Wales host Mexico in a friendly on Saturday night, before their second World Cup qualifier at home to the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Then, it’s a friendly against Albania, the finals of the Euros, and more World Cup qualifiers in September. Little wonder, says Jack Hammett, that recent youngsters from the Wales U21 squad could soon start filling the gaps.
With the Euros fast approaching and World Cup qualifiers taking place amongst an already packed calendar, the Wales squad needs to be bigger and fresher than it has ever been.
Experienced squad members like Gareth Bale, Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey have had issues with fitness and injuries this season, and although the trio is more than likely to feature when fit there may be a need for a few younger faces to assuage the fears about squad depth and fatigue.
At the tail end of 2020, Wales finished their U21 Euro qualifying campaign out in Germany, finishing fourth in their group.
That match happened to be the final eligible game at that age group for a significant part of the squad.
There’s a big difference between U21 International football and facing off against the likes of Belgium and the Czech Republic – never mind in a tournament finals this summer.
But with the recent senior starting line-ups being containing players eligible to play at U21 level – Rhys Norrington-Davies, Dylan Levitt, Ben Cabango, Neco Williams and Ethan Ampadu – it is maybe time to highlight a few more players who might be considered for the senior squad at points in the remainder of this year.
It’s a shame that Swansea City striker Liam Cullen is facing a few months on the sidelines.
Cullen was enjoying his second year under Swans manager Cooper at the Liberty Stadium, featuring off the bench in the Championship before flourishing in the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest, scoring two lovely goals before being forced off with an injury.
Cullen could have pushed for contention for this squad had he continued the form he showed in that FA Cup tie and his growing confidence was exciting to see for Swans fans.
Wales lack options when choosing an out-and-out striker; Keiffer Moore is the only regular option since Sam Vokes has been recently overlooked.
Cullen, hopefully, will be that option once he returns from the physio’s room.
If he can continue to improve the way he has done in the last 12 months, then it will be sooner rather than later.
Regan Poole is a player many Wales fans will be familiar with already.
Signing for Manchester United in 2015, expectations were high for the now 22-year-old.
Unfortunately for Poole, life under the intense glare and expectations of Old Trafford didn’t work out as many would have hoped.
After a few loan-spells away at Northampton and back at Newport County, United opted to let Poole leave for MK Dons in 2019 where he stayed for a couple of years before completing a transfer to Lincoln City this January, joining another Welsh youngster, Brennan Johnson.
Poole’s strongest position is up for debate and this season he has played at centre back and right midfield before settling at right-back for Lincoln since January.
With 23 caps with the U21’s, Poole is experienced in international camps and his versatility could make him a useful squad member when rotation is needed.
League One might seem a level too low for some fans, but with recent squads counting players from League One and League Two, Poole should be hopeful of a possible call up if his performances are good enough.
If League One is too low for some fans, then it might be harder to convince them – or Ryan Giggs and Robert Page for that matter – on the idea of a right-back from the National League.
Cameron Coxe, though, is someone often touted to be a star in waiting.
Cardiff City fans were shocked to hear that former Bluebirds boss Neil Harris wasn’t sold on Coxe, allowing him to leave last summer for nothing.
That was despite Coxe having an admirer in Pep Guardiola, who was once understood to be keen to take the right back to Manchester City.
That didn’t happen and nowadays Coxe seems to be quite a way off from appearing in the Champions League at the Etihad. Currently plying his trade with Solihull Moors in the level below League Two, Coxe will have to work his way to the top by taking a different route.
Even though Wales are spoiled for choice at right-back, don’t be too surprised to see Coxe maybe make a call up in the future.
He’s already been included in a Wales senior squad, against upcoming opponents Mexico, when Wales last faced them in a friendly at the Rose Bowl in 2018.
Aberystwyth-born striker Luke Jephcott only managed to earn three international caps at Under 21 level.
However, don’t let that put you off.
Until recently, Jephcott had been in red hot form, scoring 18 goals for Plymouth Argyle this season.
Championship sides were said to be scrambling for the striker’s signature this January, including Derby manager Wayne Rooney.
Plymouth managed to hold onto their leading goalscorer. Sadly, though, the transfer speculation may have turned the young striker’s head – or, at least, affected his form.
Jephcott hasn’t scored in any of his last 11 League Two matches and was recently dropped from the Plymouth starting side.
With luck, however, the young striker will manage a return to form and may yet play himself into Wales squad contention to offer another option as a striker.
For the next few months, the Wales squad will likely pick itself but with fatigue and travel bans affecting selection, Wales will need as many options as never before.
Perhaps these young players can offer just that.