As a new Championship season approaches, one thing is for sure, young ripe English talent will once again be at the forefront of everything that makes the division so special, but who can we expect to shine the most? The five players expected to make the biggest impact next season are assessed here. How important are they to their team?
Will Hughes – Derby County
Last season’s Championship Young Player of the Year is one of the more respected footballers in the division, regardless of his young age. At just 19, the talented midfielder is just 21 Championship appearances shy off the magic 100 for Derby; 41 of those appearances coming last year as the Rams finished third.
The upcoming campaign promises to be a big one for the young central midfielder and he could be asked to play a slightly different role under Steve McClaren, this time as a defensive midfielder in the place of the injured George Thorne. Despite his slight stature, the 19-year-old is more than capable of holding his own defensively which was proven last season when he made more successful tackles than anybody else in the Derby County team.
After what some have lauded a man of the match performance against Rangers in that position, he will certainly be the man in the key role when Saturday comes and the Rams kick off their Championship campaign at home to Rotherham.
With already a Chelsea appearance to his name, the signing of John Swift by Rotherham proved to be one of those that turned heads throughout the division due to his excellent reputation for both club and country.
Last season, the talented 19-year-old proved to be one of Chelsea’s top young players and if not for the excellence of midfield partner Lewis Baker, the Portsmouth-born starlet would have been a shoe in for the club’s Young Player of the Season award. Nevertheless, the performances put in by the youngster didn’t pass the Chelsea hierarchy by and he capped a wonderful season off with a full first team appearance against Cardiff City.
Swift, who will remain a teenager throughout the campaign, will be one to watch as he looks to spearhead a promising Rotherham side to Championship consolidation at least.
Nathan Redmond – Norwich City
Nathan Redmond, who has remained at Carrow Road despite their relegation, will spend the next season under the microscope after proving himself more than capable at Premier League level. Like Will Hughes, the former Birmingham City player is already experienced in the Championship and the knowledge of what to expect is likely to stand him in good stead for when the season hits its inevitable twists and turns.
Norwich, who will be expecting to bounce back at the first attempt, will be hoping that Redmond can be the man to produce the goods next season and be the talisman of their promotion push.
Jamaal Lascelles – Nottingham Forest
The young Nottingham Forest centre back, after a successful breakthrough season, will be another player under the media spotlight next season as he looks to build on his fast growing reputation as one of the country’s top young defenders.
Last season, the 20-year-old made 27 Championship appearances for the Reds after being handed a chance of a first team spot in light of an injury to their big summer signing Kelvin Wilson. After just a handful of games alongside the more experienced Jack Hobbs, it was plain to see that the two defenders formed a formidable partnership at the heart of the Nottingham Forest defence. Unfortunately, an injury to Jack Hobbs saw their partnership put on hold and the youngster struggled to strike up a similar chemistry with the more experienced replacement in Danny Collins.
Next season, the 20-year-old defender will have to be at the very top of his game to get first team football at the City Ground as new manager Stuart Pearce made strengthening the central defensive positions a priority. Nevertheless, as proven by rejecting a bid for the youngster, Lascelles still remains at the forefront of Pearce’s plans for next season despite the likes of Wilson, Hobbs, Mancienne and Collins amongst others vying for first team football.
Sam Byram – Leeds United
Former Leeds United Player of the Year Sam Byram has been voiced as a possible key figure to the ‘Cellino revolution’ by supporters and the youngster’s performances pre-season have only gone on to aid that opinion further.
Last season, the 20-year-old right back was forever plagued by injury and he struggled to come close to the standard he had set the year before. Nevertheless, despite playing through the pain at times, the talented academy product managed to claim 25 league appearances, either through playing from the start or coming off the bench.
Next season, which is already shaping up to be a big one for Leeds United, is set-up for Byram to once again prove himself as one of the division’s top young players. Which, if he keeps himself fit, he knows he can do.