1. Dan Bentley (Brentford)
When he’s not saving shots, he’s saving lives. Bentley was hailed a hero in June after he pulled a drowning holidaymaker out of a swimming pool in Thailand, capping a fine 12 months since his move to Griffin Park.
The former Southend keeper made a comfortable transition from League One to the Championship last season, adding a greater range of distribution to his game and growing in stature to become a firm fans’ favourite.
It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t take to the Premier League in a similar fashion. He’s still only 23 and has already played over 200 professional games, steadily improving year on year.
2. Joe Bryan (Bristol City)
The son of a heart surgeon, this mature 23-year-old isn't short of level-headed perspective, believing the pressure in football is nothing compared to being counted upon to save people's lives every day. Indeed, it was Bryan’s dad who performed surgery on former Bristol City boss Gary Johnson last March.
There’s not much of him at 5ft 7in, but he has earned the nickname 'Springbok' for his giant leap, which he worked on when doing intensive gym work on the recovery trail from a broken leg in his academy days. Left-sided but comfortable on either foot, he can operate as either a full-back or wing-back.
3. Sam Hutchinson (Sheffield Wednesday)
The former Chelsea academy product went through a lot as a youngster and even retired in 2010 due to a recurring knee problem, which then led to depression and a spell at the Priory.
Now 27, those days are long behind him and his full-blooded combative style in the middle of the park is a throwback to a bygone era. Now approaching his fifth season at Sheffield Wednesday, he has increased his number of appearances year on year, but any potential suitors would have to pull out all the stops - Hutchinson has expressed a desire to see out the remainder of his career with the Owls.
4. Tom Cairney (Fulham)
Cairney was coasting along through a fairly ordinary career until manager Slavisa Jokanovic rocked up at Craven Cottage and unlocked his potential, as Fulham shifted from a functional approach to a fluid passing game last season. The former Blackburn man was the key component, coming in from the right flank to operate as a No.10, where his marvellous technique and bravery of passing really caught the eye.
Now a Scotland international, Cairney signed a one-year contract extension in June but that has merely been viewed as an attempt to ramp up the price if a serious bidder comes to the table.
5. Jota (Brentford)
The 26-year-old Spanish winger returned to Griffin Park in sensational form last season, having spent the whole of 2016 on loan at Eibar due to personal reasons (now resolved). In just 19 starts, he chalked up 12 goals and five assists, as the Bees sprung into life and surged up the table, hitting the net once every 45 minutes compared to once every 68 minutes when he wasn’t on the pitch.
Jota’s eye for goal is hardly a new phenomenon. He’s reached double figures in four of the past seven seasons, while he was either sidelined by injury or a frustrated substitute for much of the other three.
6. Jacob Murphy (Norwich)
No fewer than four different Premier League clubs are reported to be hot on the tail of the 21-year-old winger, who was on duty with the England Under 21s at this summer’s European Championship. Most recently, Newcastle have apparently had an £8m bid rejected.
The standout performer of the Murphy twins to date, Jacob scored 10 goals in all competitions last season and the Canaries are said to be demanding a hefty fee, with four years remaining on his contract. Mind you, his brother Josh is also at Norwich and is very similar in terms of raw attributes. The club could be tempted to sell if they believe he will serve them well enough as a ready-made replacement.
7. Britt Assombalonga (Nottingham Forest)
It’s a knocking bet that the Congo-born striker will be heading for pastures new this summer, with Forest keen to play their cards right and trigger a bidding war between several interested parties.
The big question is whether Assombalonga takes guaranteed football as the main man at Championship level or backs himself to seize one of fewer opportunities in the top flight. Right now, Watford, Burnley and Middlesbrough are all said to be interested in his signature.
Nobody would begrudge the 24-year-old whatever he decides after losing 14 months of his career to a serious knee injury sustained in February 2015. The 14 goals he netted in 20 starts last term erased any lingering concerns about his long-term prospects.
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