Top Five: Prolific goalscorers to rock-solid centre-backs, which second tier stars are too good for the Championship

Dwight Gayle celebrates after he scored Newcastle United's first goal

With the January transfer window rolling around, will any of these Premier League regulars in-waiting make the step-up?

Dwight Gayle celebrates after he scored Newcastle United's first goal

With the help of bloated resources and intelligent scouting, the distinction between the top flight and the second tier is blurring on season. So much so, that lower league veterans or unproven talents such as Jamie Vardy, Troy Deeney, Rickie Lambert, Riyad Mahrez and Jose Fonte have adapted to an increasingly hazardous terrain with relative ease.

But who amid the current crop can follow in their footsteps?

Dwight Gayle

Picking one Newcastle United player for individual acclaim is like choosing your favourite Tarantino movie – individually, they’re brilliant but together; unrivalled. While Jonjo Shelvey, Dwight Gayle, Aleksandar Mitrovic and co can consider themselves unfortunate to be travelling to Burton and Rotherham rather than Arsenal and Chelsea, Gayle’s goal-a-game record is the major factor behind Newcastle’s comfortable lead at the top of the second tier.

His match-winning brace at Elland Road on Sunday were his 12th and 13th goals of the season, putting him on track to smash the Glenn Murray’s Championship record of 30 from 2012/13.

Anthony Knockaert

Is there a more exciting player outside of the top flight than Brighton’s box of tricks? Only Yanic Wildschut of Wigan averages more dribbles per game than Knockaert, a quick footed wideman with the nose for a pass and the eye for the spectacular.

Anthony Knockaert of Brighton and Hove Albion celebrates after scoring their first goal

While he’s yet to register an assist in 16 Championship starts, his six strikes make him the joint top-scoring midfielder in the Championship. Whether as part of Brighton’s promotion party or as an astute buy for a top flight club, Knockaert’s inevitable ascent will be well deserved.

Robbie Brady

Though recent results may not back up the theory, Norwich could perhaps lay claim to owning the league’s finest squad behind runaway leaders Newcastle. With Martin Olsson, Alex Pritchard, Steven Naismith and Wes Hoolahan to pick from, their dismal run of four straight defeats appears all the more baffling.

So too is the substandard form of Robbie Brady, a player who performed with such admirable distinction in the Premier League last season that is was achievement in itself that Norwich managed to keep him at Carrow Road. He may only have scored two and created one this season, but Brady’s cracking drive against Wolves demonstrated top flight class and, if Alex Neil can’t turn the Canaries around, Brady will surely be back in the top tier sooner rather than later.

Norwich's Robbie Brady celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates

Fernando Forestieri

After setting the bar remarkably high last season, it was always going to be difficult for Sheffield Wednesday’s Rosario-born enganche to repeat the trick this time around. His 15 goals and 6 assists inspired The Owls to the play-off final but, just a few short months later, his stock plummeted at Hillsborough after he refused to play in the early stages of the current campaign amid reported interest from Derby and Newcastle.

Therefore, the former Watford playmaker has a lot to do to win back the trust of each and every Hillsborough hopeful, though dazzling displays like Saturday’s against Fulham aren’t a bad way to start.

Pontus Jansson

Rajiv van La Parra of Huddersfield Town in action with Pontus Jansson of Leeds United

Such is Swede’s admiration of the famously vociferous Leeds fanbase, he and his magic hat could be staying at Elland Road for the foreseeable future, regardless of reported interest from Watford. And, in an era where top class, old school defenders are increasingly few and far between, someone in the Leeds’ scouting department deserves a hearty pat on the back for uncovering this particular diamond gathering dust on the bench at Torino.

A tough, towering centre-half, Jansson’s formidable performances alongside Kyle Bartley have drawn comparisons with legendary skipper Lucas Radebe.

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