WALES COACH: DAY CAN GO ALL THE WAY
Evening Post, 23 January 2003
Mansfield Town defender Rhys Day has the potential to force his way into Mark Hughes' Welsh squad, according to Under-21 manager Jimmy Shoulder.
Shoulder, who has selected Day to represent his country since the former Manchester City centre-half was 13, thinks the prospect of playing first-team football can only aid his cause.
Day is currently captain of the Welsh Under-21 squad and signed an 18-month contract at Field Mill last week after a loan spell.
And Shoulder believes the pressures of Division Two football are just what the 20-year-old Day needs at this stage of his career.
Shoulder, who also works as academy director at Sheffield Wednesday, said: "The move is right for Rhys because he needs first-team football and it is a good sign that Mansfield have gained some good results since he came in."
He also believes a partnership with manager Keith Curle, who gained three caps for England, will also aid his development.
He said: "The ideal situation for a young player's development is for them to play alongside older professionals in someone's first team.
"It's the best apprenticeship you can have, because playing with internationals in reserve games just isn't the same. Results need to count. Rhys is a good prospect and if he can continue to improve, Mansfield have signed an excellent player."
Shoulder, who worked for ten years as technical director for the Football Association of Wales, has watched Day progress through the ranks and hopes he will go on to gain full honours for his country.
He said: "I have known Rhys since he was about 13 or 14.
"During that time, I was coaching with the Under-16s and Under-18s and he played for me there.
"The first things I noticed about Rhys was his physical presence and the fact he was very strong minded. He was a very honest player and it didn't surprise me at all that he signed for a big club.
"I think it may have been that he has a little lack of pace, which is probably the reason he didn't make as much of an impression in the first team at Manchester City.
"He is a great leader and real captain material, but the problem young players have at big clubs is they can play too much reserve-team football.
"I think the chance to play in someone's first team could be the making of him, but it depends how much improvement he has got in him."
With Welsh football enjoying its best period for years following three victories in their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, including a 2-1 success over Italy, Shoulder believes Day should be looking to star in the next generation of Wales central defenders.
With Hughes selecting the likes of Robert Earnshaw and Day's former Under-18 central defensive partner Danny Gabbidon, Shoulder believes the fact Day is playing in the Second Division is not necessarily a barrier.
He said: "Andy Melville and Kit Symons are well into their 30s and Robert Page is in his late 20s.
"It is time for the next ones to be looking to come through.
"Daniel Gabbidon and Robert Earnshaw have both done it and it was only a couple of seasons ago they were playing in the Third Division."
Stags' youth team lost only their second match of the season when they went down 3-2 at Port Vale yesterday.
Vale are the only other team to have beaten them in the Youth Alliance League when they won 4-0 in the second game of the current campaign.
Latest | January 2003