I think everyone would agree that 2017 was an incredibly successful year for England’s age-group football teams:
England won both the Under 20 and Under 17 World Cups, the Under 19 European Championships and retained the Toulon tournament title they won in 2016.
Clearly there are some talented young English players coming through.
But who are the best? Who should you be most excited about in 2018?
What follows is a list of (what I perceive to be) the top 55 players worth keeping an eye on in the years ahead.
It’s based on an obsessive following of England’s age-group teams for the last seven years, some cold, hard stats and the views of dedicated club fans and reporters who watch these players week-in, week-out.
Lists like these tend to stop at around 20 which I don’t think does justice to the depth of talent coming through, so with the help of those club reporters I mentioned, I’ve put together a more thorough list of 55.
I’m sure they’ll still be players I’ve missed off or some you disagree with so please let me know in the comments — I love hearing about talented English youth players.
The only barrier to entry is that they are aged between 17–21 and qualify to play for England.
You’ll see some established names on the list like Marcus Rashford and Dele Alli (hard to believe they are not yet 22), all the way through to some lesser known gems like Tayo Edun and Oliver Skipp.
Let’s get started (the players are listed in rough age order, NOT in order of talent or potential):
1. Dele Alli
Age / Position: 21 / Attacking midfielder
Club record: 129 appearances (apps) for Spurs, 41 goals, 35 assists. 88 apps for MK Dons, 24 goals, 15 assists.
England record: 22 senior caps, 2 goals.
Summary: If anyone doubts the importance of first team minutes in the development of young footballers, Dele Alli provides the perfect riposte. He’d already played nearly 90 first team games before he moved to Spurs at 19 and barring a serious injury will easily surpass 200 first team games (110 for Spurs and counting) before he turns 22.
This is in stark contrast to most young English players who have to piece together minutes in cup competitions here and there, and often haven’t played more than a handful of games before they turn 21.
It should, however, also serve as an inspiring example that if you want to develop in to one of the country’s most exciting players and play Champions League football, first team minutes are the only currency that matters.
Alli has won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award for the last two seasons and you wouldn’t bet against him making it a hat trick this year, albeit he has suffered a dip in form lately.
Insider’s view: “When Alli is at his best, he is one of the finest forward players in the business. Quick, athletic, skilful, good in the air, an eye for goal, tenacious, and stronger than his tall-but-thin frame should allow; he has just about everything. And it’s when he’s at his best that the difficulty to pin down his true position becomes his greatest asset — Thomas Müller has made a career out of it at Bayern Munich.
Throughout Tottenham’s breathless performances in the Champions League this season he has been key. Against Real Madrid — arguably his best ever performance in a Spurs shirt — he provided a reminder of how dangerous he can be arriving late in the box or driving at a defence unable to predict his next move.” Michael Da Silva, Rabona magazine.
2. Demarai Gray
Age / Position: 21 / Winger
Club record: 87 apps for Leicester, six goals, nine assists. 78 apps for Birmingham, eight goals, four assists.
England record since U16: 31 caps, seven goals.
Summary: The Leicester City board have been criticised for their lack of patience with managers but a definite positive of Claude Puel’s appointment has been the increased playing time of Demarai Gray which seemed long overdue.
Gray has looked promising ever since he made his debut at Birmingham City and his first team appearance record is only bettered by Dele Alli. However, his speed and trickery have been under utilised by both club and country until now. Aidy Boothroyd took too long to introduce him at the U21 Euros last summer, where he looked dangerous every time he played, and most of his appearances under Craig Shakespeare came from the bench.
Insider’s View: “Already highly-rated by most Leicester City supporters, Demarai Gray has begun to unleash his full potential under new Foxes boss Claude Puel. Joining the club for a paltry £3.75m from Birmingham City has made 21 appearances in the Premier League this season, notching three goals.
His pace and trickery make him an ideal option on the wing and he can dove-tail perfectly with the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. Despite a frustrating start to life at the King Power Stadium, the 21-year-old recently penned a new four-year deal at Leicester and will further hope to become a key part of the first-team.” Daniel Orme, Leicester Mercury
3. Ryan Kent
Age / Position: 21 / Winger
Club: Liverpool (on loan at Bristol City)
Club record: Four apps for Bristol City, one assist. Six apps for Freiburg. One appearance for Liverpool. 47 apps for Barnsley, three goals and three assists. 17 apps for Coventry City, one goal and one assist.
England record since U16: Eight caps, three goals.
Summary: Kent was one of a growing number of young English players to move to Germany in search of more first team game time this summer. His move to Freiburg didn’t quite work out and he returned to England last month in search of more game time at Bristol City. Kent is at home on either foot (which should surely be more normal these days), is very quick and defensively disciplined too.
Insider’s view: “Kent has made ridiculous strides over the past 12 months, and his decision to join SC Freiburg on loan this season should be roundly commended.
He’s an inventive, skilful winger capable of operating on either flank who is adding genuine end product to his play now, too — and his delivery from set-pieces is excellent.
Jurgen Klopp loves him, and this was compounded by his new five-year contract in August. He’s 21, which is quite late for a first-team breakthrough, but expect one at Liverpool in 2018.” Jack Lusby, This is Anfield
4. Axel Tuanzebe
Age / Position: 20 / Defender
Club: Manchester United (on loan at Aston Villa)
Club record: One appearance for Aston Villa. Eight apps for Manchester United. 33 apps for Manchester United U23s, one goal. Twice Premier League 2 Champion.
England record since U16: 11 caps
Summary: Tuanzebe looks very at home on a football pitch. He oozes calm and authority with his ability to not only make important tackles and interceptions but to then use the ball to good effect subsequently. He made four Premier League appearances last season but has been restricted to just one Carabao Cup appearance this season. Clearly has the talent but will he get a sustained run in the first team under Jose Mourinho? It certainly won’t come this season — he has made a January loan move to Aston Villa where he will hope to learn from John Terry and co.
His versatility is an advantage, he can play right back, centre back or even defensive midfield, which may help his chances of a first team run at Manchester United next season.
Insider’s view: “His reading of the game is so sharp he rarely has to make sliding tackles, while his pace and athleticism often give him the edge over opponents. Tuanzebe has captained the youth teams and is a composed talker.” Samuel Luckhurst, Manchester Evening News.
5. Ben Chilwell
Age / Position: 21 / Left back
Club record: 43 apps for Leicester, one goal, one assist. Eight apps for Huddersfield.
England record since U16: 21 caps, one goal.
Summary: Another promising English left back, a position we seem to have specialised in over the last five years (Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand, Luke Shaw). Chilwell was one of England’s best performers at the U21 European Championships this summer where he was a year younger than the majority of the squad. He particularly starred in the win over Poland where he combined with Demarai Gray to lethal effect on the left wing. He is at his best going forward, especially driving runs from deep, but was guilty of letting runners in behind him too easily at the Euros.
Insider’s view: “Already labelled as the successor to left-back Christian Fuchs, Chilwell has forged quite the reputation at the King Power Stadium. The England U21 international broke into the first team in the last two seasons and has gone on to make 24 Premier League appearances for the Foxes, including seven starts under Claude Puel.
He has already become well-known in the East-Midlands, with his marauding runs down the left-flank becoming a key aspect of the youngster’s game. With Fuchs edging towards the twilight years of his career, Chilwell possesses more than enough to become the Foxes’ first-choice left-back in the upcoming seasons.” Daniel Orme, Leicester Mercury
6. Patrick Roberts
Age / position: 21 / Winger
Club: Man City, on loan at Celtic (since 15/16 season)
Club record: 72 apps for Celtic (including 12 in the Champions League), 18 goals, 24 assists. 22 apps for Fulham, two assists. Three apps for Man City first team.
England record since U16: 48 caps, 19 goals. U17 European Champion, 2014.
Summary: A player you can’t help but fall in love with when you watch him dribble. There are some YouTube videos that label him the English Messi, which is obviously hyperbole, but he does have a similar style to the Argentinian or Ryan Giggs; not a lot of tricks, just fantastic close ball control, excellent balance and a burst of acceleration — this clip of him for England U17s tells you all you need to know. His performances in that U17 team really stood out as he went on to win the European Championship in 2014 alongside the likes of Dominic Solanke, Lewis Cook and Joe Gomez.
