Matt Jones wants to take Wales Under-21s to major tournament
Matt Jones admits qualifying for a major tournament is on his agenda after being appointed Wales Under-21 manager.
The main function of the men’s U21 set-up has usually been seen as providing a pathway for the senior team, and several players set to make Robert Page’s World Cup squad in November are eligible to play age-grade football.
Wales have never qualified for a major U21 tournament but Jones, who has stepped up from the U18s following the departure of Paul Bodin in July, says there are now expectations to do so.
He said: “What I like to maintain is the expectations of the players – and the players want to qualify.
“They want to fulfil this profile of being a team that qualifies for the next stages, whether that is a play-off or getting to a finals tournament.
“We are riding a wave in Welsh football at the moment, and we want to support the player with that dream.”
A fantastic and interesting Journey with way too many people to Thank.
I am indebted to My Wife & Children for the support & Backing. ❤️
May I continue Gary Speeds Legacy. pic.twitter.com/H05WogvAx4
— Matt Jones (@MattJones__7) September 15, 2022
Llanelli-born Jones played top-flight football for Leeds and Leicester before his career was cut short by injury at the age of 23.
He won 13 caps for Wales and says the link between the senior and U21 set-ups has never been stronger.
“We are promoting the Under-21s becoming more aligned with the first team,” said 42-year-old Jones, who will also have a World Cup brief in Qatar to analyse Wales’ future opponents.
“The reason we’re here next week beside the first team is exactly how it should have been many years ago.
“It’s been separate at times, but we take our modelling from the first team and our players need to see the identity of Pagey’s side.”
Matt Jones has named a 26-strong squad for his first test, a Vienna friendly against Austria on September 27.
Birmingham’s Hereford-born midfielder Jordan James has returned to the Wales fold having made two substitute appearances for England U20s in March.
“Gone are the days when you are Welsh through and through and that’s all we had,” Jones said.
“A lot of players have dual nationality and are going to get a lot of attention from other nations. It becomes a competition for us.
“Jordan was deflated somewhat with his (England) experience for a number of reasons, and we’re delighted he’s come back to his brothers with open arms.”
Midfielder Charlie Savage, whose father Robbie played alongside Jones for Leicester and Wales, wins an U21 call for the first time after impressing on Manchester United’s pre-season tour to Australia and the Far East.
Wolves forward Chem Campbell, who has made a couple of Premier League appearances from the bench, has not been included as Jones says he wants to focus on his club career for now.
Wales U21 squad: C Tyler (Coventry), D Robson (Hill), E Beach (Chelsea), E Watts (Swansea), F Stevens (Swansea, on loan from Brentford), O Denham (Cardiff), O Bevan (Yeovil, on loan from Bournemouth), M Baker (Stoke), O Beck (Bolton, on loan from Liverpool), I Hughes (Leicester), L Hoole (Bristol Rovers), Z Ashworth (West Brom), O Hammond (Nottingham Forest), T Sparrow (Stoke), E King (Crewe, on loan from Cardiff), O Ewing (Leicester), C Savage (Man Utd), R Howley (Coventry), J James (Birmingham), J Raymond (C Palace), J Lannin-Sweet (Arsenal), E Turns (Brighton), P Jones (Huddersfield), J Farrell (Juventud de Torremolinos, on loan from Granada), J Thomas (Swansea), J Taylor (Peterborough).
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