Analysis

EVERY Premier League club’s breakthrough star of 2019/20

Mason Greenwood Manchester United
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Manchester United – Mason Greenwood

Mason Greenwood

With Ole at the wheel, prospects for the teenage contingent at Old Trafford improved overnight. Greenwood’s cameo in Paris for United’s memorable Champions League comeback victory against PSG will live long in memory for the forward.

The 17-year-old enjoyed a hugely productive season, notching 42 goals and assists in just 29 appearances for United’s academy sides and prompting Solskjaer to beam in April: “Mason Greenwood, 17 years of age – yeah, you are for me. We want to give you a chance to become a top player at this club.” 

If the Norwegian is good to his word, 2019/20 could be a breakthrough year for the boy from Bradford.

Newcastle – Kelland Watts

Quite what to expect from Newcastle United in the coming months is anyone’s guess, and the chances of an academy hopeful making the grade in their first-team squad come some way down the list of immediate priorities. 

That said, an expectant fan base that loves little more than championing one of their own will encourage whatever combination of board and manager is in place at St. James’ Park to look within when planning for the future. It was the blossoming of Sean Longstaff under Rafa Benitez, after all, that really helped bring balance to the Magpies’ midfield as they pulled clear of relegation.

Watts spent the last month of the campaign on the fringes of Newcastle’s first team, but could break in this term with his tall and elegant left-footed play from the centre of defence (or even slightly further forward in midfield). So far it’s earned him easy admiration, and the hope is that he remains in the plans of whoever takes over.

Norwich – Patrick Roberts

Patrick Roberts

From the 2014 FA Youth Cup Final, the following have played in the Premier League: Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke-Salter, Moussa Dembele, Emerson Hyndman, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kasey Palmer, Patrick Roberts and Dominic Solanke.

Roberts actually made his debut for Fulham five weeks before the west London final, and followed that with 20 appearances for the relegated Cottagers in 2014/15 – but his path back to the top has been a maze ever since his 2015 move to Manchester City. 

Now, after loan spells in Scotland and Spain, the 22-year-old finally returns to the top flight at Norwich City. All parties will be desperate to remain there this time.  

Sheffield United – Tyler Smith

The Blades return to the Premier League for the first time since 2007, but they do so with a squad so experienced that 25-year-old Jack O’Connell is their youngest outfield player. To expect a young starlet breaking through at Bramall Lane as they (presumably) look to avoid relegation would be optimistic at best.

That isn’t to say they want for potential at the Steelphalt Academy; far from it, in fact. Tyler Smith’s consistent production in front of goal at youth level netted him a loan move to Barrow last summer, but with 11 goals in 24 appearances, he quickly moved up the pyramid and spent the second half of the season with League One play-off semi-finalists Doncaster. 

Still only 20, he was described as a “star in the making” by then-Rovers manager Grant McCann, and will be a Blade to watch on loan in 2019/20 as he forges a path back to Bramall Lane.

Southampton – Kayne Ramsay

Ralph Hasenhuttl was intent on blooding youngsters as soon as he arrived on the south coast in December. “I wanted to get to a club that is open-minded for new things, likes to work with young players and develop players,” he said – and the Austrian was true to his words in the second half of the season at St Mary’s.

Marcus Barnes, Tyreke Johnson, Michael Obafemi, Callum Slattery and Josh Sims all featured for the Saints, though Ramsay’s emergence as a defensive option may prove most useful in Southampton’s likely survival fight this term – particularly with Matt Targett having left for Aston Villa.

Tottenham – Oliver Skipp

Oliver Skipp

Coming in at No.25 of our 50 most exciting teenagers in English football list from February, 18-year-old Skipp will have been more than happy with his end to the season – he played in Premier League outings against Leicester, Huddersfield and Everton, taking his tally to a dozen Spurs appearances for 2018/19.

The likeable, combative midfielder will be wary of Tanguy Ndombele’s mooted arrival from Lyon, though he still has time on his side to keep learning under Mauricio Pochettino. What’s more, his familiarity to the team may just keep him in the picture throughout 2019/20.

Watford – Domingos Quina

The Hornets’ acquisition of Quina for just £1m a year ago was one of the best transfer deals of last summer. Sure enough, his 13 appearances for Javi Gracia’s side demonstrated both the faith invested in him and gifted 19-year-old’s exciting talent.

It won’t be easy for the Portugal U20 international to force his way into Gracia’s midfield permanently, but Vicarage Road remains the likeliest place for a Premier League breakthrough. The Guinea-Bissau-born teenager’s eye-catching style never fails to entertain fans in Hertfordshire.

West Ham – Ben Johnson

In 2017/18 it was Declan Rice. Last season it was Grady Diangana. The next one off the conveyor belt at the self-proclaimed Academy of Football could (and perhaps should) be Reece Oxford, but after a number of false starts and no shortage of mistakes from both player and club at every turn, his immediate future appears to lie away from the London Stadium. 

And so we turn our attention to full-back Johnson, who seems to have been on the verge of something much bigger for a while now and will hope that 2019/20 presents no false dawn. He was thrown in at the deep end for his Hammers debut in February, but held his own in a narrow defeat away to eventual champions Manchester City.

The former winger-turned-full-back – cousin of Ledley King, nephew of Paul Parker – boasts the athleticism and technical quality to make an impact at both ends of the pitch. With Pablo Zabaleta gearing up for his 18th season of professional football and Ryan Fredericks trying to carry his improving form into the new campaign, Johnson has his work cut out to make an immediate impression. 

Wolves – Max Kilman

Max Kilman

Wolves return to UEFA competition for the first time since 1980 this summer, and although that means their campaign gets underway several weeks before their Premier League rivals, it provides ample opportunity for the club’s youngsters to get their feet wet in the first team. 

In defender Kilman they have a former England futsal international who stepped up from Maidenhead United to the Premier League in less than a year – and his journey is only just beginning.

Already namechecked by Nuno Espirito Santo, the 22-year-old has the right profile to slot into Wolves’s back three and hold his own against some of the teams they might come up against in Europa League qualifiers. If he plays his cards right, that could lead to plenty more opportunities at Molineux this season.

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