Five exciting Championship prospects not called Wilfried Zaha

Ewood Park

Talents from Blackburn Rovers, Charlton Athletic, Hull City, Burnley and Blackpool feature...

With all the hype surrounding Crystal Palace’s latest wonder kid, and an almost inevitable transfer to the Premier League fast approaching, we consider five other players currently making waves in the Championship who seem destined for the top.

Jordan Rhodes – Blackburn Rovers

Too obvious? Probably. But the 22-year-old Scottish striker just can’t be ignored. Many scoffed at the £8million Blackburn paid for him in the summer, but that was off the back of a season when he scored an astonishing 40 goals in 45 games for Huddersfield.

And just as sceptics were calling him a League One striker who would struggle at a higher level, he scored two in two for the Terriers before beginning his Rovers career with nine in his first 14 appearances. Statistics often lie. But with Rhodes they tell a remarkable truth.

A natural goal scorer at both club and international level, he may just be one for your dream team in a year or two.

Chris Solly – Charlton Athletic

The least likely name on this list, Solly is a quick and direct right-back who has excelled since making his debut for the Addicks in 2009.

Now 21, he first established himself in the team as a replacement for the Arsenal-bound Carl Jenkinson, and his consistent performances led to him winning both the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards last season.

He was also on the long-list for Stuart Pearce’s Olympic team. Although considering its reported length, I’m pretty sure I was, too. Following reported interest from West Ham this summer, another good season could see Solly following Jenkinson into the Premier League.

Charlie Austin – Burnley

Given his remarkable eye for goal, it seems absurd that Austin only signed his first professional contract in 2009. Released by Reading’s youth team reportedly for being too small, he played for the kind of teams most of us only hear about on the weekend of the FA Cup’s first qualifying round.

But after 48 goals in 42 appearances for Poole Town, he signed for Swindon, scoring a hat trick in his reserve team debut. Much like Jordan Rhodes, Austin’s story is told best through statistics.

After 31 goals for Swindon he joined Burnley and became the fastest player in their history to reach 20 goals in a season. Currently top scorer in the Championship, Austin may be the brightest star on this list.

James Chester – Hull City

Most young players who leave Manchester United ultimately vindicate Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision by the trajectory of their career. But some prove to be mistakes. Even if those “mistakes” were made reluctantly.

Because Chester was rated highly by Ferguson, just not highly enough to find a role among such a talented roster of centre backs. So for only £300,000, he was sold to Hull, and has excelled ever since.

I see glimpses of Ryan Shawcross, both in the situation surrounding the transfer and in the player; a goal-scoring, no-nonsense defender with years to improve.

Tom Ince – Blackpool

Sons of great players often fail to live up to their name. But Ince won’t. In fact he has everything necessary to match, and possibly surpass, the achievements of his father.

The careers of too many young players suffer because of impatience. But Ince has played the smart game, moving from a big club rather than the other way round. And it says everything about his talent that Liverpool, the club he left for Blackpool, now reportedly want him back.

An attacking midfielder-cum-winger, Ince both scores and creates goals. And if he’s anything like his father, he has the smarts to go with it.

Who is the best of the five? And who else should be on this list? Let us know your opinions...

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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