Predicting The Next Breakout Star

Written by Andy Wood

Everyone these days seems obsessed with young talent. Even in an era of ludicrous transfer fees and worldwide scouting markets, the connection fans feel towards ‘one of their own’ remains unique amongst footballers. With every new batch of scholars, youth coaches will dream of a Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Mark Noble or Harry Kane to take hold of their potential and become an overnight hero or living legend. With more money than ever before being thrown at increasingly developed academy structures, and pressure growing on boosting the Premier League’s homegrown contingent, you should expect to see even more promising youngsters given the chance to prove themselves. Here are 7 players who, either this season or next, I feel will start to get noticed on the big stage.

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credit joshjdss

Reiss Nelson

Club: Arsenal

Age: 17

First Team Minutes: o

In his autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson questioned the notion that Arsenal had a strong history of bringing through youth team players. He suggested that their success was instead paying for promising starlets from other academies and then developing them into elite talent- a far easier task. Well, step forward Reiss Nelson. A quick, skillful forward player, Nelson has caught the eye at U-17 level for England having scored 9 goals in his last 10 matches. Although he isn’t the only young player of his profile at Arsenal (see Alex Iwobi, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Yassin Fortune) if he continues to work hard and impress he has just as much chance of a breakthrough as the rest of them.

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Fikayo Tomori

Club: Chelsea

Age: 18

First Team Minutes: 30

Having made his first team debut on the final day of last season, Tomori has already made great headway in his Chelsea career. Although Canadian born, he has represented England at U19 level and as things stand will see his future with the Three Lions. An excellent covering defender with strong athleticism, pace and a sharp reading of the game, he already looks a cut above his level in the Chelsea development squads, rewarded by being named the club’s Academy Player of the Year. Chelsea have, in recent years, developed a reputation for excessively loaning out youth players rather than blooding them into their own first team. With current first team centre backs Gary Cahill and John Terry not getting any younger, Fikayo Tomori could soon step in and assert his presence in the first team for years to come.

 

Liam Walsh

Club: Everton

Age: 18

First Team Minutes: 0

The reason why I am including Liam Walsh on this list is that I had the privilege of watching him for my hometown club Yeovil Town. He joined the club on loan at a difficult period, fighting against relegation from League 2. It’s a tough level and a tough situation for an 18 year old to come into but Walsh took to it like a duck to water. Not only did his technical ability stand out way above the average League 2 midfielder level, but at such a young age he provided drive and leadership at a crucial period. It’s a shame for him that Roberto Martinez, who was strongly committed to youth development at Everton, has now departed but he still has plenty of time to convince Ronald Koeman of his undoubted talents.

 

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Club: Liverpool

Age: 17

First Team Minutes: 0

Jurgen Klopp has made a point of using young players during the 2016 pre-season, and Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of those to make a big impression early on. It’s clear the club already think quite highly of him already, having given him the opportunity to captain the U-16s and U-18s sides and rewarding him with a professional contract last season. He offers a versatile option in the team, as he is equally comfortable at right back or as a central midfielder, which could work to his advantage going forward. Liverpool have yearned for an academy star since the departures of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, and the local lad will feel he’s up the top of the list to fill that gap.

 

Callum Gribbin

Club: Manchester United

Age: 17

First Team Minutes: 0

If you asked any fan to name a club famous for bringing through youth, it’s likely that Manchester United would be amongst the first names you heard. From the historic ‘Class of ‘92’ to the emergence of Marcus Rashford last campaign, the United academy has been a consistent source of emerging talent. One player who’ll be looking to make the step up next is attack minded midfield player Callum Gribbin. A highly touted local lad, Gribbin has caught the eye with his skillful style and dead ball ability. Many people are questioning whether youth will have the same opportunity at United now that Jose Mourinho has taken charge, but this play maker has the attributes to force his way through.

 

Marcus Edwards

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Age: 17

First Team Minutes: 0

Mauricio Pochettino, during his spells with Southampton and Tottenham, has developed a fine reputation for building his squads around young talent. So when he makes noise about an up and coming academy product, it’s worth taking notice. Marcus Edwards has made plenty of noise with his performances for England U-17s and the Spurs academy teams, and recently impressed in a friendly match against the illustrious Italian side Juventus. His pacy and energetic forward runs complement the high pressing style that Pochettino has implemented at Spurs, with the Argentine manager vowing to ‘care’ for the 17 year old prodigy. Expect to see him make a breakthrough sooner rather than later, if the success of Kane, Alli and Dier, amongst others, is anything to go by.

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Reece Burke

Club: West Ham

Age: 19

First Team Minutes: 415

Something of an easy choice to make, yet to some casual observers this youngster isn’t even the best known defender called Reece to play for West Ham. Reece Burke got a break in the Hammer’s first team toward the end of the 2014-15 season, playing in the last 5 Premier League matches and winning the club’s Young Player of the Year award. His stock continued to rise during the 2015-16 season in a loan spell at League 1 level with Bradford City, where he managed 34 league appearances and walked away with their Player of the Season award. Highly impressive for his age, with fellow youth graduate James Tomkins heading out for pastures new and first teamer James Collins ageing, Burke should be optimistic at joining a famous line of successful West Ham graduates.

Which of these players are the most likely to break through? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image by joshjdss