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The Kids Are Alright – Welsh football rising stars keeping it in the family

11 Oct 2023 10 minute read
Wales young stars Charlie Savage, Zach Giggs, Lewis Koumas

Chris Pyke

It was the buzzword of 2022.

A term designed to show the advantages that having a famous, connected parent in the showbiz world would give you a leg up in the world of movies and music.

It was ‘nepo baby’.

It’s fairly easy to explain, the nepo is short for nepotism and the baby is offspring.

For example, in the football world, the nepo baby to outdo all nepo babies is Benjamin Aguero. His father is Sergio Aguero. His grandfather is Diego Maradona. Oh, and his godfather is some guy called Lionel Messi.

In the summer when Aaron Ramsey signed for Cardiff City, another player signed a letter of intent the same day, 10-year-old Sonny Ramsey.

Aaron Ramsey with son Sonny (Credit: Cardiff City FC)

In the coming years it is likely we will see some familiar names on the backs of the Cymru shirts. And, perhaps, the national side will benefit from a few nepo babies of their own.

Here’s a rundown of those rising stars with footballing family ties.

Brennan Johnson

He’s far more established than many of the others mentioned below. While he has just completed a £47m move to Tottenham, it was Nottingham Forest where he made his name, and also the club where his father David was employed for five seasons, albeit spending a large amount of that time out on loan.

Johnson junior was eligible to represent England, Jamaica and Wales at international level. While he played some youth games for England at 18 he switched allegiances to Cymru and scored a goal on his debut as the Under-21s beat Belgium in Wrexham.

For Johnson senior it was more complicated. It was believed he had his pick of all home nation sides, as well as his birth country Jamaica, when it came to international duty due to having a British passport. So, in 1999 he opted for Wales and manager Mark Hughes, and was selected to play, however an ankle injury meant he did make his debut. Seizing this opportunity Craig Brown and Scotland swooped and David switched. In the end, the snub saved Wales from some red faces as it turned out he was not in fact allowed to play for all home nations clubs as his mother had been born in England. There is no such worries for Brennan as he qualifies through maternal grandparents coming from Rhayader.

Johnson is already surpassing his father’s career, and now is being expected to fill the boots of the retired Gareth Bale as Wales look to revive their faltering Euros campaign.

Charlie Savage

The current poster nepo baby for Welsh football is Charlie Savage, son of Robbie. But let’s be fair, while you can have no talent and have a fairly successful career in Hollywood you will soon get found out on the playing field and it doesn’t matter who your parents are. In fact, you do have to wonder if having Robbie as your dad would more hinder than help your career!

Twenty-year-old Charlie started in the same way his dad at Manchester United, and like Robbie, he didn’t quite make the grade at the Old Trafford club. Charlie did ever so slightly better than his old man by coming on as a substitute for the Red Devils in a Champions League match. It was an emotional Robbie on co-commentary duties that announced the substitution.

And, when Charlie left United for Reading earlier this year Savage senior sent an emotional message to his son: “You achieved your dream , you went one better than me, you went 1 better than thousands with the same dream through desire and dedication.”

Charlie signed a four-year deal with the League One club and scored last week in a 4-0 demolition of Millwall.

Zach Giggs

Another nepo baby who did not progress from the youth ranks to the senior squad at Manchester United is Zach Giggs, son of Ryan, who departed for the Sheffield United Under 18 team.

If Zach, 16, was to have half the career of his dad he’d still have six-and-a-half Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups, and one Champions League. Which demonstrates what an incredible playing career Ryan had, and what a legacy Zach has hanging over him.

Zach, who at present plays as a left-back, signed for Sheffield United in front of a wall featuring a number of the club’s youth prospects who have gone to varying successful careers. Among the players on display are Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Phil Jagielka.

Kit Margetson

Martyn Margetson is currently a goalkeeping coach for the England national team and Swansea City – and his son Kit is following in his goalkeeping footsteps.

Dad Martyn youth player at Manchester City, he spent time on loan at Bristol Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Luton Town before moving to Southend United, Huddersfield Town and during his time with Cardiff City in 2002, he went on to win his first and only cap for Wales in a friendly with Canada in May 2004.

Son Kit has now signed a professional contract with Swansea City after coming through their academy.

The young keeper also played a vital role in Wales Under-17s’ triumphant European qualification back in March and the tournament in May.

Joel Cotterill

The cousin of Wales international David, Cotterill, the Swansea City midfielder is currently on a season-long loan at League Two side Stockport County.

The 18-year-old was the Swans’ academy player of the year last season and signed a three-year deal this summer.

The Wales under-21 international made his senior debut 12 months ago in the Carabao Cup tie with Oxford United, and scored the third goal for the U21s in their 3-2 away victory against Lithuania in U21 European Championship qualifying.

Described as a dynamic, ball-playing midfielder that can play in a number of positions he will be hoping to make a big impact with the League Two side this season.

Zac Jagielka

Phil Jagielka had a successful career, most notably with Everton, and his son Zac is now a forward in Liverpool’s youth setup.

While not only opting for Liverpool in complete opposition of his Evertonian dad, Zac has chosen Wales in contrast to the 40 caps Phil got with England. He was recently picked for Wales’ Under 17’s matches in Poland, with eligibility through a grandparent.

Lewis Koumas

Lewis Koumas, the son of the enigmatic Jason, has had an eventful summer. In June he scored for Wales’ U18 in a 2-2 draw with Sweden. Then he went on a trip to Germany with the senior squad of his club side Liverpool, before boarding a flight to Singapore with the likes of Virgil Van Dyke, Trent Alexander Arnold, Mohammed Salah, and new signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister for Liverpool’s pre-season tournament.

He is now back with the Liverpool Under 18s and recorded a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win over Nottingham Forest this month.

Koumas Jnr, who turns 18 next month, is an attacking midfielder but is also being utilised as a striker for the Anfield youth side.

Koumas Snr also started his career at Liverpool, playing alongside Steven Gerrard, but opted to switch Anfield for Tranmere’s Prenton Park. He finished his career at the Birkenhead club 17 years later after stints at West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic, plus two loans to Cardiff City.

Jack Ruddy

Unlike seniors Giggs, Savage, and Koumas, dad John Ruddy’s international appearance was for England.

However, his son Jack, who is sensible has chosen Wales.

A goalkeeper, like his father, is on the books at Norwich City, also a former club of his dad, and last summer was selected in the Cymru Under 16 team.

Prince Cisse

Another youngster whose father’s international career was not with Wales is Prince Cisse, son of French forward Djibril.

Cisse senior had a successful, most notably with Liverpool, being part of the famous 2005 Champions League winning team, and it was while he was at Anfield that he purchased a manor house in Cheshire and became the Lord of the Manor of Frodsham. A month after the miracle of Istanbul Cisse married Welsh hairdresser Jude Littler and, before divorcing in 2014, they had three children.

Prince, who recently turned 15, is on the books at Liverpool and has chosen to play for Cymru, representing the U15/16 sides.

Owen Beck

While not a son, Owen Beck is the great-nephew of Wales and Liverpool legend Ian Rush, and he is also contracted to the Premier League club.

Beck, a left-back, is currently on loan to Dundee and graduated from Wales Under 17 to the Under 21s, and has 10 caps with the set-up.

Liverpool have had a strong connection with young Welsh talent, not too long ago goalkeeper Danny Ward, Harry Wilson, Neco Williams, and Ben Woodburn were all on the books at Anfield. While, none of them remain, Ward, Wilson and Williams are all strong members of the international side.

And who knows in eight years Sonny Ramsey could be making his debut for Cymru. Maybe even under manager Aaron Ramsey.

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