There has been a lot of criticism aimed at Premier League clubs regarding their youth systems and implementing young players into first team squads.
Although the likes of Aston Villa, Southampton and Manchester United have injected young English talent into their teams, more Premier League clubs need to follow suit. The problem lies at the top of the table, with bigger clubs opting to search for talent overseas due to the financial power they possess.
As a result of big spending in the top flight, the implementation of youth prospects is becoming more and more difficult by the minute. Not only does this present the Premier League in a bad light, the international stage will suffer as a result, something that has been all too clear in the last decade or so.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though. There are still young, talented home-grown players looking to play Premier League football this season. Here are five young hopefuls who can burst onto the Premier League scene in 2014/15.
The Chelsea youngster recently appeared for Jose Mourinho’s first team in their Champions League group match against Sporting Lisbon. The 18-year-old midfielder possesses good composure and acceleration with the ball. Although Loftus-Cheek only played seven minutes in the game, it looked like the academy prodigy had bags of talent.
He has already attracted interest from clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United. However, it remains to be seen how much football the young Englishman will play this year. Mourinho unveiled him to the media after the game against Sporting to remind the press that an academy does actually exist at Chelsea, with Ryan Bertrand the only academy prospect to recently feature for Chelsea prior to Loftus-Cheek’s introduction. With the January transfer window approaching, the decision to allow Loftus-Cheek to leave on loan in search for regular first-team football would allow him to develop further.
He’s been part of Aston Villa’s set-up since he was just six years old and is a Villa fan for life, if there’s any youth player the Villa Park faithful want to see break into the first eleven, it’s Jack Grealish. The winger is blessed with lightning pace and excellent dribbling skills and has featured regularly for Paul Lambert’s side this season. He is often used as a substitute to inject more pace and energy into the side.
Grealish has always carried bags of promise and his loan to League One side Notts County last season was a successful one. The 19-year-old scored five goals and set up seven in his 38 appearances for the club, earning himself an attempt at Premier League football this season.
Although it’s still early days, Grealish looks like he could be another academy success for the midlands club.
Southampton’s current ‘Scholar of the Year’ is set to be another academy success story for the south-coast club after breaking into the first team this season. He came on against Manchester United and Koeman was so impressed that he gave Hesketh a starting spot against Burnley.
Unfortunately for the 18-year-old, he had to come off in the first half after being on the end of a strong Michael Keane tackle.
Despite the young Englishman’s unfortunate start to his Premier League career, Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was quick to praise his abilities, ‘He is used to playing between the lines, he’s fast, he’s left, right-footed and a player with a future’. Usually operating in the number ten role, Hesketh is already drawing similarities to former Southampton star Adam Lallana.
If his injury is not too serious, Hesketh could be playing regularly for Southampton this season due to the Saints’ injury crisis in midfield. Whatever happens this term, it looks as if Southampton have produced yet more young talent from their excellent academy.
Liverpool’s wiki-page describes Rossiter as ‘an aggressive, tough-tackling but forward-thinking midfielder, notable for a good passing ability.’
Remind you of anyone? Yes, Jordan Rossiter has already been dubbed as Steven Gerrard’s long-term replacement. Although it is a huge ask for anyone, let alone a 17-year-old academy prospect, Rossiter has shown similar abilities to the legendary Steven Gerrard.
He was scouted by Liverpool when he was just six years old, showcasing his footballing skills in a PE lesson. Now, Rossiter is looking to break into Liverpool’s first team. His senior debut came against Championship side Middlesbrough in a third round tie in the League Cup.
He scored with an excellent strike from about 30-yards, becoming Liverpool’s second youngest goalscorer ever behind Michael Owen. Even though Rossiter’s Liverpool career has started with immense promise, he is still only 17-years-old and hasn’t been playing regular football at senior level. However, if Rodgers has a bit more faith in his youth prospects this season, Liverpool fans could be seeing a lot more of Rossiter in the future.
Reece Burke is a 6’2, 18-year-old centre back who is looking to break into the first team at West Ham United. After an encouraging pre-season, Burke was handed his first senior start against Sheffield United in the second round of the League Cup. The young Englishman produced an incredibly mature display and looked confident alongside first team regular Winston Reid. He provided an assist for Diafra Sakho in that game, capping off an impressive debut.
Burke has attracted the interest of clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in the past but he chose to commit to West Ham after signing his first pro contract with the club in October. West Ham have experienced a bit of a drought regarding academy prospects in recent years, with James Tomkins the most recent graduate to break into the first team.
However, Burke certainly carries a lot of promise and will almost certainly get more first team opportunities in the near future.