The new Championship season is getting ever closer and excitement is building ahead of the big kick-off.
Players are preparing for the new campaign with pre-season well underway and already in the friendly matches, we’ve seen some young players who could play a big role for their teams.
As part of our weekly Big Championship Debate Reach football writers of all of our clubs have now given their verdicts on the best youngster to watch out for from their teams this season.
These are the players who could be set to take the league by storm or players who could cement their reputations further – let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Joe Mewis – Leeds United
It’s genuinely a great time to be a young player at Leeds United.
Last season saw no less than eight Thorp Arch academy products handed a debut by Marcelo Bielsa, who sees the club’s youth set-up as a vital cog in the club’s machinery, as he regularly dips into the club’s successful under-23s squad to supplement his streamlined first-team squad.
And because of this, there’s an embarrassment of riches for this question. Jamie Shackleton is perhaps the first name that springs to mind as the 19-year-old can expect an increased role this term following his breakthrough campaign last year.
After coming through the set-up as a string-pulling central midfielder, Bielsa (who has form for this sort of thing) converted the teenager into a marauding right-back last summer. Expect Shack to get plenty of minutes in both positions this season.
Mateusz Bogusz arrived in the January transfer window and the 17-year-old has turned heads in pre-season, netting in the friendly win against Western Sydney Wanderers at the weekend, while his fellow central midfielder Alfie McCalmont has progressed massively over the past few months and is knocking on the first-team door.
Should the worst happen and one of Kalvin Phillips’ moneyed suitors make a late move before the window shuts, his replacement could already be here.
Honourable mentions also go to winger Jordan Stevens, wide player Clarke Oduor and another central midfielder/right-back hybrid in Robbie Gotts, who all look ready to step up if needed.
Luke Beardsworth – Preston North End
Preston North End have quite a young squad, but ultimately have no under-23s side. As a result, those young players in the side who have made the cut tend to be senior players with plenty of experience.
Ben Davies is a case in point. Aged 23, he’s made over 100 first team appearances and won awards at both PNE and York City, where he was loaned earlier in his career.
Alex Neil has put a lot of faith in Davies and the reward has been a defensive partnership with Jordan Storey that could be considered one of the strongest in the league – and certainly among the most overlooked.
That Davies is such an obvious choice speaks mainly to how impressive he is at such a young age. One way or another, he will be given a chance to showcase his talents in the Premier League.
Elsewhere, Josh Ginnelly has all the attributes to excel at this or a greater level, but will have to work hard to displace the likes of Barkhuizen, Bodin and Harrop from the side.
Alex James – Blackburn
Rovers have an Academy to be proud off with the club’s Under-23 side finishing fifth in Premier League 2 last season – ahead of the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
A number of that squad have been handed chances to impress in pre-season and will be hoping to follow the likes of Ryan Nyambe and Lewis Travis into the first team.
The latter has the potential to stamp his mark on the middle of Tony Mowbray’s midfield if he can cement himself into the XI although competition from experienced new signings Bradley Johnson and Stewart Downing mean the battle for a shirt will be a fierce one.
As for the next cab off the rank, it could well be Joe Rankin-Costello.
The 20-year-old, who turns 21 on Friday, has been touted as a special talent since arriving in East Lancashire from Manchester United four years ago and played a key role in the club’s run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals in 2016.
He has suffered bad luck with injuries which has limited him to just 33 minutes of senior football but is back to full fitness and has grabbed his chance this summer.
An attacking midfielder by trade Rankin-Costello has been filling in at right back and has caught the eye of supporters and his manager alike.
Mowbray said the youngster had ‘opened his eyes’ to his capabilities and the prospect of being restored to his favoured position should only see Rankin-Costello improve further.
Special mention should also be made to midfielder John Buckley and centre back Tyler Magloire who both made their first team debuts last season.
Mat Davies – Swansea City
It’s a good time to be a young player at Swansea City, for a couple of reasons.
Swansea’s squad has been hit hard by relegation, with many senior stars leaving in the wake of Premier League demotion. That meant the youngsters from the under-23s had to step up – and step up they did.
