It’s harder than ever before for a young player to force his way into a Premier League team, no matter how much potential they show. Many talented prospects are forced to seek their breaks elsewhere, be it further down the English pyramid or in an overseas league.
Young players are more likely to be trusted by top-flight managers if they’ve got some minutes under their belt elsewhere, so the following eight players will all be hopeful of increased game time next season – whether it’s at their parent clubs or elsewhere…
Jamal Blackman (Sheffield United from Chelsea)
One of Chelsea’s army of loanees, Blackman is yet to make a single first-team appearance for his parent club. Now 24, the athletic and agile goalkeeper has been on the Blues' books since U13 level and signed a five-year contract in summer 2014, since when he has been helping his cause by getting plenty of experience on loan.
After a spell at Swedish side Ostersunds, he proved himself at League Two Wycombe last season and has stepped up to Championship level impressively. Given Sheffield United’s attacking approach, Blackman’s goal has often come under threat – but he’s coped admirably. There were a few handling errors earlier in the season, but he was back to his best until a comical red card against Brentford on Good Friday.
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich from Tottenham)
The 20-year-old centre-back spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Sheffield United, before being recalled by Tottenham in January. It was felt his development would be better served by playing elsewhere, and since then he’s missed just one game for Ipswich.
While Mick McCarthy’s style of football and supporter dissatisfaction with owner Marcus Evans continue to cause issues at the club, Carter-Vickers has at least been a positive addition. Ipswich are keen to keep him beyond the end of the current season, but that might depend on the new manager – not to mention Mauricio Pochettino.
Kieran Dowell (Nottingham Forest from Everton)
It’s been another turbulent season for Nottingham Forest, with little sign of the progress that supporters had hoped for under new ownership. Performances have been inconsistent and the East Midlanders once again find themselves in lower mid-table.
Alongside the emergence of some of Forest's own young players, Dowell (right) has been among the few bright spots. The 20-year-old playmaker was in exceptional form before Christmas, carving open defences and scoring spectacular goals at will. Although he’s hit a difficult patch recently, it’s still been a productive loan spell overall for the Evertonian.
Angus Gunn (Norwich from Manchester City)
The son of a Norwich legend, Gunn was always likely to be welcomed at his hometown club – and he has proved himself a safe pair of hands. While dad Bryan spent the majority of his career at Carrow Road, including a brief and best-ignored managerial spell, it was always likely to be a stop along the way to bigger things for the 6ft 5in Manchester City youngster.
Although Norwich were expected to compete for promotion, they find themselves well adrift of that target in the bottom half of the table. Their patchy form isn’t for want of trying on Gunn’s part, though: he’s made some spectacular saves and kept 14 clean sheets for the Canaries. Pep Guardiola may choose to move on Claudio Bravo and promote Gunn, who's now 22, to second choice next term.
Sam Johnstone (Aston Villa from Man United)
With David de Gea and Sergio Romero ahead of him in the pecking order at Manchester United, Johnstone is being primed for the next phase of his career away from Old Trafford. At 25, the former England Under-20 goalkeeper has become accustomed to heading out on loan in search of first-team football – this is the 10th time he’s done so, and this latest spell has allowed him to showcase greater maturity.
Johnstone has been ever-present in the league for Villa this season, keeping 17 clean sheets as Steve Bruce’s side push for promotion. Supporters who doubted Johnstone’s ability after a couple of shaky performances when he first arrived have been won over.
Oli McBurnie (Barnsley from Swansea)
A tricky and versatile attacker who can play out wide or through the middle, McBurnie wasn’t getting much of a chance at Swansea despite their struggle for goals under Paul Clement. He started just twice in the Premier League, and the 21-year-old knew he needed to be playing more often. When the deadline-day opportunity arose to prove himself at Barnsley, he grasped it with both hands.
McBurnie's dribbling skills and eye for goal have been richly rewarded, as he’s found the net six times in 10 games. He was even named Championship Player of the Month for February and earned his first call-up to the Scotland squad last month.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham from Newcastle)
Mitrovic retains some ardent supporters at St James’ Park, but most Magpies have spent the last three years cursing his poor discipline and inability to assert his talent. The bullish attributes of a classic No.9 have always been there, but never applied consistently or effectively enough at Premier League level.
In January 2018, the 23-year-old joined Fulham on a six-month loan deal to spearhead the Cottagers' promotion charge – and he’s been a revelation under the management of his fellow Serb, Slavisa Jokanovic. The west Londoners were a creative and free-flowing side that lacked a focal point earlier in the season, but they’ve been on an unstoppable run since, with Mitrovic netting eight goals in 11 outings. Should he help them up, they may repay him with a full-time contract.
Harry Wilson (Hull from Liverpool)
It’s strange to think Wilson made his international debut against Belgium back in 2013, becoming the youngest player in Welsh history before he’d even played a minute of senior football for his club. At the time he was at the centre of a tug-of-war between England and the country of his birth, and Chris Coleman went to great lengths to secure his services.
Five years on, and still only 21, his form for the Tigers has led to an international recall under Ryan Giggs. He’s scored three goals and provided two assists from the left flank, boosting Hull’s second-tier survival hopes in the process.
Championship, Premier League, Lists, Sam Johnstone, Jamal Blackman, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kieran Dowell, Oli McBurnie, Harry Wilson, Angus Gunn, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur, Ipswich Town, Manchester City, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Norwich City, Hull City, Swansea City, Barnsley, Everton, Nottingham Forest, Fulham, Newcastle United, Chelsea, Sheffield United