Revealed! EVERY Championship club's most exciting youth prospect
Ipswich: Andre Dozzell (Midfielder)
There’s very little like the excitement generated among a fan base when a young academy prospect breaks into the first-team squad. When he’s the son of a club stalwart and he scores on his debut, that excitement goes through the roof.
But that’s exactly what happened to Dozzell in April 2016. It seems almost unbelievable that he hasn’t played a dozen matches for Ipswich since then, but a torn cruciate ligament ruled him out for the majority of last season. Now, though, he’s fit again and looking to make up for lost time.
Dozzell is a naturally creative box-to-box midfielder with a cultured left foot, and will surely break into Paul Hurst’s midfield at Portman Road soon. From there, who knows?
Leeds: Jack Clarke (Forward)
At an increasingly Latin-influenced Leeds, it’s a young Yorkshireman who has set tongues wagging at Elland Road. Clarke has made rapid progress into Marcelo Bielsa’s first-team squad, and a debut against Brentford at the start of October was just reward for remarkable progress in the previous 12 months.
The striker has netted 15 goals across two age groups in his U17 season, often from his favoured position wide in attack. A crafty dribbler with a wicked shot, Clarke’s promise was there for all to see under Bielsa in pre-season, and he looks set to be next off the production line at Thorp Arch.
Middlesbrough: Nathan Wood-Gordon (Defender)
(Wood-Gordon, second from right)
Dean Gordon is best remembered for his 200 league appearances as a Crystal Palace player, but he served Middlesbrough for four seasons from 1998-2002, and has given them even more in the form of his son Nathan.
Wood-Gordon became the youngest player in Boro’s history when he made his debut in the League Cup in mid-August, aged just 16 years and 72 days.
In the eyes of those who had watched his development, however, it came as no surprise: Wood-Gordon is mature and physically ready to compete alongside adults; a natural centre-back who plays with authority and composure, but with the technical ability to push into midfield and control the tempo from further upfield.
Millwall: George Alexander (Forward)
Sticking with a certain theme, Gary Alexander scored 25 goals for Millwall over three seasons between 2007 and 2010, including one of the finest strikes Wembley has ever hosted in the 2009 League One Play-off Final.
If his son George can come close to emulating his achievements, he’ll be well on course for a similarly rewarding a career. Something of a throwback No.9, Alexander Jr. has made a promising start to emulating his old man, smashing 19 goals for the Lions’ U18s last season and weighing in with seven more already this term.
If he can keep that up, the Alexander name could remain a popular one at The Den for a long time to come.
Norwich: Max Aarons (Defender)
Thirteen different nationalities are represented in Daniel Farke’s diverse squad at Carrow Road, but it’s a London-born, homegrown youngster who has caught the eye most for Norwich this season.
Short in stature but big of heart, Aarons’ energetic outings at right-back have quickly thrust him into the spotlight for club and country. An England U19 call-up has followed, allowing him to slot in alongside his fellow 2000-born class that won the U17 World Cup last autumn.
Having played further forward earlier in his career, Aarons is as comfortable in attack as he is in defence – as he capably demonstrated by chipping in with his first senior goal against Cardiff in August.
Nottingham Forest: Arvin Appiah (Forward)
Such is the depth of quality at the Nigel Doughty Academy these days, this accolade could quite easily have gone to someone else. Matthew Bondswell was lured away to the Bundesliga and the prospect of first-team football at Leipzig, and honourable mentions go to Alex Mighten and Ryan Yates – players born almost five years apart but with undeniably bright futures.
Instead it’s England U18 international Appiah who stands out from the pack. A dynamic force anywhere on the left, he’s equally comfortable surging forwards with the ball from deep or arriving on cue to apply a finishing touch, but he’ll do everything with plenty of flair and confidence.
When Forest knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup last January, one of their proudest days in recent years, they did so with a team full of academy graduates coached by the criminally underrated Gary Brazil. They’d do well to remember that as they go forward under Aitor Karanka.
Preston: Connor Simpson (Forward)
With Josh Earl now an established presence at Deepdale, attentions turn to the next one for North End. Simpson’s signing from Hartlepool last January went somewhat under the radar, but it shouldn’t have: his 6ft 5in frame and ability to help a struggling Pools side in the National League as a 17-year-old quickly earned the attentions of Football League clubs.
Simpson returned to non-league last week with Hyde United on a short-term deal to continue his development. If he makes the progress expected of him, he’ll be in line for a lot more football at a much higher standard in 2019.
QPR: Aramide Oteh (Forward)
The Tottenham connection is strong at Loftus Road, thanks in no small part to technical director Chris Ramsey and director of football Les Ferdinand sharing a long history with N17. They’ve positioned themselves smartly to pick up some of the young players that haven’t quite made the grade at Hotspur Way over the past three years, and might have struck gold with Oteh.
Stuck as the third- or fourth-choice striker in his age group when awarded a scholarship, the Lewisham-born youngster headed west and hasn’t looked back since. Sixteen goals for Paul Hall’s U23 side last season got him noticed, and a goal away to Burton on his full debut for the first team came less than a year after cancelling his Spurs contract.
Steve McClaren’s first team have lacked goals this season and, with Oteh once again in prolific form at youth level, it might not be very long before they look his way again.