His international career has stuttered slightly of late; he turned down the opportunity to go to the U20 World Cup this summer in order to finish the season with Celtic, a decision which seems strange given they had already won the league, and in hindsight foolish given he could now be a World Cup winner.
That decision seems to have cost him in turns of selection for the U21s where he has been overlooked by Aidy Boothroyd in the last few squads. That decision seems equally foolish on England’s part for a player that has a prolific record for his country and the benefit of Champions League experience with Celtic.
Insider’s view: “City were keen for him to go on loan to a foreign club during the summer but he put his foot down and wanted to go back to Celtic, where the fans loved him following his first full season there. His is a strange case, as it seems like he has no future at City, and that he was bought in purely to re-sell. He’s a good dribbler and cuts in from the right-hand side well, but City would’ve wanted him to improve somewhere else this season.” Sam Lee, Man City Correspondent for Goal.com
7. Lewis Cook
Age / Position: 21 / Central Midfield
Club record: 30 apps for Bournemouth, two assists. 85 apps for Leeds United, two goals, five assists.
England record since U16: 43 caps, 1 goal. U20 world champion and U17 european champion.
Summary: I probably wasn’t alone in thinking that Lewis Cook’s move to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side was a perfect next step for the Leeds United academy product and former Young Player of the Year. A progressive manager and a club who seemed more likely to give opportunities to young players compared to the top six. However, so far it hasn’t quite panned out that way with limited playing time and a bad ankle injury marring his first full season with The Cherries, (although he is now starting to get a sustained run in the first team).
Cook’s England record can’t really be bettered; he became the first Englishman since Bobby Moore to lift a World Cup last summer as he captained the Under 20’s to glory, while he is already a European champion at Under 17 level. It’s easy to see why big things are expected of him, he is a calm but busy presence in midfield, disciplined in performing his defensive duties but also very adept at bringing the ball out of midfield with eye-catching runs.
Insider’s View: “Cook possesses a lethal range of passing. He can thrust a dagger to the heart of a team with one piercing forward ball or, if the rhythm of a match demands, inflict death by a thousand cuts with his prompt, intelligent distribution.
It says an awful lot about Cook’s maturity that Howe has not sought to play down his potential. Asked about the player after his terrific performance against Burnley in May, Howe referenced Cook’s “burst of pace… creative eye… aggression… touch and special talent
Howe reserved further praise for his player’s exemplary attitude. Cook demonstrated that quality in spades when he returned from that ankle injury in the footballing boondocks of Gosport Borough for a Hampshire Senior Cup game in January.” Paul McNamara, Bournemouth Echo
8. Marcus Rashford
Age / Position: 20 / Forward
Club: Manchester United
Club record: 108 apps for Manchester United, 29 goals, 16 assists. Rashford has won the Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup.
England record: 15 caps, two goals.
Summary: If Manchester United fans have one thing to thank Louis Van Gaal for it is the discovery of Marcus Rashford (albeit it was forced upon him by an injury crisis). Rashford has looked a natural ever since and his goal scoring record is impressive considering he is rarely played in his favoured position of a central striker and many of his appearances have come from the bench. For example last season he averaged just over 50 mins per game in his 32 Premier League appearances.
Rashford was a relative latecomer to the international scene; he only made five appearances for age-group teams until being called up to the senior side. It’s a shame Gareth Southgate didn’t leave him in Under 21s for longer, it would have been of greater benefit for him to get more tournament experience at the Euros earlier this year rather than playing in friendlies or relatively straightforward qualifying fixtures for the senior side.
Insider’s view: “The first thing to say about Rashford is that he lives for the big occasion. He memorably scored twice on his debut, thrust into the action in the Europa League at home against Midtjylland. Impressive, but perhaps not as impressive as following this up with another two goals at Old Trafford on his Premier League debut. This time Arsenal were the opponents.
In his short career, he’s now won the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League — to put that into context that’s more than current England manager Gareth Southgate got in his entire career.
But just how good is he? And how good could he get?
We’re not talking about him as much as we should in this country, according to Phil Neville.
He believes he should be considered in the same bracket as recent big money signings Neymar, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe.
Last season was undoubtedly when Mbappe really showed his quality. The Frenchman scored 26 goals in all competitions and excelled in Monaco’s Champions League run. For Rashford to be counted in the same league, he’ll need to hit those heights in terms of goals, light up the Champions League and have a defining hand in a title-winning team.” Jonny Swindlehurst, ilovemanchester.com
9. Adam Armstrong
Age / Position: 21 / Striker
Club: Newcastle (on loan at Blackburn)
Club record: Five apps for Blackburn, one assist. 23 apps for Bolton Wanderers, three goals. 21 apps for Newcastle, three assists. 35 apps for Barnsley, six goals, four assists. 40 apps for Coventry City, 20 goals, five assists.
England record since U16: 49 caps, 30 goals. An Under 17 European champion and an Under 20 World Cup winner.
Summary: A short, well-built, pacy striker with a low-centre of gravity and an enviable scoring record for England. Armstrong’s first loan move to Coventry was an overwhelming success, he scored 20 goals in 40 games and claimed a spot in the PFA League One Team Of The Year.
Many expected him to fight for a first team spot at Newcastle after that, however he has been sent out on loan again for the last two season and his moves to Barnsley and Bolton haven’t faired as well (although not badly either) and he is now on to his fourth loan at Blackburn. He faces an uncertain future under Rafa Benitez, who has never seemed totally convinced by him despite some promising words.
If you watch highlight reels on YouTube, it is clear Armstrong has the natural attributes to go to the top — he scores goals with both feet and from in and outside the box — however, he may need a permanent move away from St James’ Park to develop further.
Insider’s view: “For two seasons at Coventry he terrorised experienced defenders. At Bolton he has, on my last look, become a prisoner of a new position. Playing front left of three, he does not display the sort of potential shown when playing centrally.
He is still sharp, a quick determined forward. I see a goalscorer here if given a licence to play where he thrives. Running off the shoulder of the last defender with well-timed shallow runs, he can be a big danger to any defence.
But he looks as though he has been told to keep the team shape. To venture into a central area now looks like a visit to a foreign country. His sharp bursts of finishing have the hallmarks of natural striker but obviously Rafa Benitez feels he still needs time to develop.” Secret Scout, Daily Mail
10. Joe Worrall
Age / Position: 21 / Central Defence
Club: Nottingham Forest
Club record: 53apps for Nottingham Forest, one goal. 15 apps for Dagenham & Redbridge, one goal.
England record since U16: Six caps and a Toulon Tournament winner.
Insider’s view: “It has been something of a whirlwind year for the defender. Made his Forest debut in October 2016 and has gone on to become a regular in the first-team, won his first England call-up when he captained a mixed age group team to Toulon Tournament success in the summer and has since represented the Young Lions at Under-21s level.
If you ask him what he’s good at, Worrall will say ‘I just head it and kick it’, but that’s doing him a disservice. He’s better than that. He’s a very solid centre-back and is also comfortable on the ball — he adapted well to Mark Warburton’s passing style of play. He’s also very vocal and isn’t afraid to say his piece — he’d barely broken into the first-team when he called out some of his team-mates for not showing the right attitude last season.
It’s a quality which is appreciated by fans. Add into the mix that he’s a local lad who supports the club and has gone from being a Forest ball boy to a mainstay of the first-team and it’s a real fairytale story.
Given his love for the club, Worrall has consistently said he sees his future at the City Ground and he wants to help the Reds get back into the Premier League. It would probably take a lot to tempt him away at the minute, but given other clubs are already said to have taken an interest in him, it’s a question Forest may well have to face further down the line.” Sarah Clapson, The Nottingham Post
11. Tammy Abraham
Age / Position: 20 / Striker
Club: Chelsea (on loan at Swansea).
Club record: 25 apps for Swansea City, seven goals, three assists. 48 apps for Bristol City, 26 goals, four assists. Abraham has won two UEFA Youth League titles with Chelsea U19s, scoring 12 goals in 16 games.
England record since U16: 34 caps, including two senior caps, 12 goals.
