Important Season Coming Up for Wales Next Generation, Part 2.
Continuing on from the first blog. Neil Jones looks at 3 more young Welsh players who have difficult decisions to make in the next few weeks along with pressure to ensure that their career’s do not stall or stagnate.
George Thomas — who only turned 20 in March, had a breakthrough season at Coventry City in League 1, contributing with 7 goals in 30 games and scoring the winner in the EFL Trophy Final against Oxford United. Although ultimately this was not enough to stop Coventry from being relegated to League 2. What has generated the interest in Thomas is not only the notoriety and publicity he gained from scoring the winner at Wembley but the fact that he is out of contract and impressed so much in the 2017 Toulon Tournament for the Wales Under 20’s team that he was named in the tournament’s best XI. He has since been offered a new contract with Coventry who feels that he would be best served with them to continue his development but at a lower level with more chances of first team football. He has also been heavily linked with a move to Leicester City who is due to bid £500,000 for his services whilst Swansea City was also believed to be interested in the winger but have reportedly refused to pay the £500,000 asking price for a player that has not played at a level beyond League 1. It will be interesting to see what decision he makes and where his future lies. If he does choose Leicester it will be fascinating to find out if he will be able to make the jump from League 1 to the Premier League and make some first team appearances and continue his development.
Declan John — who recently turned 22 at the end of June, made his first team debut for Cardiff City in 2012 and has since only been able to gain 51 more appearances for the club, with his best season coming in Cardiff’ sole season in the Premier League in 2013–2014 where John was able to make 20 league appearances. It was in this season that John was able to get his 2 Wales caps but has not kicked on from there and his career has stagnated since the arrival of Neil Warnock in October 2016, having only started one game for the club since Warnock was appointed the manager. He has also told John that he is free to leave the club. It will be interesting to see where John decides to go and what interest there is for him out there for he has not been able to prove himself at Cardiff last season and this might hurt his stock value as he was unable to break into a team that finished the season in 12th position. Although still highly regarded by the Welsh coaching staff as shown in his inclusion in the training camp in Portugal for the Serbia match although he was not included in the match day squad. I feel that this will be a make or break season for John as he needs to play consistent first team football at a decent enough level (Championship minimum) to catch the eye of Chris Coleman and his staff otherwise it will be very difficult for him to add to his 2 caps.
Regan Poole — who turned 19 last month, made his name at Newport County where he made his debut at the age of 16 and became their youngest ever debutant and went on to make 17 appearances for the club, which gained the attention of Premier League clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United. Which culminated in him signing for United in September 2015 for an initial fee of £100,00 with the potential to become £400,000 with add-ons. In that time he has only been able to make 1 substitute appearance for the club in a Europa League knockout match against Midtjylland on February 25th, 2016. Since then he has been with the club’s reserves and has proven his versatility by not only playing centre half but as a central midfielder, a role he carried out with Wales’ Under 20’s at the Toulon Tournament. This month it was agreed that he would go on loan to Northampton Town of League 1 where he will be reunited with the manager that gave him his debut Justin Edinburgh. It is imperative that Regan has a good season at the club for he would want to make a good impression on Jose Mourinho and show that he would not look out of place in United’s first team if given the chance. Although this does look unlikely considering the plethora of options that the club has at centre half and in midfield. Although Regan himself has stated that he is willing to be patient and feels that time is on his side, only time will tell if this will be true.