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Welcome to On-line Welsh Football. / Croeso i Pel-droed Cymru Ar-lein.

Young Welsh Players 2005-2006 - by John Lloyd Jones

Football fans always look forward to a new season with great anticipation of a successful campaign for their favourite teams, be it club or country. Most likely, Wales fans will regard 2005-2006 as a prelude to what they hope will be even better successive seasons. However, it can still be extremely important, as John Toshack and his staff continue with plans for their tenure, intending it to be the greatest period in Welsh international history.

Having followed the fortunes of the Wales international teams at all levels for a number of decades, I have no doubt that it will take some luck along with talent and considerable coaching plus managerial skills to put the team amongst the elite of world football. John Toshack has exhibited a great determination, as well as confidence of achieving the goal, this, without doubt, being a good starting point. In relative terms, Wales has consistently produced an above average number of international class players, proportional to the total number available. Injuries to key players at inopportune times (part of the luck element) has definitely undermined chances for success occasionally. Herein lies a part of the puzzle John Toshack will need to solve. His recruitment of Brian Flynn to oversee the development of youth through under 21 levels is most certainly a positive.

Flynn has a proven track record of successfully nurturing young talent. It may well be that he has to exhibit some psychological as well as football skills to significantly alter past trends. In the progression from schoolboy stars to senior international honors, only a very small percentage of footballers are able to stay the course. The strength in depth of all the Wales international teams is directly affected by this and if somehow more of the particularly talented youngsters can be influenced into developing their full potential, it could improve a Welsh team’s ability to overcome adversity.

Enough of the preamble, thus moving to the task at hand. Both circumstance and philosophy have John Toshack needing to rely a great deal on a higher number of young players than past managers. The list below provides an opinion about some of the young players who will help determine the future of the team in the seasons ahead.  

1) James Collins ( West Ham United )


DOB – 23-08-1983

Although he had a few early season struggles  for both club and country in 2004, James quickly re-established himself as the central defensive player Wales fans envisioned after his impressive displays in the latter half of the previous season. Along with Danny Gabbidon, he can potentially form a partnership that will be the envy of most countries. A strong central defence is what every international manager strives for in their pursuit of success. Without doubt James deserves his status at the head of this list. Wales fans will hopefuuly have the pleasure of seeing him develop his talents to greater levels, continuing to be one of the first names on the teamsheet for many years to come. His recent move to West Ham should enhance his development.

2) David Vaughan ( Crewe Alexandra )


DOB – 18-02-1983

David completed another very successful personal season, being an important reason in helping his club avoid relegation. Although a little small in stature, he uses his considerable talents and strong determination as a driving force in midfield, as well as being capable of being a more than adequate wing back if required to do so. David has already gained 2 full caps, but most likely his experience will be relied upon at U-21 level this coming season. He will be instrumental in providing a competitve edge to the team as younger players continue to find their feet at that level. In future there is little doubt that he will find himself heavily involved with the senior side.

3) Richard Duffy ( Portsmouth - on loan Coventry)


DOB – 30-08-1985

Last season Richard spent 2 successful loan periods at Burnley and then Coventry. Recently Portsmouth agreed a season long loan move to Coventry for the coming season. Obviously this is an endorsment of his previuos time at Coventry. Although to a small degree it is a sign that he may not be quite ready to perform at Premiership level, the experience he will gain in the Championship can only be beneficial to all concerned including the Wales teams. It has to be remembered that Richard not only is a young player, but his potential was quickly noticed by Portsmouth, amongst others, having only played a half season at League Two level. Time is certainly on his side, and a step up from the under 21’s to the senior Wales side is almost certainly in his future.

4) Joe Ledley ( Cardiff City )


DOB – 23-01-1987

There is little doubt that Joe’s dramatic emergence last season gave many a Wales fan some added hope for the future. Coinciding with John Toshack’s assertion about thrusting young players into the senior side as soon as was possible, it gave credence to the belief that maybe better times lay ahead. Joe was praised a number of times last season for impressive displays in a Cardiff team that on the whole under achieved. An injury brought it to a premature end. The late season and summer upheavels at Ninian Park will have new manager Dave Jones hoping that Joe can carry on where he left off. With a number of veteran midfield players now unavailable for Toshack, he will be another manager showing a keen interest in his progress.

