Cardiff dropped the ball when they released Regan Poole. Russell Slade admitted as much, claiming; “You don’t want to be losing that type of quality. 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.” Craig Bellamy also reportedly rang a Newport County director to admit as much.
As it happens, Cardiff may now have the opportunity to right that wrong.
Poole is a Cardiff boy and was spotted playing parks football in Grangetown as a 10-year-old. Signed up to the academy, where, like James Collins before him, he was seen as a striker rather than a centre back, he was cut just shy of his fifteenth birthday and returned to parks football. His club St Albans saw him as a centre back and it was in that position that he impressed against Newport County’s youth side and was promptly snapped up.
Poole became a regular for Newport at 16 and Cardiff’s error of judgement was magnified when Manchester United came calling and were suitably impressed enough to spend a potential £400,000 to acquire his services. Louis van Gaal, the manager at the time, named him in his Europa League squad, but he only ever played once for the club, introduced for a few injury time minutes.
He spent time on loan at Northampton Town in League One, reuniting with his former Newport manager Justin Edinburgh, before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, formerly of this parish, took charge and used him mainly in midfield. Poole returned to Newport this season and was instrumental in their ascent to the play-off places, eventually losing in the final.
Now 20, Poole’s future is unclear. His contract is up and all the signs point towards his release, despite the option of activating an extra year. “United have an option to take up an extension, but I’m not really too sure what their plan is for me,” Poole recently confirmed. “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.”
All of which presents Cardiff with the opportunity to bring him back, if they see fit. It’s hard to tell just how good Poole actually is because he has played so little first team football to date. He has yet to look out of his depth, but has not yet played at Championship level or the senior Welsh national side. With Cardiff in the market for centre back cover though, is this too good an opportunity to resist?
There is also the question of whether it would be a good move for Poole. After all, Cardiff already have Cameron Coxe in their ranks, who is also 20 and can’t get a look in at right back. Coxe’s contract expires next month and we will soon discover if he is to be retained or cut like Poole before him. You get the sense that supporters are gaging for more of a Welsh presence in the squad, hence the thirst for Will Vaulks. Poole is a low risk, potentially high reward option, but it remains to be seen whether or not Neil Warnock will be tempted.