As was the case with the club’s under-23 side, the 2018-19 season proved to be a challenging one of transition and mixed fortunes for Swansea City Under-18s.
The previous year saw the academy side record an impressive sixth-place finish in what was their debut season in Premier League South under Jon Grey and Anthony Wright, with the likes of Oli Cooper, Matthew Blake, Joe Lewis and Tom Price playing crucial roles in the success.
However, their subsequent promotion to the under-23s left big shoes to fill and the under-18s were unable to replicate their league form as they managed just three wins all season – finishing 11th and just one point above bottom club Norwich City.
Nevertheless, the majority of the squad were part of the under-19 side that made history by securing a record-breaking 10th consecutive FAW Youth Cup title, thanks to a 2-1 victory over TNS in the final.
The season was also incredibly pleasing from a development perspective with several players given regular opportunities to appear for the under-23s, including Mason Jones-Thomas, Daniel Williams and Cameron Evans, and first-year scholars Tivonge Rushesha and Jacob Jones.
This paved the way for multiple 15 and 16-year-olds like striker Josh Thomas to make the step-up to under-18 level, as well as 14-year-old defender Kai Ludvigsen.
After encouraging performances against the likes of Fulham, Leicester and Chelsea, the young Swans recorded their first league victory of the season with midfielder Owen Evans on target in September’s 1-0 win over Reading.
Evans found the net again two months later as the under-18s demonstrated terrific determination by coming from behind to beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1, with striker Arnor Gudjohnsen scoring a late winner on the South Coast.
Soon after, they were eliminated from the Premier League Cup, as well as the FA Youth Cup despite a battling display in their 4-2 defeat by Aston Villa at Villa Park.
However, while they struggled for results in the league, the Swans endured no such problems in the FAW Youth Cup.
Following comfortable victories over Aberystwyth Town and Merthyr Town, Oli Cooper’s goal was enough to secure a hard-earned 1-0 win over Cardiff City in the semi-finals.
This set up a showdown with TNS at Park Avenue – home of Aberystwyth – with a record-breaking 10th consecutive title at stake.
A timely 6-0 league win over Norwich provided the perfect confidence booster for the Swans, as goals from Thomas and Simon Paulet sealed a 2-1 success.
The season may have been generally difficult in terms of results but, with players progressing to the under-23s and youngsters looking comfortable when stepping up to this level, it was certainly one with plenty of positives for the under-18s to build on in 2019-20.