The standard of the Football League’s Championship has improved in quality over the last decade for a number of reasons like big teams making the drop with Premier League quality players (Newcastle and West Ham) and the parachute payments for relegated teams allowing them to keep their best players or sign new ones. Also the quality has been helped by a number of Premier League teams scrapping their reserve teams which has seen an increase in players loaned to English football’s 2nd tier.
This season has been one of the most widely competitive with a number of strong teams all pushing for promotion. The league has also seen some surprising loan signings with the likes of Craig Bellamy and Yakubu dropping down a division to play regular first team football, something which wouldn’t have been considered in the past. But for the lesser profile players, who stands out with the potential to make an impact in the Premier League next season? Either through promotion with their current club or a summer transfer the following players have a huge chance of making it in the Premier League.
Max Gradel (Leeds United) – The Ivorian attacker keeps improving every season and has a strong chance of making it as a Premier League player. A product of Leicester City’s youth academy, Gradel played a part in the Foxes promotion season from League One two seasons ago but couldn’t get a regular place in the team in the higher division. He was loaned out to Leeds United on a month’s loan and his impressive displays earned him a permanent move. He went on to achieve promotion with the Yorkshire club. This season Gradel has fitted into the Championship along with the rest of his Leeds team mates who have an outside chance of promotion this season. His performances this season has earned special praise from manager Simon Grayson whilst also attracting rumours of Premier League clubs said to be interested in the 23-year-old. He has a versatile game that can see him on the wing or up front which has been a favourable position this season with 14 goals to his name so far.
Connor Wickham (Ipswich Town) – Reportedly a £15 million price tag is on the head of the Tractor Boys’ young striker but fans would tell you that it’s not without reason as the 17-year-old has made a big impact in the Championship already. Despite his age, he’s already physically developed at 6ft 3in and 14 stone which has played a huge part in be able to handle life up front, especially during the current season with 6 goals in 16 appearances to his name so far. The teenage star that’s been compared to Wayne Rooney, is said to be a target of North London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. But Ipswich manager Paul Jewell and their fans will hope to keep the player at the club if they are to improve their league positions but a player with such high potential is sure to be in the Premier League sooner rather than later.
Akos Buzsaky (Queens Park Rangers) – Whilst team mate Adel Taarabt has received untold praise for his performances throughout the season, there is also another player at Loftus Road who would not look out of place in the top division. The Hungarian midfielder who was once at FC Porto with Jose Mourinho first came to England with Ian Holloway at Plymouth Argyle before making the move to QPR. Since then the 28-year old hasn’t looked back with solid performances having the skill to beat players, create chances and also score the odd free-kick. Due to a bad knee injury, Buszaky has missed most of Rangers’ season until recently making a return to action. With the R’s close to promotion, Buszaky will be a key player if they are to be playing Premier League football next season.
Scott Sinclair (Swansea City) – The former Chelsea player could make a return to the Premier League if the Swans are to achieve promotion this season. With several loan moves since his time at Stamford Bridge, Sinclair finally settled at City which has looked to have been the best move for his career and the club. The winger has scored 16 goals already this season for the club in 34 appearances and although the 21 year old didn’t make it at Chelsea, there is no doubt that he is now finally delivering on his high potential.
Andy King (Leicester City) – Another player formally on Chelsea’s books, the Foxes midfielder has made great progress over the last few seasons as a first team regular at only 22 years old. He played a key role in their promotion season from League One and hasn’t looked out of place in the Championship. City still have a chance of promotion this season and under the leadership of experienced manager Sven Goran-Eriksson, King can only get even better. He has also got 7 caps for Wales and is a part of a number of high potential players breaking into the Welsh squad.
Honourable mentions: Peter Whittingham & Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff City), Kasper Schmeichel & Robert Snodgrass (Leeds United), Ashley Williams (Swansea City), Nicky Maynard (Bristol City), Radoslaw Majewski (Nottingham Forest), Henri Lansbury (Norwich City/Arsenal), Chris Eagles (Burnley).
List compiled by Matt Freebody