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Top 10: Football League stars of tomorrow – the kids on Premier League radars

Joe Gomez (Charlton, 17)

Athletic centre-back Gomez made five starts for the Addicks before Christmas, appearing on the bench another six times. He was part of the England team that won the UEFA under-17 European Championship in 2014, as they upset the England-win-on-penalties hoodoo by defeating the Netherlands on spot-kicks in the final. He played every minute of every game for John Peacock’s side during the tournament before returning to The Valley.

After winning the Professional Development League 2 South with Charlton’s U18 side last season, Gomez started training with the first-team squad in pre-season and was blooded by manager Bob Peeters in the Philips Stayen Cup in Belgium. He obviously made a good impression, because the teenager made his England U19 debut in September and was subsequently given a new three-year contract by Charlton in October.

Linked with: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle.

Did you know? Gomez first played for Charlton’s U18 side aged just 13. He had joined the club in the same year.

Diego De Girolamo (York on loan from Sheff United, 19)

Sheffield United may be stuck in League One at the moment, but they appear to be heading in the right direction under Nigel Clough. At some point in the near future, De Girolamo’s goals could be part of their success. The Chesterfield-born attacker made his debut in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in December 2012, but has seen his opportunities limited since due to injury. This season he’s been on loan at York City and scored four goals in seven League Two appearances. He’s often played off the wing or behind the striker, but it has been suggested his future may lie as a striker as he develops.

De Girolamo’s dad is from Naples, and the youngster has represented Italy at U18, U19 and U20 levels. He made his U20 debut a few months ago and is clearly highly rated by the Italian federation’s coaches. With no senior appearances to his name he could still play for England, though they face a tough job if they're to snatch him back from the Italians.

Linked with: Arsenal, Manchester United, Sunderland, Juventus, Roma, Napoli.

Did you know? Former Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi has been credited with persuading De Girolamo to represent the Azzurri. It was reported in Yorkshire that the two-time European Cup winner personally contacted Diego and his family.

Ryan Woods (Shrewsbury, 21)

Known to Shrewsbury fans as the Ginger Pirlo (because, of course), Woods made his name as man of the match when the Shrews narrowly lost to Chelsea in a televised League Cup tie in October. The Staffordshire-born midfielder came through the Shrewsbury academy before making his debut in April 2013. He's continued his good form since, demonstrating an ability to play a range a passes as well as easily creating space for himself.

Micky Mellon, manager of the League Two club, is adamant that his player is not for sale, but may find himself overruled should a big offer arrive. Earlier this season Mellon said: “He's the first player on the training pitch and the last off. He's a terrific kid and has some unbelievable ability.” 

Linked with: No one namechecked so far but Shrewsbury are privately aware of interest from higher clubs.

Did you know? His only career goal in 65 league appearances so far came in a January 2014 defeat to MK Dons.

Che Adams (Sheff United, 18)

Signed from Ilkeston Town at the end of November on a two-year deal, Adams scored eight goals in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League before his move for an undisclosed fee reported to be six figures with a sell-on clause. He made his Blades debut as a substitute in the League Cup quarter-final win over Southampton before enjoying a first start against Walsall four days later.

This is Adams’ first full season in senior football, having attracted interest from a host of clubs beforehand. Ilkeston chairman Dave Mantle was adamant that he would not stand in the pacy attacker's way, though, with his contract due to expire in the summer. Aside from Premier League sides, Norwich, Nottingham Forest, Rangers and Wolves were also said to be considering a move before Adams opted for a move up the M1.

Upon Adams' signing, Nigel Clough was unsure how long it would take for Adams to make his mark on the team, saying: “Raw is the word but he’s got potential. He’s quick and has had a good grounding at Ilkeston. We’re not expecting too much too soon but you never know with these lads.”

Linked with: Burnley, Newcastle, Southampton and Sunderland before his move.

Did you know? Antigua and Barbuda have enquired about Adams representing them at international level.

Jack Whatmough (Portsmouth, 18)

Portsmouth fans have had it tough in recent years but at least at the moment they have an England youth international in their ranks. Despite Whatmough formerly playing for arch-rivals Southampton, Pompey fans have had no trouble in taking to their teenage centre-back. The defender, who made his debut aged 17, says he enjoys playing international football because it gives him a chance to play out from the back, a rarity in the cut and thrust of League Two.

Former team-mate Simon Ferry described the bushy blond-haired defender as a ‘Rolls Royce’, and is sure the England U19 international will play at the highest level. “One day he will be in the Premier League. I’m not saying when that will be, but one day he will get there. He strolls the games; every time I have seen him he does that. He should be playing in the youth team – yet he comes out here into the first team and strolls it.”

Linked with: None yet. 

Did you know? Whatmough’s face went viral earlier this season when people thought he looked like Jack Wilshere. His response was retweeted over 7,300 times.

