While it has been heartening to see some of Cardiff City’s young guns get their opportunity during pre-season, it has been a frustrating time for the odd few.
Isaak Davies, a striker who was meant to start the final league game against Rotherham, has missed it all through injury, while young Kieron Evans has also been absent through an ankle problem.
Both were expected to feature heavily in pre-season as they are tipped as the next cabs off the rank, so to speak, to force their way into the first-team fray.
Fortunately for Evans, he has recovered just in time ahead of the campaign.
The young winger turned out in Cardiff City under-23s’ match with West Brom in midweek and picked up where he left off after an impressive campaign for the young Bluebirds last season.
Evans scored in City’s comeback win up in the Midlands — they came back from two goals down to win 4-2 — and a very pleased Mick McCarthy was watching on in the stands.
While there will no doubt be a tinge of disappointment for the 19-year-old Wales youth international that he could not fulfil a full pre-season with the senior side, McCarthy’s appraisal of his performance against the young Baggies on Tuesday will certainly be a shot in the arm for him.
“What’s been pleasing is Sam Bowen in pre-season, Mark Harris in pre-season,” McCarthy began.
“Kieron Evans played on Tuesday at West Brom, I went to watch the under-23s game, and he was outstanding.
“What we have got is some of the youngsters coming through now and Rubin Colwill was in the Welsh squad.
“So we’ve got some back-up with some youngsters who really need to be used as well.”
For the large majority of supporters, Evans will be a player they have never seen play as he is yet to make his first-team debut, despite featuring in a number of squads last term.
Only ardent followers of Cardiff’s under-23s will really know what he is like and he appears to be some talent, a lovely dribbler with an eye for goal and a beautiful cross.
His talent has not gone unnoticed elsewhere, either, with Newcastle United, West Brom, Burnley and Sheffield United having registered their interest in the player last season before he signed a two-year deal with the Bluebirds this summer, which is a big vote of confidence from the club.
The diminutive forward, who can play on either wing as well as in the No.10 role, is fortunate in the sense that Sheyi Ojo, Harry Wilson, Junior Hoilett and Jonny Williams have all left this summer, freeing up some room for him to go and grab his chance. And that is certainly how McCarthy views it.
“The landscape has changed here in terms of signings and money and whatever else,” McCarthy said in his Thursday afternoon press conference.
“It might be the best thing that’s ever happened for Tom Davies, Kieron Evans, Mark Harris, Sam Bowen. All those players.
“I always get excited about that. I’d love a couple of these four or five to come through.”
In an interview with WalesOnline, under-23s coach Steve Morison earlier this year said he had told Evans to target Hoilett’s position and make it his own, because he has the ability to step up and thrive.
Morison said back in February: “I remember saying to Kieron, ‘Do you want to be the next Junior Hoilett? Add end product to your game and you will be. You do everything else he can do, but he has goals and assists and that’s why he has played at the highest level for such a long time.’
“That’s his motivation.”
READ MORE: The Steve Morison interview
There is no doubting now that Evans, who has been given the No.36 shirt this season, is fully part of McCarthy’s first-team plans.
With wingers thin on the ground at Cardiff, he offers something different and is a player who can get bums off seats if afforded the opportunity.
There is no doubt that it is set to be another exciting season for City’s youngsters, and fans, with the fruit of so much labour in the youth setup due to blossom over the course of the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, McCarthy’s verdict on Isaac Vassell was also encouraging.
The manager ruled the player out of this Saturday’s clash with Barnsley, but the striker, who scored twice in the 4-2 win over West Brom, looked strong and not far off a first-team return.
“Isaac Vassell played on Tuesday and he was as durable and as tough as I’ve seen him in a game so far up at West Brom,” McCarthy said.
“I thought he did really well.”