TWO young Flintshire football stars have seen their career prospects boosted by being chosen to play for Wales in the Uefa Under 17s Championship.
Wrexham youth player Bradley Reid, of Eyrys, and Stoke City prospect Curtis Strong, from Flint, have both been included in the squad Wales will send to the elite section of the tournament next week.
Wales are in group seven which features Hungary, Russia and Belgium and their games will take place in Hungary.
In the first round of matches, Wales qualified as the best third-placed team after defeating Lithuania, but losing to Armenia and hosts Serbia.
Only the group winners progress to the finals in Slovenia in May and although Wales are rank outsiders to make it – as they were a few years ago when a team featuring Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsay and David Vaughan failed to qualify – playing against the best of European opposition will stand the duo in good stead.
“The experience they have already had has helped them raise their game,” said David Reid, father of Bradley.
“Playing against the best teaches you a lot and makes you play to your best and that will help them get the most out of this amazing experience.”
Both players recently signed two-year extensions to their youth team contracts and any advantage playing in this tournament could give them could be the difference between them making the transition to the reserve team or not.
“This is the toughest period for them,” said David. “Around 80% of the players with clubs at this stage will be let go in two years.
“Playing with the international team has certainly helped Bradley remain at the required standard to get this far but becomes harder over the next few years.
“It may be that playing in big games with Wales continues to help him step up and become part of the 20% but we have had to talk about options.”
David said he and Bradley have struck a deal on his football career – to give it everything now but to be prepared to make a change if it doesn’t work out.
“If you are to have any chance of making the 20% you have to be 100% committed,” he said.
“So we agreed to do everything we can to ensure Bradley can commit fully to following his dream and have no regrets.
“But if it doesn’t work out, he will have to look at further education and moving forward.
“It is a tough thing to have to talk to him about but for the moment we want him to relish all these experiences he is having, playing top players in top venues.
“Wales are a long shot to get through because of the size of their rival nations but you never know in football.”
Wales kick off their campaign in the elite round of the Uefa U17 Championship next week. They play Russia next Friday, March 23, before facing Hungary two days later.
Their final match is against Belgium on March 28.