A blog on teenage Wales defender Regan Poole and his move to Manchester United.
Transfer deadline day has become something of non-event, even if Sky are yet to receive the memo. One day of drama a few years ago has sparked a regular bi-annual excuse for pundits to convene and discuss rumours against a garish yellow backdrop with the anticipation of the final minutes resembling a New Years Eve party in the pre-digital age. But while the headlines revolved around the non-transfer of goalkeeper David De Gea this time around, one low-key transfer changed the life of a Cardiff teenager has he completed a dream move to Manchester United, and with it set a trend that could become a regular occurrence as the next talented generation of Welsh footballers come through the pathway. Defender Regan Poole was released by Cardiff City in June 2014, became Newport County’s youngest-ever player in September 2014, and was sold to Manchester United for an undisclosed six-figure sum exactly one-year later.
But while Manchester United’s attentions were firmly-fixed on fax machines, Madrid and the arrival of Anthony Martial, 19, from Monaco for the highest fee ever paid for a teenage footballer, Welsh football interest was diverted to Poole and his meteoric rise. Making his debut for Newport County at the age of 16 years and 94 days, the central defender was thrown into the harsh reality of League Two football in an unforgiving position of the field. Poole could either sink or swim, but embraced the challenge and became a regular part of the senior squad despite his age. Of course, his talent had already been recognised through the development pathway of the international set-up, and he had already featured for the Wales Under-17 side in UEFA competition by the time the amber army had became familiar with his name and obvious natural talent.
But Manchester United were not alone in their admiration of Poole. The defender also had a trial at Liverpool and was the subject of a £65,000 bid from Hull City. Championship interest also extended to Fulham and Brighton, but as Newport County manager Terry Butcher explained, his destination was never really in doubt. “In the past few days a number of clubs have shown an interest in Regan, but as soon as Manchester United came in there was only really going to be one outcome,” Butcher told the Newport County official website. “It is every boy’s dream to play for Manchester United, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for him to progress at such a magnificent club. It doesn’t matter which country you are in, or where you are in the world, when Manchester United come calling you have to answer.”
Although playing regular senior football and training daily with a veteran England defender could have proved to be a priceless education for Poole, Butcher was also keen to emphasise his satisfaction that such opportunities can arise. “What it does show for our club is that there is a pathway right to the very top,” he added. “Someone like Regan, who started off at Cardiff but was released and then came to us, it doesn’t matter which age the players come to us they can emulate Regan’s footsteps. It’s a great boost for the club, in terms of the academy, the first team and the area of Newport. The region produces a lot of good, young footballing talent.” However, Newport County have a testing season ahead, and they will need to pull themselves away from the bottom of League Two without their teenage prodigy, while off the field boardroom distractions will only intensify should results continue to disappoint.
But while Poole has far from made it, his determination and attitude has placed him on a level upon which he can only improve. Although he has embraced the challenge of senior football with Newport County, he arrives at Old Trafford way down the pecking order, and he will need to adapt to playing youth and Under-21 football in both domestic and European competition before he can dream of lining-up alongside some of the most famous names in the football world. However, the stage is certainly set, and progression at international level with Wales will be an obvious benefit to his new-found status in the game. The pathway that the has been implemented within the Welsh football system is designed to ensure continuity across the intermediate teams right up to Chris Coleman’s senior side, and Coleman has proved time and time again that he will pick players on international form regardless of their age or status at their respective clubs. Although Poole is headline news, he is not alone, and a whole new generation of talented young players are emerging from the Welsh system on a consistent basis. The Welsh football press and public have every right to celebrate the now, but the next is just as exciting, and Regan Poole has set a new ambition for every Bale and Ramsey wannabe to believe in.