Summary: Abraham is a goal scorer. He was the second highest scorer in the Championship last season, averaging a bit more than a goal every two games and his record for England’s age-group teams is roughly one in three games. This season he has made the transition from Championship to Premier League and started well, scoring five goals in the first 12 games for a struggling Swansea City side. He has struggled a bit since then, with two in the next 13 matches. However, in 25 games he has been involved in ten goals which is not a bad return for his first two thirds of a season in the Premier League.
Still technically a Chelsea player, but with their disappointing record in bringing through academy players to the first team well documented, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move permanently next summer, especially if he can rediscover his early season form. The success or not of his former club mate Dominic Solanke’s move to Liverpool may also influence his thinking.
Insider’s View: “He has fitted in seamlessly to top-flight football, and indeed has been Swansea City’s best player in an albeit poor season so far. He acts older than his years and shows a good sense of leadership in a rudderless team.
His touch and movement are sound, but I feel he probably needs to bulk up a bit and his hold-up play is still a work in progress.
He is deceptively quick and glides over the surface. He reminds me a lot of Emmanuel Adebayor — the Arsenal version.” Mat Davies, South Wales Evening Post
12. Joe Gomez
Age / position: 20 / Defender
Club record: 36 apps for Liverpool, three assists. 24 apps for Charlton, 1 assist.
England record since U16: 33 caps including two senior caps. U17 European Champion, 2014.
Summary: Another member of the talented 1997 year group, Gomez has made a impressive comeback from a series of bad injuries to cement his place in the Liverpool first team this year. He seems a rare breed of modern defender who is actually better at defending than he is attacking. Gomez is strong, quick, capable with the ball and mature — he is captain of the England U21s.
Insider’s view: “Gomez’s commitment to recovering from 13 months out with ACL and achilles injuries was remarkable, and it is testament to his dedication that he is now in the position he is.
Both he and Jurgen Klopp will stress that his long-term future is at centre-back, but with Nathaniel Clyne injured in 2017/18 he has continued to prove himself a comfortable option at right-back, too.
He’s a big, strong defender in the old-school mould, but has both the pace and composure on the ball required to develop as a modern-era ball-playing centre-back. He should go to the very top.” Jack Lusby, This is Anfield.
13. Freddie Woodman
Age / Position: 20 / Goalkeeper
Club: Newcastle (on loan at Aberdeen)
Club record: One appearance for Aberdeen, one clean sheet. 37 apps for Newcastle U23s, seven clean sheets. 12 apps for Crawley Town (loan), four clean sheets. 15 apps for Kilmarnock, four clean sheets.
England record since U16: 52 caps, U20 world champion, U17 european champion.
Summary: Woodman won the Golden Glove as he helped England lift the U20 World Cup trophy last summer, saving a penalty in the final against Venezuela. Surprisingly that profile-raising experience didn’t see him earn an immediate loan move away from Newcastle or push for a place in the first team.
He’s a very solid all round goalkeeper with a tall, skinny physique (a bit like David De Gea) who excels in one vs one situations with his mixture of bravery and composure. It will be great to see him get more first team experience with Aberdeen, a higher level than his previous two moves to Kilmarnock and Crawley Town. His position is an advantage tand 20 is still fairly young for a goalkeeper to break through.
Insider’s view: “Freddie has done incredibly well. A World Cup winner is something that is just sensational for him.
But he deserves all of the success he’s getting because he has the best attitude I have ever seen in football — seriously.
Some of the things would take you by surprise. For example, Freddie pays out of his pocket for someone to train him in his strength and conditioning work.
I’m pretty sure he has a psychologist who does work with him as well — he is the ultimate professional.” Lee McCulloch, Kilmarnock F.C.
14. Ademola Lookman
Age / Position: 20 / Forward
Club: Everton (on loan at RB Leipzig)
Club record: Two appearance for Leipzig, one goal. 24 apps for Everton, three goals. 49 apps for Charlton, 12 goals, three assists.
England record since U16: 25 apps, 4 goals. U20 World Cup winner, 2017.
Summary: Lookman made Sam Allardyce eat his very ill-judged words about his loan move to Germany, scoring a last-minute winner on his debut. He is a live wire of a forward and was arguably England’s best player at last year’s U20 World Cup. He combines relentless energy and running, with pace, trickery and an eye for goal. While he is guilty of hanging on to the ball too long at times, he is very exciting to watch and capable of beating two to three players on his own. Importantly he produces an end product when it matters, scoring a number of crucial goals for England in the knockout phases last summer.
Insider’s view: “In terms of raw ability and self-confidence in those skills, Lookman is probably the most exciting young player on Everton’s books at the moment. He can run with the ball, take on and dribble past opponents, and score goals from anywhere. He proved that in the recent Europa League game against Apollon Limassol where he could have scored a hat-trick.
His big weakness is on the defensive side and that is perhaps the main reason why he barely featured earlier this season while Everton were struggling and Ronald Koeman was trying to figure out a solution. He needed grafters and players capable of pressing and helping out the defence while results were so poor and Lookman was something of a luxury he couldn’t afford to utilise.
He may never be that kind of player to track back and defend but the manager who can harness his attacking talents while keeping the psychological aspect of his game in check will have a top player on his hands.” Lyndon Lloyd, Toffee Web
15. Sheyi Ojo
Age / Position: 20 / Winger & Forward
Club: Liverpool (on loan at Fulham).
Club record: 18 apps for Fulham, four goals and two assists. 13 apps for Liverpool, one goal, four assists. 19 apps for Wolves, three goals, four assists. 11 apps for Wigan.
England record since U16: 42 caps, five goals. Under 20 world champion.
Summary: A stocky, powerful winger blessed with blistering pace and close ball control. Ojo is a real threat across any position in the attack and is happy to run at defenders in central areas as well as from wide positions. He is very direct and proved the difference in England’s Under 20 World Cup semi final win against Italy where he came off the bench to provide crosses for the first two England goals in a 3–1 comeback victory. He was unlucky not to see more game time in that tournament, always looking sharp when he made substitute appearances.
Insider’s view: “A few years ago, anyone watching the Reds’ academy sides on a regular basis would have picked Ojo out as the standout performer — such was his ability to stand out at that level.
His progression to the senior stage has been a little more rocky — he made eight appearances for Liverpool in 2015/16, but has been limited to just two since, due to injuries and spells out on loan.
He’s with Fulham this season, which has given him a decent platform to showcase his talents as a bright, well-built winger with the ability to both score and assist in droves.” Jack Lusby, This is Anfield.
16. Josh Onomah
Age / Position: 20 / Central Midfield
Club: Tottenham Hotspur (on loan at Aston Villa)
Club record: 28 apps for Aston Villa, four goals, one assist. 32 apps for Spurs, one goal.
England record since U16: 52 caps, 8 goals. An Under 20 World Cup winner and an Under 17 European champion.
Summary: Onomah was an integral part of England’s U17 and U20 championship winning midfields in 2014 and 2017 and is rated very highly by Spurs fans and now Villa fans (by the looks of recent news reports and fan comments).
I first saw him play in the England U17s team that went on to win the Euro 2014 tournament. He was deployed more as an attacking midfielder by John Peacock then, but as he has got older and more physically imposing, he has been used further back — he partnered Lewis Cook at the base of our midfield in the U20 World Cup winning team.
A powerful midfielder with great touch, vision and long-range shooting ability, Spurs fans have mentioned him as a long-term successor to Moussa Dembele in the past. His loan move to Aston Villa seems to be going well so far and he is playing regularly, clocking up 24 appearances already. You get the sense that next season, if he returns to Spurs, could be a pivotal one.
Insider’s view: “Onomah was thrown straight into the team (at Aston Villa) when he first arrived and has kept out some of the more senior players like Henri Lansbury and Birkir Bjarnason.
He started very well and looked a class above the rest.
For his age, he’s strong and has had no problems physically dealing with the demands of the Championship. He works hard when he loses the ball, passes it well and has an eye for goal.
His body will need to adapt to the rigours of playing two games a week in men’s football and when he returns to Spurs he will be a better player.” Gregg Evans, Birmingham Mail
17. Jonjoe Kenny
Age / Position: 20 / Right Back
Club record: 25 apps for Everton, two assists. 20 apps for Oxford United, one assist. Seven apps for Wigan.
