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Ryan Giggs is right, first team football is key for Liverpool’s Harry Wilson

Photo: Getty Images

Hull City

Ryan Giggs is right, first team football is key for Liverpool’s Harry Wilson

The Reds loanee is the youngest ever player to pull on a Wales shirt.

It has been a roller-coaster decade for the Welsh national side.

From the tragic death of manager Gary Speed in 2011, to reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 in their first major tournament since 1958, and then failing to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup.

However, it was in the middle of this whirlwind seven years that another piece of often overlooked history was made.

In October 2013, a 16-year-old Harry Wilson became Wales’ youngest ever player when he came on as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with Belgium in October 2013.

Who would have guessed the Liverpool starlet would have to wait nearly four and a half years for his second cap?

After a highly impressive second debut in the Chana Cup last week, I’m sure any Wales fan will tell you it was certainly worth the wait.

The 21-year-old, who is currently on loan at Championship strugglers Hull City, naturally earned comparisons with compatriots Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs following his role in Wales’ 6-0 demolition of host nation China.

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

In a game in which the headlines were predictably wrapped up by Bale, whose hat-trick makes the Real Madrid man Wales’ highest ever goalscorer, Wilson’s goal, which also accompanied an impressive assist, was arguably the best of the six.

High praise indeed.

This stand-out display in Nanning follows a roaring start to life in the Championship at Hull City.

Wilson, who signed a new long-term deal with Liverpool before his loan move to the KCOM in January, has proved a rare shining light in an otherwise poor season for the Tigers.

Scoring three goals in just six league appearances, the Welshman may prove key in keeping Hull City in the division come April.

Although regularly impressing for Liverpool’s U23s during the past few seasons in the Premier League 2, Wilson has made just one senior appearance for the senior side – an FA Cup tie against Plymouth last season.

However, should his impressive first real taste of regular senior football finish as well has it has started, the 21-year-old could well find himself in the first team fold when he returns to Anfield this summer.

Interestingly, it is for exactly this reason that Ryan Giggs chose this international break to give young Wilson his second taste of international football.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Speaking to the local media earlier this week, the former Manchester United man stressed the importance of regular first-team football on a young player’s career:

“When you’re in and out of the reserves or the first team or you’re training with the first team but not playing regular first team football, it has an effect.” Giggs said, before adding, “Harry [Wilson] and Declan [John] are seeing the benefits of playing week in, week out because you can’t beat playing competitive first team games.”

Giggs’ appointment as Chris Coleman’s successor was met with a mixed response by some due to a perceived lack of managerial experience and a historical lack of commitment to the international side.

However, his experience as a truly world class player, and working under one of the greatest managers of all time in Alex Ferguson, is seemingly already paying dividends.

It is true that the Welsh national side is currently in the middle of a so-called Golden Generation of talented players.

However, as we have seen with England in recent years, this does not last forever. A new cycle of talent must be eased into the international fold.

While it is still very early days for Giggs in the Wales dugout, the initial signs are good. This Welsh squad needs to be not only developed, but also rebuilt and strengthened with young talent.

The inclusion and initial success of the likes of Harry Wilson, among others, highlights the need for young players to be playing regular first-team football from an early age.

However, it also shows Giggs wants to do things the right way.

A ‘show me what you can do, and you will be rewarded’ policy represents a positive first step in Ryan Giggs’ managerial career and one that both Wales and their young players like Harry Wilson are likely to benefit from in the long term.

For this reason, Wales fans have every reason to be very optimistic about the future of their national side.

Greg is a freelance writer and broadcast journalist who has previously worked as a sports journalist at the likes of the BBC, Yahoo Sports UK, and the Hull Daily Mail. A long-standing Hull City supporter, Greg has also spent time as a Director on the Board of the Hull City Supporters' Trust. Follow him on Twitter - @Greg_Whitaker

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