Important Season Coming Up For Wales Next Generation — Part 1.
Y Ddraig’s new writer, Neil Jones looks at some of the exciting young Welsh talent that Chris Coleman has available to him.
This upcoming season can be seen as make or break for a handful of up and coming Welsh players with aspirations to get into the national team. Whilst some have time on their side, for others, time is running out to make an impact at their current clubs. This blog will look at 3 young Welsh players who face challenging decisions in the weeks ahead as well as difficulties in getting the opportunity to make an impression.
Gethin Jones, who will turn 22 in October, has been with Everton since the age of 12 and in that time, has only made 1 substitute appearance for the club in a Europa League match in December 2014. Has recently signed a 1-year contract tying him to the club until July 2018. He did spend time on loan last season at Barnsley and showed himself capable at that level, gaining a call up to the Wales team for their match in Serbia in June 2017. This has not translated to an improvement in his chances of making an impression with Everton’s first team as he is currently on tour with the under 23’s. Although his chances of making first team appearances have been boosted by Ronald Koeman’s decision to allow his competitors for the full back spots Matthew Pennington, Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning to go on season long loans meaning that only Leighton Baines, Cuco Martina, Seamus Coleman (still recovering from his broken leg) and Mason Holgate would be his competitors for a full place. It would be interesting to see if Gethin is able to make the squad for the upcoming Europa League qualifiers as this can be used as a barometer to see where Gethin stands in the current squad. If it does not work for him at Everton then a loan move would be the best option as last season proved that he was more than capable at that level. Although he is highly regarded by the Welsh coaching staff, after having a successful youth career which involved captaining Everton and Wales, they can only wait for so long for Gethin to show the potential that he undoubtedly has and play first team football on a regular basis.
Harry Wilson — who turned 20 in March, famously became the youngest ever Welsh player when he comes on for the last remaining minutes of the World Cup qualifier against Belgium in October 2013. He has been with Liverpool since he was an under 9 player. His career has somewhat stalled since then with injuries hampering his development. Although last season was his best as a professional as he finally made his first team debut in an FA Cup third round replay against Plymouth Argyle, coming off the bench to play the last 25 minutes. This was after a stellar season in the under 23’s where he was made captain and made a significant impact with 28 goals and plenty of assists. With this impact, it only amounted to 25 minutes of first team action and the question needs to be asked whether Jurgen Klopp rates him highly enough to include him in more match day squads this season. With the amount of talent that Liverpool has in the final third this seems unlikely unless there are injuries, so a loan move would be more beneficial and Wilson has been linked with Championship club Wolverhampton Wanderers and Scottish giants Celtic, although this has been reportedly rebuffed by Liverpool. He is currently injured which explains his absence from their pre-season fixtures.
Ben Woodburn — will only turn 18 in October. Made a significant impact at Liverpool last season after coming through the youth set up and made 9 first team appearances, famously becoming Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer when he came off the bench to score against Leeds in EFL Cup quarter final. After the season, he won Liverpool’s Academy Player of the Season and has been featured prominently in Liverpool’s pre-season fixtures, playing in the centre of midfield instead of his usual position as a forward. He is very highly rated by Jurgen Klopp, who fast tracked him to the first team. It is difficult to establish what plans Klopp has for Woodburn with the array of attacking talent Liverpool currently possess but with Champions League commitments as well as trying to repeat their top 4 finish of last season, Klopp will need as many players at his disposal, which means
Woodburn could play a part this season and continue his development. It is realistic to believe that most of Woodburn’s appearances this season will come from the substitutes bench as well as starts in the FA and EFL Cup. I do not feel that a loan move would be beneficial for Woodburn at this rate for it could hinder his development under Klopp. If Woodburn continues to progress then a Welsh cap will not take long.