England record since U16: 44 caps, one goal. An Under 20 World Cup winner and an Under 17 European champion.
Summary: Kenny has finally got his long-awaited chance in Everton’s first team this season, although as I write this, it remains to be seen how big a role Allardyce envisions for the young right back when Seamus Coleman returns to full fitness. Regardless, Kenny looks a real star in the making.
He has double honours with England and won plenty of praise from pundits for his displays at the Under 20 World Cup where he was one of England’s standout players. That praise included words of encouragement from Jamie Carragher from the red half of Merseyside. He also captained Everton U23s to the Premier League 2 title last year.
Kenny is a consistent performer with a great temperament, he never stops running, rarely gets beaten and has the energy to join in attacks too. A future fixture for England at right back IF he can improve his delivery. His defensive contribution is already outstanding.
Insider’s view: “Kenny is in the old-fashioned mould of no-nonsense fullbacks who just get on with the game and he was the Everton fans’ overwhelming choice to deputise for Seamus Coleman this season rather than Cuco Martina, whose acquisition by Ronald Koeman on a free transfer in the summer was met with a collective shrug. Koeman took his time but finally gave him his chance before he was sacked and first under David Unsworth and now Sam Allardyce, Kenny has really grown into the first-choice role.
It’s too soon to tell whether he has all the attributes to become a top-class full-back capable of being a regular for the England team in years to come, or whether he can keep Coleman out the team when the Irishman returns but he is coming on nicely.
He likes to get forward, has shown himself to be a dogged defender and is already displaying the kind of commitment and passion in the field that make for good captain material.” Lyndon Lloyd, Toffee Web
18. Dominic Solanke
Age / Position: 20 / Striker
Club record:19 apps for Liverpool, one assist. 26 apps for Vitesse Arnhem, seven goals, one assist. One appearance for Chelsea. UEFA Youth League winner in 2014/15 with Chelsea U19s.
England record since U16: 61 caps, including 1 senior cap, 29 goals. An Under 20 World Cup winner and an Under 17 European champion. Solanke also won the Golden Ball at the U20 World Cup and Golden Boot at U17 Euros.
Summary: Solanke is a serial winner already (see above) and perhaps the most natural goalscorer on this list (Liverpool fans need to be patient!). He scores a goal every other game for England age-group teams and scored 12 goals in nine games on his way to helping Chelsea U19s win the UEFA Youth League in 2014–15 (the youth equivalent of the Champions League). That record won him the Golden Boot for the tournament.
Clearly loved within the England set-up — he has amassed an impressive 61 caps already and made his senior debut despite only playing 153 minutes of Premier League football — Solanke is still to prove himself at the highest level of club football.
It’s too early to judge whether his move to Liverpool can be deemed a success, although he has already played 19 more times under Jurgen Klopp than Antonio Conte. Liverpool’s system of playing with three forwards and no real striker, coupled with the sensational form of Mo Salah are working against him at the moment.
Insider’s View: “Solanke made a bold decision in leaving Chelsea for Liverpool in 2017, but he is already being vindicated working under a manager who truly cherishes his ability.
He is a difficult striker to place: though he has the physicality of a target man, he also possesses intelligent movement, a great dribbling ability, incisive creativity, an indefatigable work rate and an array of finishes from both close and long range.
Being awarded the Golden Ball at the U20 World Cup is testament to a player with top-level potential — and he can hope to fulfil that at Anfield in the next few years.” Jack Lusby, This is Anfield
19. Kyle Walker-Peters
Age / Position: 20 / Right Back
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Club record: Seven apps for Tottenham. 48 apps for Tottenham U23s, two goals, three assists.
England record since U16: 32 caps and an U20 World Cup winner.
Summary: Walker-Peters looked set for a breakthrough season at Spurs following the sale of his namesake, Kyle Walker, to Manchester City last summer, only for Mauricio Pochettino to sign Serge Aurier late on in the transfer window.
He was a valuable member of England’s victorious U20 World Cup squad last summer, deputising at left-back in the last game of the group stage and he staying there for the rest of the tournament.
Insider’s view: “Walker-Peters is primarily a right-back, but he can also play on the left and on occasions during youth games has been utilised further up the pitch for the club’s Premier League 2 side with his pace and fast feet proving to be useful attacking weapons.
The full-back is among the elite group containing the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Marcus Edwards identified by club staff as the next batch of homegrown first-team squad regulars, following on from Harry Winks and Josh Onomah and before them Harry Kane and Ryan Mason.” Alasdair Gold, football.london
20. Kieran Dowell
Age / Position: 20 / Attacking Midfielder
Club: Everton (on loan at Nottingham Forest)
Club record: 35 apps for Nottingham Forest, ten goals, five assists. Three apps for Everton.
England record since U16: 30 caps, one goal. An Under 20 World Cup winner.
Summary: Currently gaining valuable first team experience on loan at Nottingham Forest, Dowell is another member of Everton’s impressive academy. He is also, along with Mason Mount, the closest thing to a player of Mesut Ozil’s ilk on this list, although both give off the impression of having more energy and enthusiasm than the German.
Dowell is a high-class footballer with a subtlety to his play. He has a fantastic touch and range of passing to go with his array of back heels and clever layoffs — you will often find the Evertonian at the heart of attacking moves for club and country. It seems a wise decision for him to stay away from Everton this season, given the managerial instability there, and his performances have gone down very well with Forest fans so far.
Insider’s View: “Ronald Koeman’s failure to add more width to the Everton squad in the last transfer window was a bone of contention for Evertonians and they weren’t best pleased when Dowell was allowed to go out on loan to Nottingham Forest for the entire season. He had enjoyed a good summer winning the Under-20 World Cup with England and impressed in pre-season so the feeling was that this was the year he could break into the first team.
It was the right decision, though. Dowell is a very gifted midfielder with great movement, one-touch passing and an uncanny ability to score goals from around the edge of the box but he is very much the unfinished article.
He had a tendency to drift in and out of games and was usually the first player substituted during that U20 World Cup campaign, so a season in the Championship honing his craft and getting more valuable experience will hopefully do him a power of good.” Lyndon Lloyd, Toffee Web
21. Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Age / Position: 20 / Forward
Club record: 48 apps for Everton, nine goals, six assists. 12 apps for Sheffield United. 26 apps for Northampton Town, eight goals, one assist.
England record since U16: 19 caps, seven goals and an Under 20 World Cup winner.
Summary: An England World Cup winner in his first tournament for the national team bodes well. Calvert-Lewin is a relatively late comer to the international scene and he only made his debut for Under 20s.
He’s scored some key goals for England since then though, including the winner against Venezuela in the U20 World Cup final, and seems to have a habit of turning up in the right place at the right time.
At club level Calvert-Lewin seems the most trusted of Everton’s young stars, already playing 30 times this season under three different managers. His versatility may have played a part in that — he can play across the forward positions and was used as wide player or support striker under Ronald Koeman.
Insider’s View: “When Everton signed him from Sheffield United, Calvert-Lewin seemed to be one for the future or maybe one of those players that the club picked up on a small fee, developed further and then sold on for a profit further down the road. Ronald Koeman clearly saw something in him, though, because he introduced him to the first team a lot sooner than was expected.
Despite some encouraging early signs, questions started to be asked towards the end of last season around what exactly he brought to the side. He’s not blessed with outstanding pace or skill and doesn’t have the look of a prolific striker but then neither did Harry Kane at the same age.
His value became apparent this season when Everton failed to sign a replacement for Romelu Lukaku. Handed the responsibility of leading the line on his own in difficult circumstances, Calvert-Lewin has done an excellent job and has improved markedly. He is good in the air, has excellent control and a few tricks up his sleeve like the clever back-heel against Huddersfield that laid on a goal for Gylfi Sigurdsson. He can also be a clinical finisher and could yet end up being a top striker.” Lyndon Lloyd, Toffee Web
22. Ezri Konsa
Age / Position: 20 / Centre Back
Club: Charlton Athletic
Club record: 71 apps for Charlton, one assist.
