Manchester United made a move for Welsh defender Regan Poole towards the end of the 2015 summer transfer window, with the player waiting for the move to happen. He eventually moved from Newport County, which left his international clearance, before he was eligible to play for his new club, competitively at least. During his time at the club awaiting clearance to play, it was a positive for the then 17-year-old as it gave him time, out of the limelight, to settle in to his new club – completely different from his former club. Poole used to play for Cardiff City, but left for Newport to rebuild his career, coming on a long way, also becoming the youngest player to represent County in a League Two fixture against Shrewsbury Town – aged 16 years and 94 days. Poole spoke to the official Manchester United website after his first year at United, speaking about his time at his former club, his time on trial at United, playing the waiting game before he made his debut, his best performance last season, winning the Barclays U21 Premier League title and living in digs away from home. Poole said:
“We had a lot of injuries in defence. I’d been on the bench before but my debut came in an away game at Shrewsbury, who were high in the table and got promoted that year I think. If it wasn’t for Newport, I wouldn’t be here now. I’ve got a lot to thank them for.
“Justin Edinburgh [the former Tottenham defender] was the manager and I still speak to him now. He’s a really nice guy and it was a massive decision to throw me in at Shrewsbury. We drew 0-0 so it was a good clean sheet for me. I loved every minute of it – the crowd was always unbelievable and to be part of a promotion push at 16 was great.
“I came on trial for a week with the Under-21s and, after going back to Newport, I also had trials with Liverpool and Fulham. It was coming to the end of the transfer window and, although I could have stayed there, I felt it was time to move.
“It was hard on trial and I wasn’t sure I’d be coming back but Warren [Joyce] came to watch me a few times in Newport’s first team and he must have seen enough of me to make the decision before the end of the window.
“For me to come to United was massive and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I was a bit scared when I first joined as I’d always lived at home – when I played for Newport I travelled for half an hour in the car. The day before the deadline, finding out I was moving to Manchester on my own was a bit daunting but I couldn’t let the opportunity slide so I cam here to sign the papers and it was crazy.”
Playing the waiting game to make his first competitive appearance for his new club was frustrating for the 17-year-old. The player was subject to international clearance being that he came from another association, which when you think about it, Newport is less than 200 miles from Manchester, but it is in a different country – Wales. Poole trained with Warren Joyce’s U21 side, which helped him adapt to his new club and what is expected of the players. Poole missed his time to play in the FA Youth Cup with the U18 side, an age group he was eligible to play in at the time. Speaking of playing the waiting game, Poole said:
“It was a frustrating time really but I didn’t think I’d be training with the Under-21s when I first joined, never mind the first team,” he said. “I thought I’d be going with the Under-18s because I was eligible for them so it was a bonus. It was six months when I was expecting two months at the most and then three more and, when I got to three months, I felt ready. I ended up having to wait another three months and it did seem to go on and on.
“But I actually didn’t miss that many games, which was a good thing, and I’d been training with the first team. It was hard, though, as I was not expecting to be sidelined for six months but it helped me settle in a way. I was able to meet people and it gave me time to find my feet. They’re a great bunch of lads and even with the first team, I was surprised at how normal people like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Wayne Rooney were. They speak to you as if you’re their friend and it’s clear it’s a great family club. I’d settled in okay three months down the line so the last bit was the hardest.”
Poole ended up making nine appearances for the U21’s last season, two of those from the bench. He also managed to score three goals, which helped his side in the Barclays U21 Premier League for the final time. The league was being renamed and restructured along with the Premier League, naming the new league as the Premier League 2, raising the age from U21 to U23, still allowing three overage outfield players and one overage goalkeeper to play in each match. Poole’s debut came for United in a behind-closed-doors fixture against Everton, then he played in the Manchester derby, which he felt was his best performance for his new club. The Welshman won the U21 league for his club, also making his full debut for Louis van Gaal’s first team, albeit a cameo performance. Poole said:
“My best performance was in the City game. Because I’d missed so much of the season to be thrown in as a central midfielder was obviously a big shock but it suited me down to the ground. I made a block in the last-minute that helped save the three points for us.
“It was an incredible experience. I was on the bench before then in the away match against Midtjylland and then at Shrewsbury in the FA Cup. It would have been nice to make my debut against Shrewsbury again! For me to make my debut for Manchester United, though, is just incredible. It’s not a bad achievement at 17!”
Poole turned 18 in June this year and is still dealing with living away from his family. The 18-year-old is thankful for the support of his family, which has helped him to make his mark at United and carve his future into the team, which will be led into another new era by Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho. Poole will not be restricted this season, being able to play from the off, and that he has done. United’s U23 side have played twice in the Premier League 2 this season, beating Leicester City 1-0 and losing 2-0 to Southampton; of which Poole has started each match. Speaking about living in digs and being grateful for the support of his family, Poole said:
“I live in digs. They are really nice people. But I do miss my family a lot and, if I get a day off, I do go home. It’s a three-hour drive but can be a nice surprise for them so I head home as much as I can.”
Poole still has a long way to go at Manchester United, making just one first team appearance thus far, but his former coach feels that he is a player to make the mark at the club, comparing him to former United defender Rio Ferdinand, who signed for the club back in 2002 and was the most expensive defender at the time, since surpassed by Manchester City’s John Stones. Cardiff and Vale County Schoolboys coach, Matty Davies first saw the player at the age of 13, feeling that he could go ‘all the way’ in the game that he loved. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Davies said:
“He is a smashing young man. He is as technically able as Rio Ferdinand. He has an eye for defence-splitting passes and is very comfortable on the ball, he has a little bit of everything. He can do a number of roles and he has got the hunger and desire to be better.” He started out in centre midfield and worked his way back. He can play in a number of positions. In terms of where he will end up, I haven’t got a crystal ball but he played at right-back for us as well. We used Gareth Bale as an example because he played a lot at left-back. Regan’s attitude is a bit similar to Ben Davies, who’s now at Tottenham. His attitude is spot on. He was the first in to training and the last to leave. He was like a sponge, always wanting to learn.”
Poole seems to be a player who could add a lot to the squad, should he make it that far at the club, being that the competition for places will get high with all the talent on offer at the AON Training Complex over the coming years. Poole can do a job in defence, as he has shown, but also in midfield, a role he played in last season, his debut season at Manchester United. The Welshman will have everything at his disposal to help him impress on his way to the top, which is where I can see him heading, whether at United, or another club. Poole is a Manchester United supporter, which always helps and it was clear that his dream was to play for the Old Trafford club, something he is doing now, so if he keeps trying, achieving his goals, the world could well be his oyster.