The Championship's Under-21 best XI: Leeds and Forest players included

Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Derby County players involved.

Although loan deals for Premier League youngsters seem to be the order of the day for Championship clubs, we take a look at what we believe to be the best starting line-up of players of 21 years of age or younger and analyse the impact they have made for their club this season. 

Under-21 Championship best XI: 

Jonathan Bond

Sam Byram, Jake Cooper, Farrend Rawson, Tyrone Mings

Ben Osborn, Will Hughes, Alex Mowatt

Nathan Redmond                                             Demarai Gray

Zach Clough


In goal and defence, the number of players coming through at Championship level is frighteningly low. Although the two full-backs - Sam Byram (Leeds) and Tyrone Mings (Ipswich Town) - almost pick themselves, the goalkeeper and two centre-backs were a much harder choice. 

Jonathan Bond (Watford), who has played only a handful of games for Watford this season, looks to be the pick of the bunch as he continued to keep the Hornets in the race for promotion in the absence of first choice goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

Farrend Rawson, who is on loan to Rotherham United from Derby County, had an outstanding Football League debut at the weekend and helped the Millers keep just their eighth clean sheet of the season by making 15 clearances in the game. Jake Cooper, a Reading academy product, has had a similarly impressive impact in the handful of appearances he has made. 

In central midfield, where the number of good candidates flourished, there were three names that came to the forefront: Ben Osborn (Nottingham Forest), Will Hughes (Derby) and Alex Mowatt (Leeds). 

England Under-21 midfielder Hughes has arguably been the Championship's Player of the Year this season and has continued to progress at an exponential rate under former England boss Steve McClaren. Mowatt, who broke through into the Leeds United team last season, has been outstanding during the course of the season and has played a major part in his side's upturn in results. While Osborn, who is enjoying his first proper run in the first team, has already earned cult hero status with Nottingham Forest fans after scoring the winning goal against local rivals Derby at the iPro Stadium. 

In attack, Nathan Redmond (Norwich City) and Demarai Gray (Birmingham City) take their places on the wings as Zach Clough (Bolton Wanderers) leads the line after an emphatic start to life in the Championship. 

Redmond, who has been instrumental in Norwich's rise up the table, has already proven himself in the Premier League and is now making second-tier football look easy. While Birmingham's Gray continues to win admirers with his performances this season despite a slump in form which is to be expected of younger players.

Clough, who has scored five goals in 507 minutes of Championship football, could well be the club's top goalscorer at the end of the season despite playing a relatively small amount of football. The 20-year-old has scored more than seasoned pros Craig Davies, Joe Mason and Adam Le Fondre and only has 10 more games left to keep up the pace and claim the prize.  

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