The second reason is the arrival of Steve Cooper, whose work with youngsters at Liverpool and England essentially got him the Swansea job.
The likes of Joe Rodon, George Byers and Connor Roberts have already impressed in the Championship last term, who will no doubt play starring roles next season.
Could we see the likes of Joel Asoro and Yan Dhanda step up to the plate after frustrations during the 2018-19 campaign? Both have potential, but could see their paths blocked by other senior statesman at present.
Big things are expected of Cian Harries and Steven Benda in their positions of centre-back and goalkeeper respectively, and Cooper is expected to look the loan market to bring in a few youngsters to bolster his squad options.
You would have to say that this could really be Rodon’s year, though. The homegrown product has already been linked with Man City, and another stellar campaign could see him at a Premier League club next season.
Jonty Colman – Hull City
When you think of young players who have excelled during the past couple of Championship campaigns, one player who instantly springs to mind is Hull City’s Jarrod Bowen.
In the past two seasons, the 22-year-old has netted 36 league goals in England’s second-tier and it is no surprise to see him being linked with a number of Premier League heavyweights including Newcastle United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City this summer.
With no formal offer made so far and with only a couple of weeks left in this transfer window, head coach Grant McCann could well find himself with the prolific wideman still at the KCOM Stadium as he prepares to begin the 2019-20 Championship campaign away at Swansea City next month.
Second-tier full-backs often found themselves terrorised by his pace, trickery and natural goal-scoring ability, traits that warranted him a place in the PFA’s Championship Team of the Year.
Bowen netted a third of City’s 66 league goals last season and without him, much of their form that turned their 2018-19 season around last Christmas simply would not have been possible.
An honourable mention should go out to midfielder Daniel Batty, who is set to continue to build on the 29 appearances he made during his first full season in the side last year.
McCann’s new look team includes a sitting midfielder in a 4-3-3 system, a role which Batty will aim to make his own.
Steve Nicholson – Derby County
Jayden Bogle was the gem uncovered by Derby County last season.
The right back made 49 starts, a remarkable achievement for an 18-year-old who had not previously played a first-team game.
How he goes in the coming season will be of interest because second seasons can often prove more difficult for young players.
Bogle was very much one of the stories of last season at Derby. Will Kieran Dowell be one of the stories this season?
The 21-year-old attacking midfielder has signed on a season-long loan from Everton and Rams fans liked what they saw of him for an hour in Saturday’s friendly against Burton Albion.
He is composed in possession, finds spaces between the lines from where he can hurt opponents, and his first thought on receiving the ball is to make something happen.
Despite his young age, Dowell has Championship experience from loan spell as Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, and he was part of the Blades’ promotion-winning squad last season.
Some are suggesting there are similarities between Dowell and Leon Osman, who had a loan stint at Derby back in 2004.
Osman is recognised as one of Derby’s most effective loan signings and he went on to play more than 400 games for Everton and scored 57 goals.
Keith Wales – Stoke City
Stoke have a decent crop of youngsters coming through, but the jewel in the academy crown is centre-half Nathan Collins.
The 18-year-old has two senior appearances under his belt, and the distinction of already being linked with a move to Manchester United.
Whether that story holds water remains unclear. It seems that Darren Fletcher, the former United midfielder who spent a couple of seasons at Stoke, recommended the youngster to Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
But in the same way that young Collins is coolness personified on the pitch, he has also taken the speculation with a pinch of salt.
As he explained recently: “With some players it could turn your head, but it didn’t bother me. It’s just rumours and I didn’t get my hopes up. I always knew I was coming back to Stoke.”
Collins first senior appearance for Stoke came last April at Swansea City, still three weeks before his 18th birthday. And what a baptism of fire it was with the Potters down to nine men and heading for a 3-1 defeat.
Collins didn’t set the world alight – that would have been impossible in such a game – but he didn’t once look fazed by such a hopeless situation.