England record since U16: Four caps and an U20 World Cup winner.
Summary: Konsa is the next big prospect to come out of Charlton’s academy, following on from Joe Gomez and Ademola Lookman. The defender has already played over 70 first team games and his performances this season have led to him being linked with a host of top Premier League clubs. In November the Charlton manager, Karl Robinson, admitted it was likely the player would move on in January. However, that has not materialised and Konsa will go on to pick up more valuable minutes at Charlton for the remainder of the season.
Insider’s view: “Ezri was expected to leave last summer, in fact Karl Robinson seemed surprised he didn’t go. The club hold him in high esteem to the point where they have slapped a £5 million transfer fee on his head.
The fans realise he is going to go and do rate him but are sort of resigned to him going this summer. He is a very composed player, elegant on the ball, classy with his touch and has an ability to read the game well.
He looks like he has time in possession which is a sign of a good player but whether he can do the same at Premier League level is a big question.” Clive Youlton, Kent Live.
23. Harvey Barnes
Age / Position: 20 / Central Midfield
Club: Leicester City
Club record: Three apps for Leicester City. 25 apps for Barnsley, five goals, five assists. 21 apps for MK Dons, six goals, one assist.
England record since U16: Eight caps, six goals and a Toulon Tournament winner.
Summary: Barnes had a fantastic summer with England, playing a big part in a mixed age-group team lifting the Toulon trophy for a second year in a row. He played in all five games, scored four goals and was named in the team of the tournament. He carries a real goal threat from midfield and clocked up a healthy level of first team minutes on loan at Barnsley during the first half of the season. He signed a four year contract in the summer.
Insider’s view: “Despite having only managed to make one appearance for Leicester City’s first-team, English midfielder Harvey Barnes is clearly admired at the King Power Stadium. The youngster made his debut under Claudio Ranieri as the Foxes clashed with FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League and has so far enjoyed extremely successful loan spells at the likes of Milton Keynes Dons and Barnsley.
Having been recalled from the latter in January, he may soon be in line for a more prominent role in the squad. A versatile midfielder, Barnes posses great pace and a sharp eye for goal so could be a useful asset for the Foxes in years to come. It might not be quite time for him yet, but he is certainly one to keep an eye on.” Daniel Orme, Leicester Mercury
24. Chris Willock
Age / Position: 20 / Winger
Club record: 15 apps for Benfica B, three goals, two assists. Two apps for Arsenal. 40 apps for Arsenal U23s, nine goals, nine assists.
England record since U16: 43 caps, six goals.
Summary: Willock led a wave of international moves for young English players when he made an eye-catching transfer to Benfica last summer. Frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities with Arsenal he made the brave decision to try his luck abroad — something he should be commended for. He hasn’t made a senior appearance yet but is playing regularly for Benfica B in Portugal’s second division, a level that is certainly more competitive than Under 23 football in the UK.
Willock is a mazy dribbler who reminds you of playground football where you were determined to beat every other person on the pitch even if it meant going backwards. He can be guilty of holding on to the ball too long at times but always looks a threat and tends to make something happen.
Insider’s view: “Extremely skillful and a threat in front of goal, losing Willock is a significant blow for Arsenal, with the youngster certainly one of the club’s best prospects.
Had he remained with the Gunners he may well have been sent out on loan but he can’t be begrudged for wanting to move to Benfica, where he will have a much clearer path into the first-team squad.
A product of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, Willock progressed through the ranks at the club and frequently played above his age group, an indication of his talent.” Jeorge Bird, Arsenal Youth
25. Tom Davies
Age / Position: 19 / Central Midfield
Club record: 59 apps for Everton, two goals, five assists.
England record since U16: 41 caps, three goals.
Summary: Tom Davies was a regular in the Everton team as an 18 year-old, and in central midfield, a position which young players are not often given responsibility. More often it is quick, skillful wide players who are able to make an impression at an early stage in their careers. However, Davies has looked well capable, amassing over 50 first team appearances long before his 20th birthday.
Davies is in the mould of a classic, all-round midfielder; perhaps not exceptional in one particular discipline, but very good at a few. A disciplined, hard-working but creative presence, it is easy to imagine him becoming the heartbeat of any team he plays for.
Insider’s view: “Many Evertonians are keen observers of the club’s youth system because it has been so productive over the years and every season there is usually a buzz about which players are primed to make the step up to the first team. This season it’s been Beni Baningime but this time last year it was Davies who, it was felt, was more than ready.
He obviously burst onto the national consciousness with that brilliant goal against Manchester City last January but he had already shown to Everton fans over the previous few games that he belonged in the senior side despite only being 18 years old. He is still raw, needs to work on his tackling and his enthusiasm to win the ball back has seen him pick up a number of yellow cards this season. Because of that his best position is still up in the air — he isn’t a №6 or a №10 but perhaps more like a box-to-box №8 in the making — but he is a valuable member of the squad.
His best attributes are his desire to drive forward rather than dwell on the ball in midfield and his eye for a killer pass. While he doesn’t have all of the natural flair of someone like Ross Barkley, he can rival his team-mate in terms of a perceptive through-ball or a crafty flick here and there to get past an opponent.” Lyndon Lloyd, Toffee Web
26. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Age / Position: 19 / Right back
Club record: 29 apps for Liverpool, three goals, two assists.
England record since U16: 31 caps, six goals.
Summary: Alexander-Arnold opted to stay and fight for his place in Liverpool’s first team this season (rather than go out on loan) and he has already racked up some good experience, playing 710 minutes of Premier League football as well as scoring on his Champions League debut. That’s with some tough competition too; Jurgen Klopp has also opted to use Joe Gomez at right back while Nathaniel Clyne works his way back from injury.
He is thought very highly of within the Liverpool setup, not just for his talent but dedication and attitude as well. He has publicly stated that he will not be satisfied until he is captain of Liverpool and playing week-in-week out for “a couple of seasons in a row”.
“He’s only 19, but Alexander-Arnold has already played so many different roles for Liverpool through the age groups — though he looks to be settling as a right-back at first-team level.
His stint in this position has seen him hone his defensive game this season, and Klopp recently said he is now “a proper defender.”
Alexander-Arnold’s long-term future is at Liverpool, and having set his sights on the captaincy at some stage, it would be wrong to bet against him wearing the armband in years to come.” Jack Lusby, This is Anfield
27. Tayo Edun
Age / Position: 19 / Defensive Midfield
Club record: Seven apps for Fulham. 34 apps, three goals and four assists for Fulham U23s.
England record since U16: 32 caps, 1 goal and an European U19 champion
Summary: Fulham produce some fantastic footballers; the Sessegnon twins are the most famous names to emerge from the academy in the last few years, but Tayo Edun is another name to remember. A really underrated player who is starting to break in to the Fulham first team.
He is the type of technical, defensive midfield presence England often don’t produce, he is like a cross between Michael Carrick and Jack Wilshere. His only blip in the summer was getting sent off (two yellow cards) in the second half of the Euro final against Portugal.
Insider’s View: “Last year was good to Tayo Edun and 2018 promises to be even better.
For his club the central midfielder signed a new three-year deal in July before making his Cottagers Championship debut in November when he started against Derby.
For his country, Edun started every game as England won the Under-19 Euros during the summer, moved up to the Under-20 setup and was also drafted in to train with Gareth Southgate’s seniors ahead of the Three Lions friendly against Germany, a sign of how well thought of he is within the England setup.
A versatile left-footed midfielder, Edun, 19, excels and is comfortable on the ball and always wants it to conduct play for his team with his passing ability.” Adrian Kajumba, Daily Mirror
28. Reece Oxford
Age / Position: 19 / Centre Back
Club: West Ham United (on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach)
Club record: Four apps for Borussia Monchengladbach, 16 apps for West Ham, five apps for Reading
England record since U16: 35 caps, one goal.
Summary: A player with a lot of hype, predominantly stemming from his impressive Premier League debut against Arsenal in 2015 when Slaven Bilic deployed him as a defensive midfielder. Oxford hasn’t had as many opportunities since then and is another English youngsterto try their luck in Germany at Borussia Monchengladbach. Sporting Director Max Eberl has been impressed and recently talked up the chances of the German club signing Oxford on a permanent basis. He briefly returned to West Ham in January but thankfully has been sent back to Germany where he was just starting to make his breakthrough before Christmas.
