Harry Wilson now country's youngest full international
18 September ~ As Wales fans are well aware, the eternal problem for small football nations is strength in depth. You might be blessed with an abundance of talented midfielders but lack any suitable centre-backs. Maybe you can cobble together a solid side, but when injuries and suspensions kick in, the understudies are not up to scratch. If that is not bad enough, holding on to your best youngsters is now becoming a constant battle.
Current legislation allows a player to remain up for grabs until he is capped in a competitive senior fixture. As a result of that rule, England's recent Under-20 and Under-21 squads featured a couple of names that will be familiar to the Welsh football hierarchy. Jonathan Bond, who represented Wales from Under-16 level through to the Under-21 side, was selected for the England Under-21s to face Lithuania and Moldova. Lloyd Jones, a strapping centre-back making a name for himself in the youth set-up at Liverpool, was also picked for the England Under-20 fixture with Romania.
Jones had previously represented Wales at Under-17 and Under-18 level before pledging his allegiance to England last October. "Lloyd has made it clear he wants to be picked for England," Wales Under-21 manager Geraint Williams explained at the time. "To be fair to Lloyd he was born in England and his dad is a very proud Welshman. I've spoken to his dad and I've spoken to Lloyd but he feels he wants to go down that route."
This is nothing new for Wales. In 2009, Rhys Williams opted to turn out for Australia after being selected in two Wales competitive squads, but was an unused substitute on both occasions. Williams was born in Perth to an English father and Indian mother, but made ten appearances for the Wales Under-21 side thanks to a Welsh grandfather. On this occasion, manager John Toshack's stubborn refusal to use him rather than lose him resulted in his change of heart. A few months later, Toshack stated that he would "lose faith in humanity" if Jack Collison decided to turn his back on Wales in favour of England – a move which did not materialise.
A few days after losing out on Jones, Chris Coleman capped his Liverpool team-mate Harry Wilson. At 16 years and 207 days, Wilson became Wales' youngest ever international, 108 days younger than previous record holder Gareth Bale. Introduced in the 87th minute of a 1-1 draw with Belgium, Wrexham-born Wilson was fast-tracked into the side well before he had received the opportunity to justify his inclusion.
The 18-year-old Fulham winger George Williams made his debut in the recent victory over Andorra, but many worry that Manchester United academy graduate Tom Lawrence, who recently moved to Leicester, may yet be poached. Until protective measures are put in place, you wonder where this will all end. As players continue to get promoted ahead of time, their development is sure to suffer as expectations are placed on them before they are mature enough to cope. A need to safeguard the future comes at a cost. Scott Johnson