Victory Shield: Wales youth hope to emulate Aaron Ramsey

Jack Challis and Wales
Jack Challis (right) captained Wales against England in last year's Victory Shield

Under-16s who take to the field in the Victory Shield this season may well be hoping to emulate senior Wales internationals Aaron Ramsey, Emyr Huws and Jonny Williams who all featured in previous campaigns.

Managed by Osian Roberts, with the help of Liverpool legend Ian Rush, the Wales youngsters beat England 1-0 in their opening game of the annual Victory Shield tournament at Bangor City's Nantporth Stadium.

A member of Chris Coleman's coaching team, Roberts was with the senior squad for the recent Euro 2016 qualifiers against Bosnia-Hercegovina and Cyprus.

Victory Shield - Did you know?
The tournament has been played annually since being founded in 1925
It is competed between the Under-16 teams of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
Future Wales captain Ryan Giggs, then Ryan Wilson, captained England schoolboys v Wales in 1989 Victory Shield
Wales last won the tournament outright in 1949

November's qualifier against Belgium is on the horizon, but before that Roberts is focused on this future generation, who have some illustrious predecessors.

Liverpool winger Harry Wilson came on as a late substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Belgium in October 2013 to become, at 16 years of age, Wales' youngest senior international.

Two years earlier Wrexham-born Wilson had been a key member of Wales' Under-16 side in the Victory Shield.

Harry Wilson and Craig Bellamy
Harry Wilson became Wales' youngest senior international at 16 years and 207 days

Roberts says Wilson's story shows a pathway is now in place for youngsters taking part in this year's tournament who are hoping to progress through the age groups to the full side.

"One of the messages to the boys is to take the opportunity and grasp it," said Roberts, who is also the Football Association of Wales' technical director.

"It can happen very quickly for some of the players and when that's the case then it's obviously important that we give them the best possible preparation.

"Recent ones that have come through the system like Jonny Williams and Emyr Huws were under-16 players not so long ago.

"We know not everyone is going to come through and this will be the opportunity of a lifetime for every one of them that they will always remember.

"But at the same time one or two of them will probably come through a little bit quicker.

"The performances as a team are important of course but also that the individual are progressing at their own rate and ready to make that next step."

Former Wales international Ian Rush:
"There are great examples of players who have played in the Victory Shield and gone on to play for the senior team. It's a great incentive for them.
"What we have from the under-16s to the senior team is continuity. The players know exactly what they are going to play, how they are going to play and the shape they are going to play.
"No matter what age group you are, England is always a massive game for the Welsh lads and it's great if you can get a result against England.
"If you beat England, at whatever level, it's something you will remember for the rest of your life and that's the incentive to go out and do it."

Wales have only won the Victory Shield outright once, in 1949, although they were joint champions with England in 2006.

England, managed by Welshman and former Liverpool academy manager Steve Cooper, were Wales' first opponents on Friday 31 October, with away games in Scotland and Northern Ireland to come.

"They're always big games and they're always tough games," Osian Roberts said of the fixtures against England.

"At this age group it's about trying to give them those experiences that help them become international players that will be playing for Wales for a long time.

"Everyone is excited about how the first team have started the Euros and I think there's a feel-good factor about Welsh football in general.

"We've got an exciting crop here and it's a very good group of players that I've got high hopes for."

Wales U16s 2013
Wales U16s lost 1-0 to England in 2013

FULL SQUAD

Ethan Ampadu (Exeter City, St Luke's Sports & Science College)

Liam Angel (Cardiff City, Pontllanfraith)

Robbie Burton (Arsenal, Leigh Technology Academy)

Scott Coughlan (Cardiff City, Bishop Vaughan Catholic School)

Liam Cullen (Swansea City, Cwmtawe School)

Daniel Jefferies (Swansea City, Cwmtawe School)

Joe Lewis (Swansea City, Cwmtawe Community School)

Theo Llewellyn (Bristol City, QEH Bristol)

Sam Phillips (Wolves, Thomas Telford)

Keiron Proctor (Cardiff City, Ysgol Gyfun Gumraeg Plasmawr)

Adam Przybek (West Brom, Sandwell Academy)

Tyler Roberts (West Brom, Sandwell Academy)

Max Smallcombe (Exeter City, Bodmin College)

Matty Smith (Man City, St Bedes RC Independent School)

Ibi Sosani (Cardiff City, Mary Immaculate School)

Ben Williams (Blackburn Rovers, Bishop Rawstorne High)

Ben Woodburn (Liverpool, Rainhill High School)

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