YouTube clips of Oxford show that he is sometimes too eager to play long balls from the back, (perhaps why he seemed well suited to defensive midfield where the opportunities to play those passes are not as frequent because of the closer proximity to forward players) but his positional awareness, tackling and athleticism are not in doubt.
Insider’s view: “Reece Oxford is quite a player. We all know this. We saw it when he pocketed Mesut Özil as a 16-year-old. However, one good game two seasons ago does not a Premier League player make. Oxford is developing well, regardless of the playing time he’s getting. Obviously playing time is pertinent to player improvement, but the time Oxford is putting in — even just in training — at a club like Gladbach is doing a lot for his long-term development. Playing time will come eventually, surely.” Chad Hoy, West Ham reporter for SB Nation
29. Sam Field
Age / Position: 19 / Central Midfield
Club: West Brom
Club record: 18 apps for West Brom, one goal. 27 apps for West Brom U23s, one assist.
England record since U16: 14 caps, one goal.
Summary: Tony Pulis said Field is “as good as any player he has seen at that age” and his progress was closely monitored in pre-season with this marked out as a breakthrough season for the 19 year-old. So far it is going OK— he’s made six Premier League appearances with an average playing time of nearly 75 minutes per game, and he’s scored his first goal for the club.
He missed out on the successful U19 European Championships this summer, although it is unclear whose decision that was, one suspects Pulis had a big part in it given the tournament is played during pre-season. Fingers crossed Alan Pardew is more co-operative when it comes to international call-ups.
Insider’s view: “The baby-faced Field looks south of his 19 years, but plays north of them. “Sam’s very mature — a good decision-maker for his age, a brilliant passer, very clever,” according to Tony Pulis.
The midfielder, who has represented England at various youth levels, has said he used to watch former team-mate Darren Fletcher in training — no bad role model, of 323 Premier League appearances.
Field thrived on his first Premier League start against Middlesbrough in August 2016, impressing with his immaculate control and passing.” Four Four Two
30. Marcus Edwards
Age / Position: 19 / Attacking Midfielder
Club: Spurs (on loan at Norwich)
Club record: One appearance for Spurs. 25 apps for Spurs U23s, nine goals and six assists. Eight apps for Spurs U19 UEFA Youth League team, four goals, five assists.
England record since U16: 46 caps, 13 goals and a Under 19 European champion.
Summary: Edwards used to sport an instantly recognisable afro, but he is now more recognisable by his incredible balance and close ball control. Pochettino famously labelled Edwards as “Mini Messi”, an undoubtedly unfair comparison, but Edwards’ ability to beat players and wriggle away from defenders is reminiscent of the Argentine legend.
The biggest threat to a big future for Edwards could be himself. Pochettino alluded to the fact that his attitude wasn’t quite right earlier this season and similar comments have already been made at Norwich where he moved in January and where he is yet to kick a ball.
Insider’s view: “The 18-year-old has had so much hype in the last 12 months, and made his senior debut from the bench in the League Cup last season, but Pochettino just does not feel he’s ready yet for the Premier League.
Pochettino said of him “ I think we need to wait a little bit for him to build more his physical condition and his confidence. He’s better playing in the U23s or the Youth Cup than staying with us, maybe on the bench.”
It’s up to Edwards to keep his head down now and impress or other talented, creative young midfielders like Samuel Shashoua will move ahead of him in the race to the first team.
Edwards has scored some superb goals in recent months for the U23s, U19s and England U20s. Now he just needs to convince Pochettino about his work rate and that he’s ready physically for the Premier League before the end of the season.” Alasdair Gold, Football.london
31. Mason Mount
Age / Position: 19 / Attacking Midfield
Club: Chelsea (on loan at Vitesse Arnhem)
Club record: 24 apps for Vitesse, six goals, two assists. 25 apps for Chelsea U23s, four goals, three assists. UEFA Youth League winner with Chelsea U19s.
England record since U16: 32 caps, nine goals and a European Under 19 champion.
Summary: Mount was named player of the tournament at the European Under 19 Championships this summer and for anyone watching it was easy to see why. He is a truly gifted manipulator of a football and was at the heart of seemingly every England goal at the tournament — a bit like Phil Foden for the Under 17s.
Mount seems to glide effortlessly across the pitch and is a real creative hub, picking out teammates with superb vision and range of passing. Like many Chelsea youngsters before him, Mount is spending the season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in Holland and is doing well by all accounts — scoring this specatular free-kick amongst other things.
Insider’s view: “Mount is an exceptional young player. He’s one of England’s best prospects when we consider just how effective he is in the final third. He can play box-to-box, but he is also creative enough with the ball at his feet to carve out openings for those around him.
He has an end product in attack, and for midfielders such as him, that’s the currency in which they trade.
Mount doesn’t score tap-ins, either. He has a knack for a wonder goal, and if he keeps that up, he will achieve much more than fame on YouTube highlights reels.” Garry Hayes, Bleacher Report
32. Dujon Sterling
Age / Position: 18 / Right Back
Club record: Two appearances for Chelsea. 36 apps for Chelsea U23s, four goals, four assists and twice winner of the UEFA Youth League with Chelsea U19s.
England record since U16: 42 caps, one goal and an U19 European champion.
Summary: Sterling is a wonderful talent and will add yet more competition to the future right back role for the England senior side. He lifted the European Under 19 trophy this summer while still only 17 years of age and made his debut for that team at just 16.
He is perhaps the most exciting defender on this list, although calling him a defender might be a bit of a disservice — he has played in every position other than goalkeeper and central midfield. Sterling looks the complete footballer, whether operating at right back or further forward: he has great athleticism and pace, good technique, positional awareness and football intelligence beyond his age group.
Insider’s view: “We get the feeling English football is going to be talking about another young Sterling soon. Unrelated to Manchester City’s Raheem, Dujon Sterling has everything in his repertoire to make a similar name for himself.
He’s tenacious, with skill and pace to burn that frightens defenders and attackers who come up against him.
Chelsea have shown faith in his ability by fast-tracking him through the age groups, and he hasn’t let his coaches down.
Looking at the qualities he has, Sterling looks a strong prospect as a wing-back or inside forward, operating in the areas we have seen Eden Hazard and Pedro.
Sterling is progressing well and is a fine talent; expect to hear more from him.” Garry Hayes, Bleacher Report
33. Trevoh Chalobah
Age / Position: 18 / Centre Back
Club record: 43 apps for Chelsea U23s, one assist. 10 apps and a winner’s medal for Chelsea U19s UEFA Youth League team.
England record since U16: 36 caps, two goals and an Under 19 European champion.
Summary: Unlike his brother Nathaniel, Trevoh looks more suited to centre back, a role he performed with distinction for the England Under 19s this summer until he got injured in the group stages. From then on England looked less fluent without his more intelligent use of the ball. Chalobah looks mature and composed with real leadership qualities, marked out by his captaincy of the Under 19 national team, despite only turning 18 the day of England’s opening game of the European Championships against Bulgaria.
Insider’s view: “The younger brother of Nathaniel, Trevoh Chalobah is a player in the same mould of his sibling.
That’s not a lazy comparison based on bloodlines. Watch the younger Chalobah and you will see with his frame and posture that he isn’t too dissimilar to his 22-year-old brother.
Nathaniel is 6'1", which usually suggests a player who is gangly and not always in control of his body; Chalobah Jr. is anything but.
Whereas Nathaniel plays in central midfield, Trevoh sits further back in defence. The 17-year-old has played as a right-back or centre-back during his time at Chelsea, but don’t let that fool you as to his footballing ability. He is comfortable in possession and can get forward to link up play and be a threat in the opposition half.” Garry Hayes, Bleacher Report
34. Ben Brereton
Age / Position: 18 / Striker
Club: Nottingham Forest
Club record: 43 apps for Nottingham Forest, six goals, 5 assists.
England record since U16: 12 caps, four goals and an Under 19 European champion.
Insider’s view: “The teenager really burst on to the scene last season.
