New faces start new U21 era for Cymru
25 March 2021

New faces start new U21 era for Cymru

The Cymru U21 side return to action on Friday (13:00) with an international friendly against the Republic of Ireland as preparations continue ahead of 2023 UEFA U21 EURO qualifying.

Cymru v Republic of Ireland

U21 International Match

  • Friday 26 March, 13:00
  • Colliers Park, Wrexham
  • Live on FAW Facebook & YouTube pages

Paul Bodin's team begin the new qualifying campaign at home to Moldova in June, and the manager will be keen to use this friendly to shape his new-look side with a number of uncapped players brought in alongside some more experienced figures. However, Dan Barden and Ryan Astley have since withdrawn from the squad through injury.

One player who has already had a taste of U21 football is Bristol City's Sam Pearson, and he spoke about his international career to the media earlier this week. “It's been good to meet up with the boys,” he said. “We want to put in a good performance ahead of the Moldova game. We're expecting a good game and hopefully we can get a result out of it. There's some new boys in the group and we're all buzzing for the qualifiers. The talent coming through is really good.

“The last campaign was good in lots of ways but the results let us down. But we have to learn from that now looking ahead to June. It's great to play against such young talented opponents like Belgium. It's hard, but you gain confidence and learn from watching them and seeing how good they are. The aim for everyone here is to be there in the senior squad in a couple of years.”

Although Pearson has had a taste of U21 international, Fin Stevens is one uncapped player looking to make his mark on Friday. “It's a different level of football,” said the versatile and highly-rated Brentford teenager. “I'm just getting to know everyone so it's a good experience. I'm not just the only new one and I know a few people here, so they've been welcoming and have helped me settle in.

“The pathway to the senior team shows the opportunity is there. I've had a few chats with Paul Bodin and he explained why he wanted to bring me into he camp so now I'm buzzing to get started. We want this team to gel together and we want to get the win on Friday as well. The qualifiers will be a great experience to play competitive international football, and there's a lot on the line.”

Cymru have never qualified for the finals of the U21 championships, but the progression of players from the intermediate team through to the senior squad remains the real marker of success. Brandon Cooper is the latest graduate having enjoyed a successful loan spell at Newport County from Swansea City earlier this season, and the central defender has now been called into the senior camp.

Meanwhile, it's also been a big year as well for Niall Huggins after the 20-year old made his senior debut for Leeds United last month, and the defender is now looking to add to his solitary U21 cap. “I haven't been with the group since 2019 so it's good to be back,” he explained. “There's a lot of new lads here so it's been good so far, and spirits are high in training.

“It will be a tough game against Ireland as they're a big side. It will be good test and physically they will be similar to Moldova. For me personally, I'm really excited to be back and hopefully I will get a few minutes on the field. It's been a great season for me at Leeds and the manager has helped me improve.”

The match takes place behind closed doors at Colliers Park in Wrexham and will be shown live on FAW Facebook and YouTube channels.

Cymru U21: Lewis WEBB (Swansea City), Nathan SHEPPERD (Brentford), Billy SASS-DAVIES (Yeovil Town- On loan from Crewe Alexandra), Morgan BOYES (Liverpool), Ben MARGETSON (Cardiff City), Edward JONES (Stoke City), Owen BECK (Liverpool), Fin STEVENS (Brentford), Niall HUGGINS (Leeds United), Terry TAYLOR (Burton Albion), Lewis COLLINS (Newport County), Sam BOWEN (Cardiff City), Siôn SPENCE (Crystal Palace), Sam PEARSON (Bristol City), Joe ADAMS (Grimsby Town- On loan from Brentford), Luke JEPHCOTT (Plymouth Argyle), Christian NORTON (Stoke City), Rubin COLWILL (Cardiff City), Rhys HUGHES (Everton), Jack VALE (Rochdale- On loan from Blackburn Robers), Ryan STIRK (Birmingham City).