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19 June 2023



19 June 2023

Jonathon Bland featured for 60 minutes on Sunday afternoon as Wales U19s drew 2-2 with Sweden in Cardiff.

Our young midfielder, fresh from making his debut for Rob Edwards’ team on Thursday, put in another impressive performance against his Scandinavian counterparts and enjoyed the experience of international football.

“It was good to be back in it, to be honest,” he reflected. “The intensity is another step up to where I want to be at – Sweden are a good team as well, so that tested me quite a lot in midfield because they like to keep the ball, so whenever I had it, I had to look after it because we didn’t get it a lot.

The style of play was stark contrast to what Bland is used to at Barnsley, where the young Reds’ dynamic and attacking brand of football that ultimately proved successful as they were crowned Professional Development League champions.

It’s a different string to the 17-year-old’s bow, and he is keen to keep learning different ways of playing to become a more rounded player.

Jonathan Bland in action for Wales U19s

“Wales will try and keep the ball, but the problem is that every international team wants to keep the ball,” discussed Bland. “Most of the teams that I come up against will try to be a possession-based team, whereas at Barnsley, you’ll have teams in the north league who are happy without the ball and defending on the back foot – especially against us.

“They know that we like to keep the ball and try to attack as much as possible, so they try to hit us on the counter-attack as a low block – Birmingham did it against us. I think because of our success, teams are starting to do that against us.

“At international level, Wales are a Pot 2 or Pot 3 team – your Pot 1 is England and those teams – it just means that teams are more confident in keeping the ball against you and you have to find more ways to win the ball back.”

There was plenty of quality on display in both camps, with some youngsters from Category 1 academies representing Cymru, while the Swedes also had players from the top clubs in Europe within their ranks.

Jonathan Bland walks out with his Wales U19s teammates

Bland relished the prospect of testing himself against some of the best peers in his age group and believes it can only be beneficial moving forward – particularly next season with the Reds.

“They had an AC Milan lad and a Bayern lad, so they’ve got some big clubs in that set-up,” he continued. “It’s literally just about putting yourself against the best. You want to be playing against those boys and competing with them to show you can do it.

“The way I had to play against some of those boys where I was overloaded a lot of the time will help me bring that back to Barnsley. If we do get overloaded in midfield at any time, then I’ll know how to communicate that to the boys and literally play with that fearless mentality.

“The moment you’ve got that, you can compete with anyone really – and we showed that, especially on Sunday; it was a good game.

“I think it will help going into next year and learning how to deal with different play styles.”

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