The Football League is full of young talent. More than ever coaches and managers are looking towards their youth team and academy prospects to boost numbers in the first team. The money saved and the potential sale value of the players are just a few of the positives behind this.
This is my ‘Football League young XI’ consisting of English players under the age of 21. There are some notable exclusions as I didn’t want to stick with the obvious.
GK: Jordan Pickford, 20 – Bradford City (ON LOAN FROM SUNDERLAND)
The 6ft 1 goalkeeper has already had successful loan spells at Burton Albion and Carlisle United and is currently Bradford City’s number 1 racking up 18 appearances already this season.
Having represented England at U16s through to U19s level, Pickford is yet to break into Gus Poyet’s first team plans and Phil Parkinson will be hoping to keep him for the foreseeable future as he’s been in solid form throughout his spell with the club.
RB: Sam Byram 20 – Leeds United
Essex born Byram is currently an ever present in the Leeds squad. The right back loves to bomb forward and provide for the strikers. Byram is very versatile and comfortable playing anywhere across the right side.
Despite ongoing interest from English giants Manchester City and Arsenal, Byram is yet to pull on the England shirt at any level.
CB: Jamal Lascalles 21 – Nottingham Forest (ON LOAN FROM NEWCASTLE)
At the age of 17, Nottingham Forest rejected a £5 million pound bid from Liverpool in 2011. In the summer of 2014 Newcastle United managed to secure the services of the centre back and he was loaned back for the remainder of the season. With a string of strong performances it’s no wonder Lascalles has made the step up to the Premier League.
CB: Joe Gomez 17 – Charlton Athletic
Despite only making 3 appearances for Charlton, Gomez is highly regarded by the Charlton staff. The youngster can play either centre back or right back. Despite strong interest from numerous clubs Gomez signed his first professional contract with Charlton in 2014 and played every minute for the England squad that won the UEFA European Under-17 Championship earlier this year. Definitely one for the future.
LB: Ben Gibson 21 – Middlesborough
Gibson is the nephew of current Middlesborough chairman Steve Gibson, however it’s no coincidence that Gibson is an ever present in the Middlesborough squad. Fellow Boro player George Friend has already heaped praise upon Gibson and has tipped him to become the club captain one day.
CM: Alex Mowatt 19 – Leeds United
Mowatt is one of the latest Leeds players to breakthrough the academy. With Neil Redfearn stepping up from the academy to manage the first team, Mowatt is now playing under a manager who knows him well. Mowatt is very composed and likes to keep the ball, something the big clubs tend to like. With interest high from Everton and Aston Villa, Leeds will be hoping to keep hold of their talented youngster.
CM: Dele Alli 18 – MK Dons
Alli has been with MK Dons since the age of 11 and made his debut as a 16 year-old. Alli is held in high regards by MK Dons boss Karl Robinson who has stated he is the best 18 year-old he’s ever seen. The 2014/2015 season has been massive for Alli having signed a new deal with the club, despite high interest from Liverpool. The combative midfielder has gone on to score 8 goals in 14 games and didn’t look out of place in the demolition job of Manchester United in August. Milton Keynes may struggle to hold onto him.
RW: Patrick Roberts 17 – Fulham
Roberts is one of Fulham’s brightest talents and made his debut under Felix Magath against Manchester City in March. Since then he’s gone on the make 13 appearances for Fulham and has been a constant name in England’s U17 squad – recently being called up to the U19s. Roberts possesses great pace and the skill to match. With Fulham manager Kit Symons willing to give youth a chance we will be seeing a lot more from the 17 year-old.
CAM: Will Hughes 19 – Derby County
Hughes is one of the most sought after youngsters in English football. Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United have already been to watch Hughes whose ability to keep the ball and pick out a killer pass has made him an ever present in the Derby squad. This summer Steve McClaren tied Hughes down with a new 4-year deal, an agreement that could see Hughes play in the Premier League with Derby in the very near future. Should promotion not be achieved though, the Rams will do well to keep hold of him.
LW: Nathan Redmond 20 – Norwich City
Redmond started his career with Birmingham City and in 2013 moved to Norwich City for £2million following former Blues manager Chris Hughton. Redmonds pace enables him to beat his defender and get behind the defence. He’s usually played on the left wing and encouraged to cut in on his stronger right foot. Redmond has featured for the England U21’s 19 times and shows no signs of staggering his development.
ST: Cauley Woodrow 20 – Fulham
Front man Woodrow is an out and out striker and has the clinical final touch to get his team goals. He has smart movement in the final third and is able to lose his markers to create space for himself. He has good strength and also posses an aerial threat. Woodrow scored his first professional goal in a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace on the final day of last season and is certainly a striker to look out for.
What would be your Football League young XI?
By Callum Read – @