Fans had been calling for him to be handed his senior debut for a while, as he had been scoring a bucket-load of goals for Forest’s Under-23s. It finally came in January and Brereton went on to make 18 appearances last term, making a name for himself with his first goal for the club — a last minute winner against Aston Villa.
Has so many attributes as a striker, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole him into a particular role. He has pace, has a goalscorer’s instinct, can score all kinds of goals, is physically strong for his age and has good link-up play. He can also do a job on the right wing.
Supporters love him because, although he came from Stoke City, he is seen as a product of the Reds Academy, having come up through the Under-18s and 23s. And he’s very much identified as one of the club’s brightest prospects.
Brereton has been in and out of the team this season and for the most part has been played out on the right — something which hasn’t gone down well with many fans, who argue you don’t get the best out of him there and want him played through the middle. He has some tough competition for that central role, though.
In the short-term, it seems like the rest of the campaign will pan out in a similar way for Brereton — it’s doubtful he’ll be starting every game. But that doesn’t mean he will not have a key role to play.
Long-term, if he continues on the same kind of upward curve, Forest are likely to face a fight to hold on to him. He has already been linked to Premier League clubs and playing for England Under-19s will have only enhanced his reputation further.” Sarah Clapson, The Nottingham Post
35. Reiss Nelson
Age / Position: 18 / Winger, Attacking Midfield
Club record: 12 apps for Arsenal. 34 apps for Arsenal U23s, 14 goals, ten assists.
England record since U16: 19 caps, 11 goals.
Summary: A player who made a big splash in Arsenal’s pre-season tour (when he was still 17), impressing in a less familiar wing back role for the Gunners. Since then he has made 12 first team appearances in domestic and European cup competitions to continue his exposure to top level football.
Nelson has a box of tricks, fantastic acceleration and he can finish or provide for others — evidenced by an impressive record for Arsenal Under 23s and England. He possesses incredible close control and a frightening ability to change direction at high speed.
Insider’s view: “Reiss Nelson is a special talent. Not since Jack Wilshere broke into the Arsenal first-team has there been so much excitement about a young player at the Emirates Stadium. For now, he’s picking up first-team minutes as a wing-back, but the forthcoming departures of Alexis and Ozil might create an opportunity for him to stake a claim for his preferred attacking midfield role. One to watch closely.” James McNicholas, Gunnerblog, CNN, ESPN, Mirror Football and Bleacher Report.
36. Edward Nketiah
Age / Position: 18 / Centre Forward
Club record: Six apps for Arsenal, two goals. 25 apps for Arsenal U23s, 15 goals, three assists. 16 apps for Arsenal U18s, 15 goals, three assists.
England record since U16: Eight caps, 11 goals.
Summary: A real penalty box predator, Nketiah doesn’t score many goals from outside the area. Instead he uses his pace to get to the penalty box and his skill to find space for a shot. Him and Reiss Nelson are the players most readily name-checked for a break through to the Arsenal first team and look set to be given more opportunities in cup competitions this season.
Insider’s view: “Eddie Nketiah hit the headlines when he scored two goals on his home debut against Norwich City, but observers of Arsenal’s academy side will have known him well for some time. Nketiah is a prolific scorer at youth level both for club and country. He has a real nose for a goal and excellent composure in the box. It’s tough for a young forward to make the breakthrough at Arsenal, but he’s enjoyed a fantastic start. Hopefully he can fare better than the likes of Benik Afobe and Chuba Akpom.” James McNicholas, Gunnerblog, CNN, ESPN, Mirror Football and Bleacher Report.
37. George Hirst
Age / Position: 18 / Striker
Club: Sheffield Wednesday
Club record: Two apps for Sheffield Wednesday. It is not clear how many games he has played for Sheffield Wednesday’s development teams.
England record since U16: 24 caps, 13 goals and a Toulon Tournament winner in 2017.
Summary: Son of David Hirst, a Sheffield Wednesday legend, there are high hopes for George although he is currently involved in a mysterious contract stand-off and if a November Daily Mail report is to be believed he has decided his future is away from Hillsborough. That contract standoff is the reason he has yet to play a minute of football for any Sheffield Wednesday team this year.
Contrast that to last year where he scored 40 goals in all competitions for club (U23 & U18 teams) and country and it is clear something has gone wrong over the summer. One thing that went very right was Hirst’s peformances for England’s Under 20 team at the Toulon Tournament where he was joint-top scorer and named in the team of the tournament.
Insider’s view: Of all the kids I’ve worked with, George is potentially the best. When you are in the England set-up, you are clearly doing something right. He has been keeping boys out of the England set-up who play for Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out he’s a good player.
George is not your conventional academy type player that we like to produce in this country, he’s a little bit old fashioned which I quite like. He wants to come to the ball rather than run in behind.
George can be a top player but there are a lot of things that have got to happen. He has to stay injury free which is a big one as things can change in football in the blink of an eye. He needs a little bit of luck.” Dean Ramsdale, former Academy Manager at Sheffield Wednesday.
38. Andre Dozzell
Age / Position: 18 / Central Midfield
Club: Ipswich Town
Club record: 12 appearances for Ipswich Town, one goal.
England record since U16: 32 caps, four goals and an Under 19 European champion.
Summary: Another player with a famous dad (Jason), Andre Dozzell is a different player to his father; a left-footed creative central midfielder who is a probing passer and comfortable running with the ball too.
Dozzell has been very unlucky with injuries, picking up a hip injury in the latter stages of the U19 Euros for England which kept him out of the rest of the tournament. Him and Trevoh Chalobah were a noticeable miss to the team that seemed to have greater control and more of the ball with them in it. He then went on to pick up a cruciate ligament injury on the first day of the Championship season for Ipswich. A real shame as he looked set for a breakthrough year but is now unlikely to play again for the remainder of the season.
39. Joel Latibeaudiere
Age / Position: 18 / Defender
Club: Manchester City
Club record: 15 apps for Manchester City U23s. 26 apps for Manchester City U18s.
England record since U16: 16 caps and an U17 world champion.
Summary: Latibeaudiere is a well-rounded centre back who captained the England Under 17s to World Cup glory this summer. His athleticism and composure allow him to particularly excel in defending one on one situations.
Insider’s view: “Joel Latibeaudiere is a versatile defender who has bulked up over the last 12 months to give a more commanding presence at the back and is comfortable leading his teammates.
Centre back is a real opportunity for young defenders at City, more so than other positions, with Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany not getting any younger. But Jason Denayer, Tosin Adarabioyo and Cameron Humphreys have shown potential before and none have yet managed to make the step up permanently to the first team squad.
I think a year abroad would probably be best for Joel, playing on loan in a technical league, but he would also suit the Championship should City want his challenge to be more physical. With him only just 18, there is plenty of time to work out what is best.” Simon Bajkowski, Manchester Evening News
40. Nya Kirby
Age / Position: 18 / Central Midfield
Club: Crystal Palace
Club record: Nine apps and one goal for Crystal Palace U23s last season. Statistics not available this season.
England record since U16: 24 caps, one goal and an U17 world champion in 2017.
Summary: Kirby is an all-action midfielder who seems like he is everywhere on the pitch. However there is much more to his game than just energy; he has the technical ability required of a 21st century midfielder, great strength on the ball and the composure to wait for the right pass and not over complicate matters.
Kirby was brought up at the Spurs academy but was involved in a controversial move to Crystal Palace in the summer of 2016, after seeming to be on his way to Chelsea. He was unlucky to only play a substitute role for England Under 17s at the World Cup — which shows that particular group’s strength in depth. He would have started in most other year groups.
Insider’s view: “Physically he has drawn comparisons with Holland legend Ruud Gullit due to his dreadlocks. Yet, on the pitch those who watch him play week-in-week-out liken him to Dele Alli.
The pace of Kirby, his vision, his creativity, his cutting edge, his dribbling ability, his speed of thought, his awareness of those around him and his eye for goal. All these things have made him an unbreakable joy to watch. One day he might be worth the price of a Premier League ticket. For the moment, he is a YouTube sensation and on Palace’s new manager Roy Hodgson’s mind. Many even tip him to step into French star Yohann Cabaye’s shoes should the former Newcastle man return to France next summer.
