The whole return of the debate about the Welsh national football team (unfairly!) being branded a one-man team these last two weeks has got me thinking; who will be our next big star once Gareth Bale retires?
Now, I might be biased because I’m Welsh, but I don’t for one second believe that we’re a one man team. Yes of course, Bale is by far the greatest and most talented player in our national side, but you don’t get to the semi-finals of a major tournament off the back of one player alone.
We had fight, spirit and determination and even the likes of Sam Vokes and Hal Robson-Kanu (who had never really stood out before) performed incredibly well.
Anyway, rant over on that case and let’s get back to looking at the future of Wales’ national team. Here, I pick out just five of the current crop of Welsh youngsters who look as though they could be destined for great things in the not so distant future …
This boy is truly something special in my opinion.
After breaking through into Exter City’s first team last year (at the age of just 15!), center back Amapdu bagged himself a move to Chelsea this summer.
Now, you could argue that youngsters are rarely given the chance to break through into the starting eleven/sub’s bench at Stamford Bridge (see Dominc Solanke as an example), but surely if you truly have the talent you’ll make it eventually? (following many years at Vitesse perhaps!).
Andreas Christensen recently broke into the Chelsea first team, so why can’t Ampadu?
The 16-year-old was named in Coleman’s squad for the 1-0 win over Austria last week and with the likes of Ashley Williams and James Collins ageing a bit now, surely it won’t be long before we see him burst onto the international scene permanently? Possibly even as a midfielder?
It’s no secret that Wales have struggled to find a decent striker over the years, because let’s face it; having the likes of Steve Morison and Simon Church as back-up to Gareth Bale or Hal Robson-Kanu isn’t ideal.
It’s also unclear as to whether or not Ched Evans will ever make a return to the international scene after his controversies, so Tyler Roberts could be the answer to our problems in the not-so-distant future in his absence.
The 18-year-old belongs to Premier League side, West Brom, but has spent the past three seasons out on loan at Oxford United, Shrewsbury Town and now Walsall. He scored on his debut for the Saddlers when he came off the bench against Bradford two weeks ago and impressed fans and pundits alike with his performance.
For Wales’ under 21’s he’s scored one in one as well and his movement and pace puts him a cut above the rest.
To me, he just seems as though he could be the ideal replacement for HRK when he gets on a bit and could possibly go on to be even better than him.
A wonderful goal just four minutes or so into his international debut against Austria last weekend well and truly proved that Woodburn could be Wales’ next big thing.
Not often do you find a 17-year-old looking so comfortable under pressure, but the winger, looked just that as he took a great first touched and rifled a shot home into the bottom left side of the goal to give his country a vital three points in their World Cup Qualifying group.
After starring for Wales under under 19. 17, 16 and 15’s sides, Woodburn finally got the chance to show what he could do for the senior side on Saturday night and he did just that.
He breathed some fresh air into the side once he came on and I honestly can’t remember ever seeing a player so young, handle himself so well around players who are much older and much more experienced than him.
Of course, the media have been quick to pile the pressure on after his stunning performance and if he can handle the weight of expectation, then I think he could become a sensation.
It seems as though Liverpool and indeed Wales have got themselves a real gem on their hands and I wouldn’t want to put too much hype around him, but could we possibly seeing the heir to Bale’s throne here? Time will tell …
The Swansea City winger is another forward who could go on to big things in the near future – although most won’t have heard of him before.
Despite being eligible to play for England, it seems as though James has decided to opt for Wales (Smart kid!), being included in the squad against Serbia a couple of months ago.
He recently returned to the Liberty Stadium from a loan spell at Shrewsbury Town, with Swans manager Paul Clement, reportedly looking to give him a chance for the club this season rather than having him play elsewhere.
Last season, the 19-year-old played a vital role in helping Swansea win the development leagues PL2, putting in some fine displays alongside the prolific Ollie McBurnie.
James has also represented Wales at many youth levels, including U20 this summer, where he was part oft= the squad that competed at the 2017 Toulon Tournament. He became the nation’s first ever goal scorer at the prestigious tournament, leading the side to a 1–0 victory over Bahrain.
He’s shown real promise already and I think that under the watchful eyes of both Paul Clement and Chris Coleman, he could become a bright spark in the Wales set-up.
After an impressive campaign with Newport County in 2014-15, centre back Poole attracted the interest of Premier League giants Manchester United and he eventually signed for them in September 2015.
Of course, as expected, the 19-year-old has yet to break through at such a big club and this season he’s been given a fresh start as he has been loaned out to Northampton Town for their 2017/18 campaign.
Like Daniel James, Regan Poole was also included in the 2017 Toulon Tournament over the summer and was a vital part of the team, starting every game in the heart of their defence.
Poole’s strong and commanding presence at the back, as well as his aerial skills, means he has all the signs of becoming a top quality defender.
I think the best thing he could do is leave Manchester United in the mean time though, as Jose Mourinho isn’t exactly known for giving many youngsters game time. He’d be a starter at most Championship sides right now in my opinion.
Could we be seeing the centre back pairing of Ampadu and Poole for Wales soon? It’s very possible!
Best of the rest:
Here’s how Wales could line up at Euro 2024 (if we were to give them a whole new look squad!):
(GK) Danny Ward, Connor Roberts, Ethan Ampadu, Regan Poole, Declan John, David Brooks, Jonny Williams, Tom Lawrence, Ben Woodburn, Daniel James and Tyler Roberts
Subs/Reserves: Adam Davies (GK), Luke Pilling (GK), Rhys Abbruzzese, Chris Mepham, Joe Rodon, Emyr Huws, George Williams, Harry Wilson, David Brooks, Matt Smith, George Thomas and Rabbi Matondo.
The current crop of Welsh stars are arguably the greatest there has ever been, particularly after their heroics in Franc last summer. It’s also quite fair to say however, that the future of the national side seems to be in safe hands too.
What do you make of my opinions above? Let me know in the comments section below.