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5 Football League stars who might soon offer some Premier League value

Of the 43 incoming summer transfers completed by Premier League clubs up to this point, only eight have been players purchased from Football League clubs. At first, that doesn’t sound like too small a portion but take a moment to read through the list of names and you soon realise most are Championship players on a technicality – that technicality being relegation.

Nathan Redmond and Andros Townsend dropped out of the top flight last May, Matt Phillips and Leroy Fer the May before, with Fer already stationed at Swansea following a loan move last January, much like Maarten Stekelenburg who impressed as a stop-gap on loan at Southampton to earn himself a permanent move from parent club Fulham to Everton.

Of the 20 Premier League clubs, only Bournemouth are showing any sort of imagination with regards to lower-league recruitment, and their strategy of paying inflated fees (but offsetting that cost with modest salaries) is evidently a deliberate one. It sees them shopping alone, browsing the stalls at their leisure while others refuse to look beyond the price tag.

Lewis Cook is their latest capture. The 19-year-old central midfielder already has already amassed 85 senior appearances for Leeds

Lewis Cook is one of their latest captures. The 19-year-old central midfielder already has already amassed 85 senior appearances for Leeds United. He joins Callum Wilson, Benik Afobe, Josh King and Tyrone Mings on the list of ‘expensive gambles’ made by Eddie Howe, although in truth the Cherries' squad is almost entirely made up of players picked up from EFL backwaters.

A lack of Premier League experience certainly wasn’t a problem last season. The Dorset club had already racked up 38 points by mid-March, despite an horrific sequence of long-term injuries in September that saw Mings, Wilson and Max Gradel all sidelined for several months. In any other campaign, their stroll to survival on the back of such rotten luck would have been considered sensational but events further up the table reduced it to a footnote.

The Cherries are very much still flying the flag for Football League talent at Premier League level, proving that players of a certain age and profile have plenty to offer

Maybe the conditions at Dean Court are unique and there’s a collective spirit, fostered by Howe, that enables promising newcomers to flourish without their frame of mind being undermined, as might otherwise be the case in other dressing rooms where banter relating to track records establishes a distinct pecking order.

Either way, the early signs are intriguing. The Cherries are very much still flying the flag for Football League talent at Premier League level, proving that players of a certain age and profile have plenty to offer. If other clubs were willing to put their preconceptions to one side, here’s what else they might find…

1. George Thorne (Derby)

The 23-year-old holding midfielder was sorely missed in the play-offs last season, having suffered a double leg-break in a freak incident on the final day against Ipswich. Now two-thirds of the way through his recovery, he can re-establish himself as one of the Championship’s hottest properties before the January window.

At 6ft 2in, Thorne has a physical presence that enables him to muscle most attacking midfielders off the ball, but his range of passing is what sets him apart. His first instinct is to play forward and a bright future as a deep-lying playmaker awaits.

2. Charlie Taylor (Leeds)

Over time his sheer stamina and consistency have shone through

A modern full-back who likes to get forward and put crosses into the opposition box, Taylor’s quality wasn’t immediately apparent in a Leeds squad brimming with young talent, but over time his sheer stamina and consistency have shone through.

Sam Byram and Lewis Cook have been poster boys on the Elland Road wall but whispers from inside the club suggest that Taylor has always been the one player ready and mature enough to step into a Premier League lineup. An ongoing contract wrangle with Massimo Cellino & Co. could see him available on a free next summer.

Three more bright young things over on the next page... 

3. Sam Winnall (Barnsley)

Another player out of contract next summer, Winnall was an irresistible force in League One last term – albeit only after Lee Johnson had departed, allowing him to flourish in a settled 4-4-2 formation alongside Ashley Fletcher.

The 25-year-old finished the season with 23 goals, equalling his tally for Scunthorpe two seasons prior, and a similar haul at Championship level could trigger a scramble for his signature. Right now, the Tykes would probably be compelled to accept a bid in the region of £1 million – loose change to any Premier League club.

4. Daniel Johnson (Preston North End)

A Jamaica-born midfielder offloaded 18 months ago by Aston Villa for a paltry £50,000. Johnson is also a tidy schemer in the Jack Wilshere mould, and started out as a winger due to the threat posed by his pace on attacking transitions, but his ability on the ball has tempted Simon Grayson to move him inside where he can be more involved in build-up play.

Predominantly left-sided, an exemplary first touch means he is rarely dispossessed and he tends to thrive when playing off instinct in high-tempo exchanges, which points to Premier League potential. He also packs a wicked shot from distance.

5. Liam Sercombe (Oxford)

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Sercome is a tenacious box-to-box midfielder whose ability to control games in League Two was never in doubt, but his decision to leave hometown club Exeter after seven years last summer was necessary for him to shine among better players. 

Since joining the U’s, the 26-year-old appears to have perfected the art of timing runs into the opposition 18-yard box, enabling him to plunder 14 goals last term. If he can continue those exploits in League One, then the scouts should be flocking to the Kassam to witness a mature individual fast approaching his peak.

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