Revealed! EVERY Championship club's most exciting youth prospect
Reading: Danny Loader (Forward)
One of England’s U17 World Cup-winning heroes a year ago next week, Loader announced himself to Royals fans three months before everyone else when he scored four goals in a pre-season friendly against QPR.
A competitive debut arrived soon after, still at the tender age of 16, and although he hasn’t stepped foot on the pitch for the first team since, his early-season form for Scott Marshall’s Under-23s has offered a timely reminder of that talent bubbling under the surface.
Broad-shouldered and quick off the mark, Loader is comfortable leading the line or operating in a slightly withdrawn role, where he can combine his creative flair with his clinical nature in front of goal.
Rotherham: Tyrone Lewthwaite (Forward)
Watford’s loss could turn out to be Rotherham’s gain – the Northern Ireland youth international continues to catch the eye up in Yorkshire. Released by the Hornets as a schoolboy, Rotherham took a chance on his potential and have been rewarded.
Lewthwaite, blessed with athleticism and an eye for goal, netted a hat-trick for his country’s U19s, and Rotherham academy staff believe he’s central to their hopes of increasing the academy output at the New York Stadium in years to come.
Sheffield United: Tyler Smith (Forward)
There aren’t many players playing EPPP football who have scored as many goals as Smith in the past two years. Forty for the Blades at U18 and U23 level indicated that this summer was the right time for him to take his next step, so he penned a one-year loan agreement with National League side Barrow.
England’s fifth tier can be a tough place for anyone, let alone a teenager taking his first steps in the senior game, but he’s acquitted himself well with six goals in 16 appearances so far, helping a team that avoided relegation by just a point last season to a confident mid-table spot.
Smith is a typically modern forward with power and technical ability in equal measure, and is on the right track.
Sheffield Wednesday: Matt Penney (Defender/Midfielder)
The Owls have been one of the very best teams at Category Two level over the past five years, and the fruits of their academy labours have increasingly been reaped at Hillsborough in the Jos Luhukay era.
Penney’s recent breakthrough is the latest example of that: the Chesterfield-born youngster has quickly become a fan favourite. He’s at home anywhere on the left side of the pitch, having moved smoothly between full-back and midfield roles.
Confident in his technique and ability, and even an occasional goal threat – particularly from set-pieces – Penney will surely add that to his game as he grows into his new role as an Owls first-teamer.
Stoke: Tyrese Campbell (Forward)
A Monday hat-trick against Peterborough’s U23s in the Premier League Cup was the perfect way for Campbell to send a message to Stoke manager Gary Rowett in his quest for Championship playing time.
He was bold enough to turn down the offer of a scholarship at Manchester City as a 16-year-old to improve his individual pathway, and the goals have flowed ever since his switch to Stoke. Sadly for him, first-team minutes haven’t quite followed as expected.
Like his former Arsenal and Everton father Kevin, Campbell offers a terrific physical presence and is ready to help the Potters try to bounce back from Premier League relegation at the first attempt, but Rowett remains unconvinced. If it’s not going to be at the bet365 Stadium, it might well be somewhere else – he’s a youngster keen to get on with his career.
Swansea: Joe Rodon (Defender)
Swansea treated the end of their seven-year stay in the Premier League as a chance to reboot the club. Out went Carlos Carvalhal and several expensive squad players, and in came Graham Potter, who was willing to dip into a successful academy setup.
At the heart of that, and now at the heart of the Swans’ defence, is 20-year-old defender Rodon. A dozen games on loan at Cheltenham last season helped prepare him for the step up, and he couldn’t have looked more comfortable in Potter’s new-look team at the Liberty Stadium.
Rodon is a natural leader who has spent his entire career at the club; assured in possession and keen to take on responsibility despite his tender years. A first Wales call-up arrived last week; it won’t be the last.
West Brom: Morgan Rogers (Forward)
West Brom’s striker factory has produced some big names in recent years. Saido Berahino, Chris Wood, Jerome Sinclair, Izzy Brown, Kemar Roofe and Jonathan Leko have successfully progressed into the professional game with varying levels of success, and England U17 forward Rogers is hopeful of surpassing their achievements entirely.
Tall and athletic, he is supremely confident off either foot and goes about his business with minimum fuss. Rogers carries an elegance in his execution and, given the readiness of Baggies’ brass to hand first-team opportunities to their best and brightest, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him involved at The Hawthorns very soon.
Wigan: Joe Gelhardt (Forward)
Wigan were delighted when 16-year-old forward Gelhardt committed his long-term future to the Latics in August. For a long time, they were fighting off interest in his services from some of the biggest academies in the country.
It’s not hard to see why he was so sought-after either; a throwback to the old-school English No.9, his record in front of goal for club and country is a strong one, extending recently to his first involvement with England at U17 level. Gelhardt made his first-team bow against Rotherham in the League Cup shortly before signing his new deal, and it certainly won’t be the last time he turns out for Paul Cook’s ambitious team this term.