They say the new generation don’t truly appreciate the magic of the FA Cup, but as the competition has waned in prestige and become an opportunity for English football’s biggest clubs to give their biggest talents the weekend off, it has in turn provided talented young players with precious opportunities to announce themselves to a wider audience.
This season’s FA Cup’s Third Round was once again filled with shock results, rotated teams and the odd giant-killing, but it perhaps now best serves English football as a breeding ground for young talents hoping to earn their own highlight on Match of the Day and subsequently catch someone’s eye – whether it’s their own manager’s or someone else’s.
With that in mind, Football FanCast take a look at the young talents who lit up the FA Cup’s Third Round…
It always felt like a game Huddersfield would approach with passive resistance, and it was a shot that Ben Hamer always should have saved at his near post. But that shouldn’t take anything away from Bristol City’s latest scalp of Premier League opposition, after beating Watford, Crystal Palace, Stoke City and Manchester United last season, or Josh Brownhill’s cute 72nd-minute winner.
The 23-year-old twisted his way into the box and then past a Terriers centre-back before slotting home with a powerful finish. Lee Johnson is solidifying a strong reputation for developing young players – Tammy Abraham and Joe Bryan’s improvements under his tutelage being the most recent examples – and Brownhill looks like another who could follow that trend.
Having made his Premier League debut at just 17 years of age, Aston Villa fans will have expected Andre Green to be a little further along in his development right now, rather than spending the season on loan at Portsmouth.
But with two winners in the last two rounds, the FA Cup is quickly proving to be a coming-of-age tournament for the strike prodigy, also further cementing this season as the most potent campaign of his career with five strikes in all competitions. Amid news of Tammy Abraham cutting short his loan spell in Birmingham, perhaps Green’s winner against Norwich on Saturday will tempt Dean Smith into recalling the young forward.
Marco Silva described Ademola Lookman as Everton’s ‘present and future’ at the start of the season, but the English winger has still found opportunities hard to come by. Nonetheless, when those opportunities have come, Lookman on the most-part has taken them – including against Lincoln on Saturday.
The former Charlton youngster was a relentless presence on the right-hand side in the opening stages and enjoyed just rewards after twelve minutes when he headed home an effort that had to be confirmed by goal-line technology. A delicious curler from outside the box later fizzed past the far post, although Lookman will be frustrated that he couldn’t add to his tally despite Everton’s utter dominance of their League Two opposition, finishing up with 75% possession.
In with a shout for the Player of the Round, Joe Willock only added to his reputation as potentially Arsenal’s most exciting young player with a first-half brace over Blackpool, reacting first to stab home a rebound after Aaron Ramsey’s free kick slapped the woodwork and then smartly queuing up at the back post as Eddie Nketiah flicked on Alex Iwobi’s driven cross.
Throw in two created chances of his own and four tackles, and it was an impressive all-round performance from the teenager – one that might well see him filling Ramsey’s void in midfield once the Welshman’s contract expires.
Pl>ymaker FC’s Thogden was at the crucial relegation 6-pointer between Bolton and Rotherham. Check out the video below…
If you could get over the commentators constantly mentioning his 19th birthday, there was much to like about Antoine Semenyo’s performance in Newport County’s giant-killing over Leicester City. It wasn’t crowned with a goal but the teenager on loan from Bristol City showed great energy and creativity in the opening stages, and then equally impressive positional discipline after Newport became increasingly focused on protecting their narrow lead.
With tricky feet, real vision and five goals on loan this season, Semenyo will no doubt have caught the eye of top flight clubs with his display against Premier League opposition. Remember the name.
A rite of passage that has always been a case of when rather than if. Phil Foden’s gradual ascension towards Manchester City’s next superstar took a firm step in the right direction on Sunday as Pep Guardiola’s side demolished Rotherham in a 7-0 win. Foden bagged City’s second goal just before half-time to inspire the biggest cheer of the afternoon at the Emirates Stadium, and the teenager will be hoping that earns him another start when City face Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
Very old by player standards, but very young by manager standards and although it’s still early days for Frank Lampard in the dugout, the current signs are certainly encouraging. Despite Derby County tightening the purse strings, the Chelsea legend has his Rams side in the playoff race and regularly getting the better of Premier League opposition.
After knocking Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup earlier this season and giving a strong account of themselves against Chelsea in the following round, Derby pushed a rotated but by no means inadequate Southampton team all the way on Saturday, coming back from two goals down to force a replay. If Lampard continues to mastermind impressive performances against top flight clubs, it won’t be long before one or two are inquiring for his services.
Thrown in at the deep end after Dejan Lovren’s injury, Ki-Jana Hoever didn’t exactly swim but didn’t exactly sink either – more trod incredibly treacherous Molineux waters as Liverpool succumbed to defeat at the hands of Wolves.
The teenage centre-back did his best to contain a talented and experienced centre-forward in Raul Jimenez upon his first-team debut, and while he didn’t quite succeed in that mission, he did show some flashes of brilliance – he drew raucous cheers from the away end when he won the ball back in the box, skipped past one defender, weaved his way between two more and set up a counter-attack with a pass out wide.
A long way to go before he’s playing regularly in the Premier League, but a promising inaugural outing for the Reds.