Players can sometimes have an air about them, a reassuring confidence, and the Republic of Ireland youth international appears to have just that. No bad quality for a centre-half.
He’s certainly a classy operator who has a bit of everything, including being able to bring the ball out of defence and pick a pass that Charlie Adam would be proud of.
Stoke are blessed with central defenders at the moment having brought in Liam Lindsay from Barnsley to join Ryan Shawcross, Danny Batth and Bruno Martins Indi. But Collins has already proved he is more than capable of filling those big boots if called upon to do so.
Gregor MacGregor – Bristol City
The Robins missed Bobby Reid last season and had the West Country side been able to retain the poacher for 2018/19 then Lee Johnson’s team almost certainly would have finished in the Championship’s top six.
However Johnson may have unearthed another local lad with all the attributes to star in that vital second striker role that Bristolian Reid did: Antoine Semenyo is a different player than Reid but he plays in the same position, and he too has come from the Academy. A barrel-chest, silky close control and powerful shot with little back lift all add up to make City’s most exciting young prospect at the club currently.
Semenyo excelled on loan at Newport County last season and subsequently attracted interest from Chelsea. Thankfully that interest has been rebuffed and now the Robins hope that the 19-year-old will grow and amaze at Ashton Gate, after a new four-year deal was signed in the summer, with plenty more first team chances to come in the forthcoming campaign.
An exciting future beckons for the London-born forward who could follow in the footsteps of fellow City academy graduates Reid, Lloyd Kelly and Joe Bryan to eventually play in the English top flight.
Tom Coleman – Cardiff City
The truth is – and this has been a problem for Cardiff over the last couple of years – there isn’t really anyone coming through the ranks capable setting pulses racing at the moment.
When you consider that this is a club responsible for bringing through talents such as Joe Ledley and Aaron Ramsey in years gone by, it’s not exactly a proud recent record.
Full-back Cameron Coxe is highly rated, so much so in fact that he was looked at by Manchester City at one stage, but his chances of getting a look in a head of Joe Bennett and Lee Peltier look slim, while Greg Cunningham and Jazz Richards also look to be ahead in the pecking order.
At the age of 20, this could well be a make or break season for his Cardiff career, but his future does currently seem to be away from the Welsh capital.
Aaron Bolger has joined with a big reputation in his native Ireland, and has admittedly produced some encouraging performances in pre-season.
However, there’s currently little to suggest that he’s knocking on the door of the first team right now.
A ninth promotion is understandably at the top of Warnock’s agenda for the coming season, and his most successful campaigns have often revolved around experienced grafters rather than hungry, unproven youngsters.
It could well be a philosophy that takes the club back to the Premier League, but the failure to really bring through a genuinely exciting young talent will surely be remembered as the one key criticism of Warnock’s reign in South Wales.
Philip Tallentire – Middlesbrough
New head coach Jonathan Woodgate has turned to the kids so far this summer, dipping into the Boro talent pool to bolster his first team squad.
Connor Malley, Ben Liddle, Nathan Wood, Stephen Wearne, Patrick Reading and Djed Spence are just six of the development players aged 20 or under to feature for the first team.
But the individual set to occupy a key role in the starting XI when the action gets underway for real is Marcus Tavernier.
The 20-year-old from Leeds is the brother of the ‘Blue Cafu’, Rangers full-back James, and he is already a fans’ favourite.
Tavernier made his breakthrough under brief Boro boss Garry Monk almost two years ago, scoring the only goal in a televised derby win over Sunderland to instantly win over the Riverside faithful.
A brief run of five successive starts also included a sharp finish at Premier League Bournemouth in the League Cup but the then 18-year-old inexplicably fell out of favour.
His loan spell with MK Dons from January to May 2018 was a qualified success but a hoped for breakthrough didn’t materialise last season.
That said, he was involved in no less than 20 Championship fixtures, mainly as a sub, and he scored three goals. He was also a regular in the cups, missing just one of Boro’s eight ties and starting five times.
The England Under-20 international has been itching to get a regular game for Middlesbrough and Woodgate’s commitment to select payers based on performances rather than reputation and seniority will be music to his ears.
