A few weeks ago, a newspaper article speculated about young players at Premier League clubs. They, in fact, provided the name and some associated information of one player from each club as being the most prominent youngster in its scholar ranks. This was an enjoyable read for me and of course sourced information for one of my main interests. What further delighted me was that three out of the twenty (a significant percentage) were Wales representatives.
Everton forward George Morgan (2006/FW), whom I have mentioned previously, was one of them. He has continued doing well for the U-18 team and is their leading scorer for the campaign so far. Another one was Sheffield United defender Zach Giggs (2006/DF), a familiar name to many of you. After being associated with the Manchester United academy for some years, Zach was recruited by the steel city club and is a first year scholar with them. He has been playing regularly for the U-18 team, appearing in five of their eight games. An absence for three consecutive games creates a suspicion that I cannot confirm, with injury as a possible cause of his unavailability. Zach was also included in the U-21 squad for one game and made his debut for them when introduced as a substitute midway through the second half. Defender/attacker Owen Hampson (2004/MF) is also at the Blades, coincidentally having been an Old Trafford academy affiliate. He moved to Sheffield to start his time as a scholar two seasons ago and was retained by the club, signing professional forms in the summer. Last season was a very busy one for him, as he played in around half of the U-21 team’s games, slightly more than he did for the U-18’s. Having been a defender previously, he was switched into an attacking role and scored goals for both teams. This season he has played in most of the U-21 team’s games and has helped them sit comfortably atop the PDL 2 table at this juncture. The third youngster mentioned in the newspaper was AFC Bournemouth midfielder Charlie Stevens (2007/MF). A Bournemouth academy player prior to his progression to become a first year scholar this season. Charlie first represented Wales as a member of the U-15 squad and then continued to do so with the U-16’s, including being a member of last season’s Victory Shield squad. Midfielder Josh Salmon (MF) was a teammate of Charlie’s in those international matches and was a member of the Southampton academy during that period. He is now, however, also a clubmate with Charlie, having switched in the summer to begin his scholar time at Bournemouth. The club’s development system was graded as acceptable to receive a tier 2 ranking earlier in the year and so now operates at a level higher than was previously contested. The U-18 team plays its games in league 2 and judging from partial information, Charlie and Josh have been playing regularly for the team. Both were also selected for the Wales U-17 squad that played in a friendly competition earlier in the season, though Charlie was declared unavailable and withdrew from attendance. They were both then selected for the squad scheduled to contest the preliminary qualification UEFA tournament, subsequently postponed due to middle east hostilities. It has now been announced that rescheduling to the next international break has been decided, with Wales chosen as the replacement host. A good opportunity for those able to go and support, to view a talented group of youngsters who will hopefully have a successful qualification tournament.
Southampton has operated a satellite academy system at Bath in Somerset for many seasons. During that time, it has recruited numerous players from South Wales along with those from the local area with Welsh eligibility. Midfielder Joe Andrews (2006/MF) is one such player presently in his second season as a scholar with the club. He played regularly for the U-18 team last season and has done so in almost all of their games in this one, captaining the side on most occasions. Last season, he was also promoted to duty with the U-21 team on occasion and played in a handful of games for them. He has made one appearance for them so far this season and will be looking to increase that total in the coming months as he tries to secure a contract that will extend his tenure at the club. Joe has captured the attention of the Wales national coaches from an early age and was most recently a member of the U-19 squad that played a couple of early season friendly matches against Finland. Last season Joe accumulated numerous caps when assisting the U-17 team that successfully negotiated two qualification groups and eventually competed in the UEFA finals for that age group. His, by now impressive collection, began as a schoolboy with the U-15 squad and continued with the U-16’s.
Further east along the southern English coast lies the Amex Stadium, home of Brighton and Hove Albion. Amongst their new scholar intake at the start of this season, forward Joe Belmont (2006/MF/FW) has seemingly settled in well in his new surrounds. An academy affiliate with Liverpool during his time as a schoolboy, injuries disrupted his time with them and so it was Brighton that offered him the opportunity to continue his football education. He has responded by playing in all of the U-18 team’s games and contributed with a couple of goals during that time. Joe’s first outing for a Wales team occurred in the 2020/21 season when he was included in a combined U-15/U-16 group that played a friendly match against England. The following season he was a member of the U-16 squad and last season was with the U-17’s early in the season before missing out later.
Another forward who has been in good goal scoring form this season is Peterborough United first year scholar Joe Davies (2007/FW). Selected as a member of the Wales U-17 squad that attended a training camp arranged in August last year. Joe started his period in full-time football by scoring four goals in the eight outings he has had with the club’s U-18 team. The coaching staff will undoubtedly be pleased with his contribution along with encouraging him to continue developing his skills to enhance his career opportunities. His aim will be to progress through the development teams and persuade management that he is worthy of first team consideration as quickly as possible. Accomplishing those goals could also produce a scenario whereby another involvement with Wales teams could unfold in the future.
photo embedded from FAW cymru ]