This week Aston Villa, Derby, Leeds and West Brom all do battle to determine who enjoys a memorable day at Wembley and gain access to the Premier League’s executive washroom.
Only one can ultimately make it of course, courtesy of the Play-Offs, which means not only will three sides who have contributed significantly to an enthralling Championship season miss out but also too several of their brightest young stars will face another campaign away from the spotlights.
Football Fancast picks out three brilliant talents who deserve top flight football under those spotlights next August whether it’s with their present employer or elsewhere.
The nimble-footed 23-year-old may have Villa in his bones but surely must be preparing for an emotional departure this summer should Dean Smith’s side fail to cap an impressive season with promotion.
Having played his way through a prolonged decline in form Grealish’s development has taken a quantum leap forward in 2018/19, gaining the captain’s armband and becoming an inspirational figure at Villa Park; a go-to player for creativity and drive. The extent of which is hugely impressive as noted by Sky Sports recently who pointed out that the Villans win ratio dropped from 54.8% to 20% when the midfielder was absent while his six goals and six assists have been crucial.
He is far too good for the second tier. It’s as simple as that.
The York-born winger may have only played a cameo role in Leeds’ soap operatic season but there is a straightforward reason for that – he is still only 18, callow and learning all the time,
That takes nothing away from the impact he has made however in his 22 Championship appearances, 21 of which have come from the bench. His care-free, ambitious wing-play has lit up Elland Road, displaying devilish footwork and balanced movement while his gleeful propensity to take on defenders presumably has those who can recall the days of Waddle and Barnes regarding him as ‘a breath of fresh air’.
So highly is the teen rated that in January TalkSport reported that he is being tracked by both Tottenham and Manchester City though this week former Leeds star Danny Mills espoused caution on behalf of the player saying: “I think Jack Clarke should stay. When I look at players who have left Leeds United too early in the past, it’s very, very difficult not to.”
Should those words be heeded let us hope that Bielsa’s side go up so we can all better enjoy the lad’s unquestionable ability.
With his successful season-long loan spell at Pride Park set to end this summer the 22-year-old right winger arrives at an important crossroads in his career. Does he return to his parent club Liverpool? Does he move on? Does he accept another temporary stint elsewhere in a bid to prove he has what it takes to excel at the highest level?
We can safely rule out the last option as Wilson has undoubtedly now shown he has the attacking chops to flourish in the Premier League. A weighty 17 goals and three assists in the Championship will have plenty of potential suitors knocking on Anfield’s front door and perhaps a move is the best decision as there is a risk of regressing should he go back there. As Noel Whelan suggested recently the Welsh flyer will struggle to get game-time ahead of Firmino, Salah and Mane yet he is clearly ready to make his mark at the top. A transfer then it is, only to where?