Tavernier has the skill-set to deliver on the big stage plus undoubted self belief and now it’s up to him to make the most of his opportunity.
Boro are looking to recruit pacy wide players before the window closes but they are well aware of Tavernier’s explosive potential. Capable of beating a player through a burst of pace or a moment of magic, he could be one of the division’s star performers if he can ally that talent with consistency. Time will tell but the ball’s in his court.
Jonathan Low – Reading
Very few fans knew the name Michael Olise when he was named on the substitutes’ bench for Reading back in March against Leeds United.
It even took the programme editor by surprise as his name was not even on the squad list.
But fast forward a few months and the teenager attacker is the next big thing at Reading.
With the future of fellow academy product Danny Loader less certain, Olise could be the next big thing at Reading having just put pen to paper on a new three year contract at the club.
This time last summer he was getting ready to play for the U18s, such is his meteoric rise.
The 17-year-old quickly sped through the ranks and has developed into a huge prospect at senior level.
After coming on against Leeds, he went on to make another three more appearances for Reading as they ultimately battled towards survival.
Fans saw glimpses of Olise’s talent but they are set to see a whole lot more this coming season at grounds up and down the country.
He has already displayed brilliant footwork, superb awareness and a creative eye in the final third – all assets which should stand him in good stead going forward.
Olise’s outings in pre-season suggest he will continue the new campaign as he left off the previous one – in fine form and leaving plenty of defenders in their tracks.
His potential has already been recognised at international level too as he was called up to represent France U18s in the recent Maurice-Revello tournament in the south of France.
Steven Chicken – Huddersfield Town
A particularly difficult one to answer for Town, who have a very fresh-faced squad on the whole.
There are 14 players in the first team squad aged 23 or under: goalkeepers Kamil Grabara, Joel Coleman and Ryan Schofield; defenders Jon Stankovic, Jaden Brown and Rarmani Edmonds-Green; midfielders Reece Brown, Lewis O’Brien, Juninho Bacuna and Matty Daly; and forwards Karlan Grant, Adama Diakhaby, Isaac Mbenza and Josh Koroma.
Plenty to choose from, then; but it’s hard to look beyond striker Karlan Grant and central midfielder Juninho Bacuna, if I’m allowed to cheat and pick two (and even if I’m not, that’s what I’m doing).
21-year-old Grant has instantly become the first name on every Town fan’s teamsheet since joining from Charlton in January: despite that being a two-division step up at the time, he showed he knows where the net is and looks very much like being the answer to Town’s goalscoring issues of the past few years. You just don’t worry about whether he’s going to score or not: you know he is. He’s third-favourite for the golden boot for good reason.
Also 21, Bacuna didn’t play much under David Wagner last season but was a favourite of Jan Siewert’s and seems to have a little bit of everything: loves a tackle, loves getting on the ball and getting past men, can find a pass, and has a fierce shot on him when he gets a sight of goal. We think he could be one of the best midfielders in the Championship next season.
Joseph Chapman – Birmingham City
Birmingham City have a particularly exciting crop of youngsters emerging from their heralded academy at present.
The club has been a breeding ground for local talent to develop and, crucially, be afforded an opportunity, in recent years.
You need only look at Premier League pair Demarai Gray and Nathan Redmond, and England international Jack Butland – Blues were responsible for all of them.
At this point there ought to be honourable mentions for Wes Harding, Odin Bailey and Steve Seddon, but the youngster who is being tipped by myself to make a mark in the first-team this coming season is Jude Bellingham.
Incredibly, the attacking midfielder has only just turned 16, but he has the lot; an ability to beat his man, terrific footwork and an eye for goal.
He’s not going to play 90 minutes week in, week out at his tender age – certainly Pep Clotet will look to protect him – but Bellingham, who has been touted as a target for Arsenal, will likely get the odd look in here and there.
He’s a name you’re likely to hear more of in the coming years.
