Rhys, who made his international debut last October against Bulgaria, starred for the Academy for around 3 years from the Under 11 age group after being spotted at a trial by ATFC legend and current First Team Coach Gari Lewis.
Gari told ATFC’s Media Team about the first time he saw Rhys play:
“This kid picked up the ball in his own half, beat three or four players and had a shot which the keeper saved. The keeper then played the ball out of his hands and the opposition attacked, Rhys made a recovery run and made a block tackle at the other end of the pitch to stop the opposition scoring. He was selected for the academy within 25 seconds!”.
Gari also commented on Rhys attitude to the game:
“He was a tremendous kid. He had an incredible engine and was fearless. I remember him being selected for a Cymru tournament in Newport and that’s where he first really started getting noticed”.
From ATFC’s Academy, Rhys then progressed to Swansea City’s Academy before joining Sheffield United in 2018. He has since had four loan spells away from Bramall Lane; at Barrow, Rochdale, Luton Town and then finally Stoke City earlier this year.
His International journey has taken him from the Under 19’s to the Under 21’s, for whom he appeared 14 times, before making his senior bow away to Bulgaria in the Nations League – the first of five caps to date. He was handed the no.17 shirt for Euro 2020 by Rob Page and although he has yet to appear in the tournament, he still has the opportunity to do so tomorrow as Wales begin the knock-out phase in Amsterdam against Denmark.
Rhys still keeps in touch with the club and kindly met with the current ATFC Academy players on a Zoom call back in February during the lockdown. He reflected on his time with the Academy and told the players that he absolutely loved his experience with ATFC.
Rhys explained how it was his Grandad who first inspired him to play football and how he still watches all his games to this day. He then gave an insight into what goes on in an international camp in the days leading up to matchday, playing alongside world class players such as Gareth Bale and playing for Ryan Giggs – his favourite player growing up.
Rhys then reflected on his time playing Junior Football in Ceredigion for Bow Street as well as ATFC’s Academy, before moving on to discuss his move to Sheffield United and his subsequent loan spells, which included appearing at Old Trafford for Rochdale, where he walked out alongside another Euro 2020 star in Paul Pogba! He offered some good advice to the youngsters on the call – advising them to “be patient and learn the game”.
Aberystwyth Town would like to wish Rhys and his teammates the very best of their luck for tomorrow’s match and the rest of their Euro 2020 adventure! We’re all behind you – pob lwc bois!