Top-level football is a logistical nightmare. Players are bought in from across the planet from the moment they hit their teenage years, leading to homegrown designations for stars from Mogadishu to Monterrey. And whilst scouting networks become ever more fragmented and diversified, perhaps there is a fantastic resource that the top clubs are missing out on – the lower leagues. So who’s next? Who could step up from the Football League?
In goal, the likes of Alex Smithies and Frankie Fielding are both young, gifted and capped by England Under 21’s and with the current death of top level English talent between the sticks, it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility for Capello to at least look at them train with the stars and see their development first hand. Fielding had eight different loan spells before getting sick of being fourth choice and dropping to the Championship at Derby. That decision might be a regrettable one for Rovers as Fielding is already proving he can keep clean sheets.
In front of the keeper, Premier League clubs could do a lot worse than to examine defenders like Crystal Palace full-back Nat Clyne. A speedster who offers an accurate crossing threat as well as solid defence, the 20 year old has already logged 94 appearances for his club and this year, featured in every game. Playing this season in the third tier, Brighton’s Tommy Elphick is only 23, yet has appeared for the Seagulls over 150 times. His step up to the Championship should be monitored by Premier League teams who need a ball playing and commanding centre back.
Moving further up the field, there are some real gems. The highly sought-after Alex Chamberlain is the standout prospect, but Swansea’s diminutive Joe Allen is worthy of contention. The West Wales born midfielder surprised many when making his debut at the Liberty, but quickly showed creativity and a first touch that simply removes any pressure from opposing players. While Allen probably wouldn’t be a box to box midfield general, he has shown he can fit into several different systems and would contribute in the Premiership.
Shrewsbury’s Jon Taylor is only 18 and is rumoured to be being watched by half the top flight. A previous winner of the Football Leagues’ Young Player of the Month award, Taylor dropped down from Wigan and made an immediate impact, scoring twice in his first start. The winger totalled six goals in 22 appearances and it remains to be seen whether he stays at Greenhous Meadow much longer.
Upfront, there’s an embarrassment of riches in the 72, with obvious names like Craig Mackail-Smith, Shane Long and Connor Wickham, but there’s also a few future stars that might get to the Premier promised land soon.
Charlie Austin is ascending the divisions, having just joined Burnley from Swindon. Aged 21, he netted 31 times in just over 54 appearances for the Robins. Austin was previously a bricklayer and it will be interesting to see how he develops a partnership with Jay Rodriguez, an intelligent young striker in his own right.
Norwich’s Cody MacDonald will probably be loaned next season, having spent the previous campaign at Gillingham. He hit 25 in Kent and showed that a six-month cameo at another team might be what he needs before the pacy frontman tries to get on the bench for the Canaries.
Danny Ings of Bournemouth is another excellent prospect. At 19, he’s shown himself to be capable of scoring clutch goals, bagging his eighth of the season in the epic playoff game against Huddersfield. A creative deep forward, his ability is unquestioned and has the potential to be developed by a bigger side.
Most of the Premier League chooses to import it’s playing staff, paying a premium for past ability, yet few have the foresight to invest in their own stars. The above is a small selection of the quality in the Football League. It should not be a retirement home for older pros, but a proving ground for hungry players who can use the division to audition for a big move to the top flight.
Read more of Hashim Piperdy’s articles at This is Futbol