Teddy Bishop (Ipswich, 18)

The Cambridge-born midfielder has been at the Tractor Boys’ academy since U8 level and made his first-team bow earlier this season. The club describe him as someone who “loves to link in with the attack, clever and confident on the ball”. He has a quick turn of pace and is noted for his ability to glide around the pitch with the ball at his feet, something he did for the first time with Ipswich when he made his debut at Derby at the end of August.

Bishop’s first goal for the club came in November as Ipswich drew with high-fliers Bournemouth, and manager Mick McCarthy has been full of praise for the latest product from the Portman Road production line, saying bluntly: “He’s great – I love the Bish.” Meanwhile, team-mate Cole Skuse recently remarked that Bishop could “play in the Premier League tomorrow because he’s that good”. After a year of injuries at U21 level, he now has the chance to help push his side towards the top division.

Linked with: Premier League clubs by Mick McCarthy, though he hasn't disclosed exactly who.

Did you know? Despite his potential and ability, Bishop has been subbed off more times than he has started matches this season.

Kortney Hause (Wolves, 19)

A centre-back by trade, Hause is currently playing at left-back to solve Wolves’ injury crisis, but the former Wycombe defender has made an assured start to his career in the West Midlands. The England U20 international was loaned to Gillingham earlier this term but was recalled by Kenny Jackett in November before making his Wolves debut in the 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday in December. During his time in Kent, Hause scored his first goal for England's young Lions in a 1-1 draw with Turkey in September.

Comfortable on the ball yet imposing and commanding, Wolves look to have finally found their first real replacement for Joleon Lescott, who left for Everton in 2006. The former West Ham academy player signed for Wycombe’s youth team in February 2012 but was taken on by Wolves at the end of the January 2014, with the Chairboys inserting a sell-on clause into his deal which runs until summer 2016.

Linked with: Everton, like Lescott before him.

Did you know? Hause not only has cultured feet – he's revealed he is also a singer and musician. Groovy!

Alex Mowatt (Leeds, 19)

Having progressed through the Leeds academy from the age of nine, Mowatt made 29 appearances and scored once last season. He has improved his goal return with four strikes in 16 appearances so far this term despite being frozen out by former coach Dave Hockaday, only to be reintroduced by his former academy mentor Neil Redfearn. The latter was recently quoted as saying: “He has the world at his feet and is an outstanding young player.”

Mowatt, known as MC, is said to be a keen rapper and recently waxed lyrical for Leeds fans. “I don't think about playing anywhere else,” he said. “I've lived in Doncaster all my life and I've been here my whole life. You never know what will happen, but if it's going well then why not stay here?”

It was reported that Premier League teams could sign him in January, but Leeds’ transfer embargo may complicate the prospect of a move for the former Bentley Pumas man.

Linked with: Aston Villa, Everton.

Did you know? Mowatt prefers his parents not to watch him play as it hinders his performance.

Sullay Kaikai (Cambridge on loan from Crystal Palace, 19)

The on-loan Crystal Palace man has made his name in cup competitions so far. After a loan spell at Crawley last season, Kaikai scored for Palace in their League Cup defeat to Newcastle before joining Cambridge on loan in November. His only goal for the U’s was the winner as they beat Mansfield in an FA Cup replay – a game watched by scouts of West Brom.

Kaikai was briefly involved with the Palace first team last season and travelled to Norwich for their Premier League clash. He was lucky enough to room with Wales international Jonny Williams, who had his say on the tricky winger. “He’s a very good technical player with a great first touch,” said Williams. “He likes to take on a player too and take free-kicks. He is very attack-minded; any attacking roles he can play.”

With Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha ahead of him in the pecking order at Selhurst Park, League Two is going to be Kaikai’s stage for the foreseeable future. He’s picking up good reviews at the Abbey Stadium.

Linked with: West Brom.

Did you know? Kaikai won the League Football Education's goal-of-the-season award in 2012/13 for the below (first goal on the video). 

Ivan Toney (Northampton, 18)

Toney has seven goals to his name this season, and the Cobblers have confirmed that both Premier League and Championship clubs have shown interest. Toney can be used as a target-man and the striker, who is 6ft tall, mobile and dominant in the air, is awkward for defenders to deal with due to his quick feet.

After the initial career setback of being released by Leicester aged 16, Toney bounced back and won Northampton’s goal-of-the-season award for an overhead kick at Dagenham & Redbridge last term. Three strikes towards the end of the season helped secure the club’s league status and he was awarded with an improved three-year deal in the summer.

The teenager scored against Wolves in the League Cup and almost joined them at the end of November for a Northampton club-record, six-figure fee. However, their Championship suitors claimed that Toney failed his medical and his move collapsed for numerous undisclosed reasons. Reports emerged elsewhere stating that a bidding war may commence for the teenager in January.

Linked with: Bournemouth, Wolves.

Did you know? At 16, he became the youngest first-team player in Cobblers history.

Skip to 00:51 for Toney's overhead kick