Joseph Chapman – West Bromwich Albion
Young talent at West Brom is a bit of a sore subject at present; two 16-year-olds, who were tipped to be first-team players in the coming years, have both been nabbed by Champions League clubs.
Free-scoring forward Louie Barry has swapped the West Midlands for Barcelona’s world famous La Masia academy, while the exciting Morgan Rogers has been snapped up by Manchester City.
There are others, though, on the cusp of the first-team, including Rekeem Harper and Rayaan Tulloch, but my youngster to watch at The Hawthorns this term is Kyle Edwards.
The winger scored a couple of first team goals last season, including a stunning solo effort which won the day at Brentford.
He’s a grounded young man who is intent on impressing new boss Slaven Bilic and has been taking his chance in pre-season.
Pictures have been doing the rounds on social media of him recently in an Albion kit as a young lad – the Dudley born lad is a Baggie through and through and understands what it means to be playing in the first team.
I feel this could be a big year for Edwards.
Matt Davies – Nottingham Forest
Is there a Championship club with a better record than Nottingham Forest when it comes to promoting youth?
Almost 20 years ago, it was Paul Hart who made Michael Dawson, Andy Reid, Gareth Williams and David Prutton main stays in a team which reached the play-offs.
That is without mentioning it was Forest who gave Jermaine Jenas his start.
More recently, we have seen Oliver Burke go for big money, while Ben Osborn, Matty Cash and Joe Worrall have successfully come through the Nigel Doughty Academy to take their place in the current first team squad.
Now Forest could be on the verge of a new generation coming through. With clubs across the league reluctant to invest in big money signings it could be a time for youth to shine again.
At the City Ground, Arvin Appiah is the pick of the bunch. Although he only played seven times last season, the England Under-19 international is primed to make the step up.
A tricky, quick winger, Appiah is a local lad who can get fans off their seats.
Then there is attacking midfielder Brennan Johnson, the son of former Reds striker David Johnson.
The Wales youth international has impressed in pre-season as he pushes for a senior debut. The same can be said of young right-back Jayden Richardson, who could well be Lamouchi’s cover in that position.
Queens Park Rangers – Ilias Chair (Phil Spencer)
QPR’s battle to comply with Financial Fair Play has turned Loftus Road into something of a car boot sale this summer.
With several key players leaving on a free transfer – as well as the likes of Luke Freeman, Darnell Furlong and Matt Smith being sold – it’s looking increasingly likely that the Hoops will have one of the youngest sides in the Championship next term.
The silver lining is that this will do wonders for their development.
Several young players could step up this term, but the most exciting is surely Ilias Chair.
The pint-sized Moroccan is one of the most technically-gifted players to come through in W12 in recent years, and always looked like he could be a class act once developed.
Chair spent the second half of last season on loan at Stevenage where he effectively ran his own ‘goal of the season’ competition with each strike for the Borough being bigger and better than the one before.
The attacking midfielder ended his loan spell with six goals and six assist in 16 appearances, pretty much proving that he’s ready for life at a higher level.
With the likes of Luke Freeman moving on, there’s a vacancy to be QPR’s main creative threat, and if the 21-year-old can recreate what fans of the Hoops have seen in small doses, then they could have one heck of a player on their hands.
Brentford – Mads Bech Sorensen (Phil Spencer)
Griffin Park has become something of a hot bed for young prospects to make their name in the Championship and this season will be no different.
We’ve seen the likes of Ezri Konsa, Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma and Neal Maupay prove themselves as some of the Championship’s best over the last couple of seasons, and there’s no doubting that Thomas Frank will be looking to integrate the next generation of young talent into his Brentford side this term.
While any number of starlets from the club’s infamous B Team could make the step up, my bet is on Mads Bech Sorensen making the step up.
The Danish defender emerged in the first team fold during the second half of last term, and certainly didn’t look out of place as he played the full 90 minutes against sides such as Middlesbrough, Derby County, Swansea City and Leeds United.
Sorensen made 10 appearances for the Bees last term, but with the likes of Ezri Konsa and Yoann Barbet moving on this summer, it could be the perfect opportunity to stake his claim for a regular starting spot.
