Manchester United announced this weekend that several players from the academy would be released after not being offered new deals at the club.
James Wilson is probably the most high profile of these, who scored two goals on his Manchester United debut five years ago, but whose career was derailed by a serious injury.
Regan Poole is another player whose time at United has come to an end after the club failed to take up the option of extending his contract a further year.
Having started his career in Cardiff’s academy, Poole moved to Newport when he was 16, only to be offered a trial at United a couple of months later.
Newport’s youth development coach Mike Flynn revealed that several clubs had their eye on the centre-back but that he had done well during his time at Carrington.
“Manchester United have been very impressed with him and decided to make the first move,” said Flynn. “I spoke with Regan earlier and he’s absolutely buzzing. He’s gone up there and done well.”
He stayed at Newport that season had a one-week trial with Liverpool before signing for United a year after first visiting the club, reportedly for £100,000.
Newport’s manager, Terry Butcher, had high hopes for the teenager.
“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,” he said. “He’s still very young at 17. He’s got the perfect stage to go and perform and the perfect place to learn. He’ll love it, I’m sure.”
However, with a delay in him receiving international clearance for move from Wales to England, he was unable to play for United until the following February. On the day the clearance was given, he featured for the U-21s against Everton and then included in the Europa League squad list.
He made his first start for the U-21s against Manchester City and put in a man of the match performance, which was topped off by his goal-line clearance to help secure a 1-0 win for his team.
Poole made his debut for the first in a game that is likely better remembered for Marcus Rashford introducing himself to world football, scoring twice on his debut against Midtjylland. The defender replaced Ander Herrera in the last minute of the game. That would be the only appearance he ever made for the first team.
The teenager played well for the U-21s that season, with him scoring three and assisting one in seven appearances, with him being used both in defence and midfield. He proved to be a real threat from set pieces and was beginning to get supporters of our youth team excited for what his future held.
The following season he formed a solid partnership with Axel Tuanzebe in the U-23s, despite him being only 18.
The following season he agreed a loan move to Northampton Town to play for Justin Edinburgh, who had been his manager at Newport.
“Regan is a player I know well from my time at Newport County and he is an exceptionally talented player,” said Edinburgh. “I gave him his debut as a 16 year old and he is a player with a fantastic temperament and someone who is well ahead of his years. He is a central defender who is comfortable on the ball. He is strong, he leaps well and he has all the attributes to be a top, top player. He is mobile and he will complement the other defenders we have at the club well.”
Poole had credited Edinburgh for what he had achieved so far in his career and was excited about being reunited with a manager he got along so well with.
However, by the end of August Edinburgh had lost four games in a row and was replaced Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as manager who played Poole in midfield. He made 20 appearances for the first team but fell out of favour at the turn of the year and barely featured in the final months of the season.
Poole returned to United last season and featured again for the U-23s but was loaned back to Newport in January.
“United have an option to take up an extension, but I’m not really too sure what their plan is for me,” Poole said last month. “If they take it up then I will stay there, but if not I’ll move on. Everyone knows it’s hard at a big club so when my season is over I’ll find out. I’m enjoying my football with Newport, but I’ve spoken to United’s loan manager. He comes to watch all my games and gives reports back to United on how I’m doing. They are happy with how my loan is going. Hopefully it’s all positive for me there. Wembley will be a big stage and there will be a lot of people watching. Hopefully I can have a good game. I’m at United at the end of the day and I’d love to stay there as long as possible.”
He helped the reach the League 2 play-offs which they lost to Tranmere in the final thanks to a painful 119th minute winner. Poole was obviously gutted but spoke of his hopes of Newport being promoted the following season.
There have been some suggestions that he could return to Cardiff, his first club, who were relegated from the Premier League this season.
Their manager at the time, Russell Slade, later reflected that they had made a mistake in letting Poole leave.
“You don’t want to be losing that type of quality,” he said. “Occasionally one does get away because young players develop at different rates. But clearly a decision was made at that particular time and they got it wrong.”
After being told that he was being released by United, Poole spoke of the impact playing for the club has had on his career, and confirmed that several teams were interested in signing him. For now, he has set his aspirations on graduating from Wales U-21s to Ryan Giggs’ first team.
“I’m still the same player, my aims are still the same and I still feel I can break into the senior team with Wales, and hopefully I can get a move to kick-on and help with that,” he told BBC Sport Wales. “It wasn’t a surprise [that I was released]. I had an idea what was going to happen but I’ve loved every minute there – they improved me as a player. I’ve not really thought about what will happen next but there are a few clubs who are interested. Every footballer wants to play, I need to weigh up what suits me the best and where I can play every game of the season.”
Poole turns 21 later this month and has his whole career ahead. Best of luck to him wherever he ends up.
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