5) Peter Gilbert ( Leicester City )


DOB – 31-07-1983

Having helped Plymouth gain promotion as a loan player in 2003-2004, Peter joined them permanently to play a part in consolidating their Championship status. His qualification for Wales through the parentage rule saw him immediately included in the under 21 team. The coming season would seem to be an important one for him, as he will want to impress at both club and international level, giving him the possibility of becoming part of the senior squad. Recently transferred to Leicester.

6) Craig Davies ( Oxford United )


DOB – 09-01-1986

After an impressive schoolboy career promting Manchester City to sign him as a youth player, Craig seemed to fall by the wayside after only one season. He ended up at Oxford where he showed promise as a youth player. Last season he was given the opportunity to challenge for a place in the first team which already contained two highly regarded strikers at League Two level. Craig did not let the chance pass him by, as he managed his fair share of playing time, scoring some very good goals. In addition he earned a place in the Wales under 21 side, also catching the attention of many people in that role. He is another who will be closely watched in the coming season, a number of bigger clubs having already noticed his potential.

7) Arron Davies ( Yeovil Town )


DOB – 22-06-1984

Arron did almost everything that could be expected of him during his time at Southampton, being considered one of the stars of the youth and reserve sides. Although he was on the fringe of the first team, he couldn’t seem to quite make the breakthrough. Last season he was allowed to leave and joined Yeovil, where he quickly made his mark in an already good team. A midfield player with an eye for goal, regular first team football is an important step in Arron’s development. He will soon get a taste of League One level football, but more than likely in the years ahead will be playing at even higher levels.

8) Craig Morgan ( M K Dons )


DOB – 18-06-1985

Having failed to agree terms on a new contract with Wrexham, Craig recently signed with the Dons. A central defender, of whom much was expected after a strong schoolboy and youth career, Craig did become a fairly regular member of the Wrexham first team last season. Injuries and some incosistency have however produced somewhat of a stuttering progress over the last 2 seasons. Although time is still very much on his side, he will need to stamp more of his authority on matches if he is to reach the level of play predicted for him.

9) Lewis Price ( Ipswich Town )


DOB – 19-07-1984

With all of the recognised senior team goalkeepers either approaching or very much at the veteran stage of their careers, Wales will be looking for successors very soon. Lewis seems the most prominent of the candidates at the moment. Having already played a few times for Ipswich, along with a couple of successful loan periods, it looks as though Joe Royle has the confidence to hand him the first team jersey, now that Kelvin Davis is no longer at Portman Road. This seems to be a good endorsment of his ability and first team football will be a big benefit for Wales.

10) David Pipe, Jamie Tolley, Adam Birchall, Lee Beevers and Mark Jones are all viable candidates to fill this spot. No doubt they will all be involved in Brian Flynn’s under 21 squads this coming season, their last of eligibility. Involvment in the senior squad in the future will most likely require them to be performing at least at Championship level, and all have occasionally shown the potential to be able to do so.

Matthew Collins, David Edwards, Stuart Fleetwood, Ramon Calliste, Daniel Parslow and Dan Martin are all young players vying for regular first team places at their clubs. They will also be under some consideration for inclusion by Brian Flynn.

Two players notable by their ommision from mention thus far, are David Jones and David Cotterill. Both fall into the category of being dual qualified and have been reluctant to make a commitment to Wales up to this point. They have shown the ability to be potentially key members of Welsh international teams if they indicate their availability.

This article is only my personal opinion and I am sure is open to a question of judgement by some readers. It is based on partial knowledge of past performances and is at best considered only an educated guess. Without question some of the most up to date information about the fortunes of young Welsh players is provided by the weekly Young Guns articles by Owain Sion Jones, a feature on Dragon Soccer I enjoy immensely.

Having already mentioned my obsession of following Welsh international players for a long time, I will finish this by hazarding a prediction of some possibility of brighter times for Welsh international teams. I base this on my belief that there is quite a strong contingent of youth players at present, along with what seems to be a commitment to provide a system for their development, intending to eventually develop a deeper pool of talent available for senior squad selection. I refrain from making any specific mention of these players, my hopeful comments having been erroneous many times in the past. All I can do is wish each one of them the very best of luck for the road ahead and urge any of them that may read this, to listen intently to all the good advice available. International football is a stage for the elite of performers. First team international players are those who not only have fine natural talent, but have also through hard work, committed to further refine it to be the best of the best. Looking forward to an enjoyable and productive season of Welsh international football. Best wishes and good luck to all concerned.

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