At 20 years of age, it seems that this season could be the perfect time for him to show the Championship what he can do.
Fulham – Matt O’Riley (Phil Spencer)
Fulham’s return to the Championship will see them revert to type as they look to find that sort of togetherness that served them so well two seasons ago.
During that promotion-winning campaign the Cottagers established themselves as one of the most entertaining teams in the league as they played a slick, passing style which was both effective and easy on the eye.
While the likes of Tom Cairney, Stefan Johanssen and Aleksandar Mitrovic were key to the success of that side, it was the young players supplementing the team who perhaps provided the ‘x factor’ needed to get them over the line.
That season saw a certain Ryan Sessegnon make his name, and the hope is that another crop of young talents could have a similar impact this time around.
Harvey Elliott looks set to move on to pastures new, but another player who is tipped for the top is Matt O’Riley.
The 18-year-old was limited to under-23 football last term, but did make cameo appearances in the EFL Cup and EFL Trophy.
O’Riley is certainly on the fringes of the first team fold, and the hope is that this season could be the time for the central midfielder to make the step up to give Scott Parker’s first team something of a boost.
Charlton – Albie Morgan (Phil Spencer)
Charlton’s promotion to the Championship was wonderful news for everyone associated with the south London club.
With uncertainly behind-the-scenes, a successful campaign was exactly what was needed to bring supporters back together, however it could be a tough season ahead for the Addicks.
Lee Bowyer’s side have one of the smallest budgets in the Championship, meaning that they are likely to have to rely heavily on the young players currently in the squad and hope that they can acclimatise to life in the second tier as early as possible.
While it’s expected that Charlton will bolster their squad with bargain signings and loan additions, one player who could play a big role is Albie Morgan.
The 19-year-old played an intermittent part for much of last term, but became central to Lee Bowyer’s plans at the business end of the season.
As well as featuring in the final three league games of the season, the attacking midfielder played in both play-off semi-final matches against Doncaster Rovers, bringing his overall appearances to 16 for the season.
Morgan has proven himself as a reliable part of Lee Bowyer’s plans, and with Joe Aribo moving on to Rangers, it opens up a place for the youngster to prove himself in the second tier.
It will be quite an ask to become a regular at that level, but if Albie Morgan progresses at the same rate as he has so far, then there’s no doubting that he has what it takes.
Millwall – Connor Mahoney (Phil Spencer)
Okay, he may not be a Millwall youngster but the 22-year-old could have a real impact on the Lions this term.
The Bournemouth youngster has arrived on a season-long loan deal from Premier League side Bournemouth, and the hope is that hs knowledge of the league will make a positive impact.
Mahoney has made over 50 appearances in the Championship, including 30 during a loan spell with Birmingham City.
He scored two goals and four appearances during this time – a tally which he’ll no doubt be hoping to improve on this time around.
The 22-year-old will be hoping to play a key part as Millwall look to kick on in the season ahead.
Neil Harris’ side avoided the drop by just four points last term – a gap which was a little too close for comfort for the Bermondsey boys.
With the addition of Mahoney – as well as a number of others including former QPR targetman Matt Smith – the hope will be that Millwall can find that competitive streak which has previously made The Den such a difficult place to visit.
If they can do that, then the hope is that they will be able to push themselves up to mid-table in the Championship and away from the danger zone.
- Premier League: FA confirms historic winter break for 2019-20 season
- South Alabama basketball gets 2019-20 commitment from point guard Tyreke Locure
- Derry upset Donegal to set up Under 20 Championship semi-final against Down
- County Championship: Lancashire and Hampshire set for high-scoring draw
- Colombian Izquierdo completes trio of Albion players set for World Cup
- Field Set for 2019 ITA Kick-Off in Athens
- Barcelona players are impressing at the World Cup
- Leeds United's players set to start pre-season early if Bielsa takes Elland Road job
- Lance Stroll set for 2019 Williams F1 contract
- Infrastructure: Statewide Broadband on Track for 2019-20