored Billy’s progress at club level after having first being introduced into the Wales development system as a schoolboy.
    Unfortunately, our anticipation of some celebration time during the World Cup tournament failed to materialize, as results, and performances did not reflect our imaginative hope of what may happen. For some teams, these occasions occur at a perfect time and for some it is the complete opposite. Over the last six years we can say we have witnessed both sides of that pendulum swing as well as some of those in between moments. Our only option should be to embrace what has been and then believe that the future will unfold to produce similar euphoric experiences to those ingrained in our fondest recollections. Those of you that have any familiarity with my pondering attempts at providing some worthwhile reading material will know that my outlook is optimistic. I also need to add, cautiously so, if only as a concession of being wrong many more times than the lucky guesses I have occasionally forecasted. I think that there is a possible abundance of periods of glee to be savoured in the foreseeable future. We have some very talented young players already in the team and others on the verge of becoming a part of it. Can they develop and form a blend to produce another squad that is capable of being competitive against the higher ranking of international teams? I can only answer that in all honesty with another question mark. Those that have experienced the success of late and those who yearn to do so, seem to have the talent. If they have a determination to continually improve their game, then maybe the answer is yes. There is already an element of difficulty in getting selection to the squad and the promise that it is going to be an even more contentious proposition. If that is the case, then the yes reply becomes even more pronounced. I ask again for your understanding as I move onto a more personal level. Firstly, I wish to express my gratitude to all concerned with Wales football, that made it possible to watch what is for me, three important games I was able to view on the TV screen. I admit that I do wish that it had been a more satisfying experience, but nevertheless it was a few hours that I had yearned so long for its coming and wondered endlessly if it was to remain elusive. I am aware of the dedicated and immense efforts required and assure you that they are cherished memories. Included in my appreciative outpouring are all you members of The Red Wall who are on record as being so inspirational in critical moments. There have been other exhibitions of collective national pride over the decades, those who are exponents of manipulating the oval ball and other athletes who have performed at the peak of achievement amongst those who have provided a reason for it. Those of us whose main recreational interest is football, can be proud of the national sides influence in producing another version of it, and along with it a bonus this time, a resurgence of affection for what many of us feel is a common bond, the Welsh language. A thanks to those of you who are making the effort to learn it, it is far from an easy task, and you are deservedly saluted. Another thanks to The Red Wall who have provided a platform for its visibility. I offer you this in return. I do believe that more occasions for you to sing so harmoniously and cheer so magnificently are on the horizon.

    [ photo embedded from FAW cymru ]

    Posted: Friday 2nd December 2022
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