Young Dragons taking flight

  • Wales young recruits propelling them upwards in UEFA Nations League

  • Youthful side earned first competitive win without Bale and Ramsey for 13 years

  • We take a closer look at three potential stars of the future for Ryan Giggs's side

A month ago, Wales fans were forced to take a step into a past they haven’t had to consider for some time – life without both Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. For the first time in 11 years, they were without their two talismans for a competitive game when they faced Republic of Ireland in the UEFA Nations League.

But onlookers needn’t have worried. Manager Ryan Giggs enlisted a horde of up-and-coming talent to fill the gaps and not only earned a first competitive win without their superstar duo for 13 years, but secured a first victory in Ireland for over 25 years. All achieved with a front six averaging just 22 years of age.

That result, which puts them within touching distance of promotion to League A in the fledgling competition – a win over Denmark would seal it - and recent strong showings from their youngsters have seen expectations for the future go sky-high. Having delighted at reaching UEFA EURO 2016, Wales fans are now asking: could this new generation be stepping out in red at Qatar 2022?

We outline three of the standout figures.

David Brooks

Midfielder, 21, Bournemouth

Having made the step up to the English Premier League with little fanfare, Brooks has emerged as one of the revelations of the season. Great with the ball at his feet, direct and mobile while being able to play right across the pitch as an attacking midfielder, the England-born starlet has been a key factor in sixth-placed Bournemouth’s impressive start to the season.

What they said

"I watched Bournemouth play Cardiff in the first game of the season. I sat next to David's chairman and said you've got a bargain, because he will just get better and better.”

Giggs on Brooks signing for Bournemouth for £11.5m

Did you know?

In scoring the first of his three goals this season, Brooks became Bournemouth’s youngest scorer in the Premier League

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 11:  Wales player Harry Wilson in action during the International Friendly match between Wales and Spain on October 11, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Harry Wilson

Midfielder, 21, Liverpool

Having been on the international scene for five years after becoming Wales’s youngest ever player back in 2013 – beating Bale’s record by just over 100 days – Wilson is now beginning to find his place in the team under Giggs. He has caught the eye on several occasions this season courtesy of some sublime dead-ball wizardry. Wilson struck a wonderful free-kick to help eliminate Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, before scoring the well-struck winner for his country against Republic of Ireland last month.

What they said

"Now he has had a little taste of it, that cements his future with Wales for the next 10 or 15 years."

Former Wales boss Chris Coleman, following Wilson’s debut

Did you know?

Wilson’s grandfather famously won a bet, clinching him £125,000, after Wilson represented Wales, having placed £50 on his grandson becoming an international player when he was only 18 months old.

CARDIFF, WALES - SEPTEMBER 06: Ethan Ampadu of Wales during the UEFA Nations League B group four match between Wales and Republic of Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium on September 6, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Ethan Ampadu

Defender, 18, Chelsea

While injured for the win in Dublin, Ampadu is already performing at a level and maturity well beyond his years. Able to slot in at centre-back or operate in a defensive midfield role – as he has been for Wales – his ease on the ball and crisp distribution allow him to comfortably flow with the game. While he only has ten minutes of Premier League football to his name, the sky looks to be the limit for Ampadu.

What they said

"The biggest compliment I can pay him is that he plays like a 35-year-old"

Former coach Paul Tisdale, during his time at Exeter City

Did you know?

Ampadu, the son of former Arsenal midfielder Kwame Ampadu, was just 15 years old when he made his senior debut with Exeter.