Being England’s second tier, the Championship is often littered with Britain’s next generation gaining some vital match experience.
Therefore, it’s only right we shine some of the limelight onto the young superstars that are taking the league by storm. To make my selections easier and less controversial, each prospect must satisfy the following three requirements: They are 21 or under, permanently contracted to a Championship side and they can’t have played any Premier League football.
While that rules out the likes of Aarons, Pedro and even Tyrese Campbell, it’s important to give credit to those without top tier game time, even if they are destined for that level. With that in mind, here are my ‘Top 5 Hottest Championship Prospects’.
Nathan Collins (Stoke City)
While Campbell’s cameo at Leicester in the Potters’ relegation season keeps him off this list, there’s no denying Collins a deserved seat at the table.
After being recruited in his early teens to Stoke, the likes of Manchester United & Arsenal have kept tabs on the talented, young Irishman. Stoke’s youngest ever matchday captain, he oozes a maturity not often seen in players his age. Add to this a lanky, 6’4” frame, with deceptive pace and the technical ability to play at full back and he’s perfect for the Premier League in the future. He suits the modern game so effortlessly that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starring on the European stage in a couple year’s time.
At 19, he’s already in contention to replace the legendary Ryan Shawcross as Stoke captain permanently. So, with maturity beyond his years and a well rounded physical and technical skillset, Collins is a shoe in for this list.
Michael Olise (Reading)
Released by Chelsea as a youngster, Olise is thriving as a product of the Royals academy with performances fit for a king.
The EFL young player of the month for December, Olise has the pace to operate effectively on the flanks, and the technical prowess to operate in attacking midfield. Chipping in with 4 goals and 9 assists this season, he’s been integral to Reading’s surprise playoff push. His outstanding creativity helps him split defences with ease, and at just 19 years old, he has the potential to establish himself on the French international scene in years to come.
Regardless of Reading’s end to the season, I’d be surprised to see Olise starting next season in the second tier as the Premier League beckons for a player of his ability.
Jason Knight (Derby County)
Like fellow Irishman Collins, Knight has also been handed the matchday armband at a very young age, testament to both player’s ability and maturity.
For all of Mel Morris’ downfalls as Derby owner, the stark improvements he made to the club’s academy will see the Rams benefit for years to come. Knight is just one of many impressive Derby youngsters in the last couple of seasons, but the Irishman could prove to be the cream of the crop. He has an impressive footballing IQ, reflected in his impeccable transitional awareness when defending the counter attack. While his passing range could be deemed as limited, he makes up for it with a dogged, ball-winning presence when defending.
Lowe and Bogle last summer were poached by the Premier League, and should Knight continue in a similar vein he could be next to make the step up.
Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford)
Often outshined by his teammates, Mbeumo is sneakily yet another Premier League ready attacker off Brentford’s conveyor belt.
Like Olise, fellow Frenchman Mbeumo has a similarly impressive four goals and nine assists, following 15 goals & 8 assists this season. In Benrahma & Watkins absence, he’s developed well into more of a creative force to compliment new attacking partner, the prolific Toney. With this, he’s shown an encouraging adaptability to his game as a capable finisher with a clear eye for a pass. Such a versatile skillset has seen him employed across the front three this year, thriving in each and every position.
With or without the Bees, Mbeumo should be playing top tier football next season, and we’ll likely see his replacement on this list in years to come.
Ben Cabango (Swansea City)
As part of the Championship’s best defence, Cabango has stepped up after the departure of Joe Roden to force himself into this list.
The Swans’ superb academy has been vital to side’s success since dropping to the second tier, so Roden’s exit to Spurs paved way for Cabango to play a more pivotal part in that aforementioned success this season. A tough tackler who shows real intelligence as part of Cooper’s possession based system, knowing when to build from the back or safely clear his lines. He’s also chipped in with an impressive four goals in the league, helping contribute to Swansea punching well above their weight in xG.
Cooper’s tenure in charge of the England Under 17’s sets Cabango in good stead to go from strength to strength, and expect Cabango to become a face of Welsh football at the club & international level.
So, there you have it, there’s my top 5 hottest Championship prospects. Am I going in the wrong direction leaving Styles out? Will the comments be ‘Ram’med with support for Buchanan? In a league with such a plethora of youthful talent, it was tough to narrow the selection down to just the five youngsters. With that in mind, who would you choose?
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or tweeting us @FanHub_football.