But despite the clamour, the adulation and the growing limelight, Kirby keeps his feet planted on the floor, having been well informed about those who wanted too much too soon and saw how cruel the game could be.” Alessandro Schiavone, sportsgazzette.co.uk
41. Ryan Sessegnon
Age / Position: 17 / Left back or left wing
Club record: 63 apps for Fulham, 18 goals, 8 assists.
England record since U16: 30 caps, seven goals and an U19 European champion.
Summary: It’s hard to find a place to start when talking about Ryan Sessegnon, given what he has already achieved:
He’s made over 60 first team appearances for Fulham, contributing 26 goals and assists in the process. He made his England U19 debut aged just 16 and was one of the team’s star players as they went on to win the European Championship this summer. Sessegnon was joint top scorer at the competition and named in the team of the tournament.
All this from a player who doesn’t turn 18 until May and is supposedly a left back. There’s not much chance he will end up a defender in the long term and he was deployed further forward for England in the summer from where he was devastating at times. Rumours continue to surface of a move to Spurs or Manchester United and the comparisons with Gareth Bale will only continue if he does make the move to White Hart Lane.
Insider’s view: “Perhaps it would be easier to list the big clubs not interested in Ryan Sessegnon’s signature. Some say Arsenal and Liverpool are favourites but Chelsea and Tottenham have also been linked with the Fulham teenager as well as both Manchester clubs. Even Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig have reportedly sent scouts to Craven Cottage. So what is all the fuss about?
Sessegnon’s Fulham team-mate Stefan Johansen sums it up well. “It’s 99 per cent certain he will be one of the top left-backs in the world,” said the Norwegian midfielder. Johansen was speaking after seeing Sessegnon score for the second round running in the FA Cup and few there to witness the performance would be in too much of a rush to disagree with him.” Adam Bate, Sky Sports
42. Marc Guehi
Age / Position: 17 / Central Defence
Club record: 37 apps for Chelsea U18s, four goals, one assist.
England record since U16: 29 caps, three goals and an U17 world champion.
Summary: Picked the perfect moment to score his first goal for the England U17s, finishing from close range to score the all important fourth goal in the 5–2 victory over Spain in the World Cup final.
There was a bit of rotation in the Under 17s defensive line during the Euros in May and World Cup in October, however, Guehi did not budge and was ever-present at the centre of defence in both tournaments. He is the sort of modern defender England want to produce, comfortable on the ball (although he does overrun it at times), a physical presence for opposition attackers and a threat from set pieces.
Insider’s view: “Chelsea have a long line of talented defenders to emerge from their academy in the past decade or so. Of course, before that we saw John Terry come through and establish himself before the likes of Michael Mancienne and Jeffrey Bruma grabbed our attention.
Could Guehi go on to surpass them? The early suggestions are he can.
He plays at either right-back or centre-back and has been a part of the Chelsea youth setup since he was eight years old. Still only 16, the Ivory Coast-born youngster fits the same mould as the likes of Dominic Solanke and Tammy Abraham who have come through right from an early age to be coached in the Chelsea way.” Garry Hayes, Bleacher Report
43. Jonathan Panzo
Age / Position: 17 / Defender
Club record: Three apps for Chelsea U23s, one assist. 18 apps for Chelsea U18s, one assist.
England record since U16: 32 caps and an U17 world champion.
Summary: Panzo is a versatile defender who usually plays at centre-back but also performed admirably for England U17s at left-back during their World Cup triumph. He looks very composed on the ball and skillful for a defender which helps him play his way out of tight situations.
He plays with a bit of swagger that can make him seem casual at times but he rarely makes mistakes. His solidity at left-back gave Callum Hudson-Odoi, his Chelsea and England team-mate, the platform to attack with more freedom during the World Cup.
Insider’s view: “Panzo plays at centre back for both Chelsea and England and his physique at such a young age makes him a tough prospect for any centre forward to play against.
In addition to this, Panzo has the highly sought after qualities that are required for modern day centre backs — he shows great comfort on the ball and can find the right pass as well as beat a player and come out with the ball to relieve pressure and drive his team up the pitch.” Garry Hayes, Bleacher Report
44. Oliver Skipp
Age / Position: 17 / Defensive Midfielder
Club: Tottenham Hostpur
Club record: 16 apps for Tottenham U23s, one assist. 23 apps for Tottenham U18s, five assists.
England record since U16: Five caps.
Summary: Skipp was unlucky to miss out on the recent Under 17 World Cup squad, perhaps because he is too similar to George McEachran of Chelsea or Spurs team mate Tashan Oakley-Boothe, albeit more defensively positioned and combative on the pitch. Some Spurs fans have likened his style to Michael Carrick or Harry Winks and he can play in defence too.
Insider’s view: “Big things are being expected of Oliver Skipp by the academy coaches and in every way he is the perfect Pochettino player.
The defensive midfielder is skillful, tactically intelligent, determined and never stops running and hassling the opposition. Despite his age — he only turned 17 in mid-September — he dominates much older midfield opponents in the club’s U19 and U23 matches.
Pochettino is keeping a close eye on him and there’s a bit of Harry Winks about him in terms of his intelligence, distribution and work-rate in the centre, but still only being 17 he’s likely to continue to grow into a more physically dominating player than Spurs’ latest England international.” Alasdair Gold, Football.london
45. Angel Gomes
Age / Position: 17 / Attacking Midfielder
Club: Manchester United
Club record: Two appearances for Manchester United. 25 apps for Manchester U18s, 15 goals, seven assists.
England record since U16: 22 caps, seven goals and an U17 world champion.
Summary: Gomes hit the headlines last season when he replaced Wayne Rooney to become the youngest ever player to play for Manchester United in the Premier League era. However, followers of youth football have known about the diminutive playmaker for some time.
Insider’s view: “Stylistically, Gomes is a dynamic and explosive dribbler, able to burst away from opponents and weave between defenders thanks to his immaculate close control. He is also a goal threat with either foot, and has the vision and execution to carve opposition backlines apart with incisive through-balls.
In terms of his position, Gomes’ skillset and ability to use both feet means he can slot into a number of roles comfortably, whether wide on either flank or centrally as a false nine. However, his preferred position is as a №10, where he can dictate play in advanced areas and remain a constant threat.
Yet to appear for United at senior or even reserve-team level this season*, it is unlikely Gomes will become a first-team regular for the Red Devils any time soon.
But there’s no rush. At 17, it is important to allow the diminutive attacker time to develop physically and further refine his skills away from the cauldron of pressure that is Old Trafford.” Ryan Baldi, Football Whispers
*Gomes has now played once for Man United’s first team and three times for the U23s this season.
46. Emile Smith-Rowe
Age / Position: 17 / Winger
Club record: Seven apps for Arsenal U23s, one goal, two assists. 22 apps for Arsenal U18s, ten goals, one assist.
England record since U16: 12 caps, two goals and an U17 world champion.
Summary: A very direct winger who stretches defences with his powerful running. Smith-Rowe made an impact for England Under 17s from the bench during the World Cup and he scored twice against Iraq in the group stage in the only game he started.
Insider’s view: “Smith-Rowe signed his first professional contract this summer, having been with the club since the age of 10. The first thing that strikes you about him is his selection and weight of pass in the final third — for such a young player, he’s a very intelligent footballer. Smith-Rowe can operate as a striker, but is at his best on the flanks.” James McNicholas, Gunnerblog, CNN, ESPN, Mirror Football and Bleacher Report.
47. Phil Foden
Age / Position: 17 / Attacking Midfielder
Club: Manchester City
Club record: Four apps for Manchester City. Six apps for Manchester City U23s, three goals, two assists. 29 apps for Manchester City U18s, 14 goals, seven assists.
England record since U16: 33 caps, 16 goals and an U17 world champion. Foden also won the Golden Ball (player of the tournament).
Summary: The current Golden Boy, literally, of English youth football, Foden enjoyed a sensational World Cup where he was instrumental in dismantling Brazil and Spain in the semi final and final respectively. The Manchester City youngster cuts defences apart with his incisive passing around the penalty box and his ability to beat players without lots of tricks — body feints and Cruyff turns are his main weapons.
Foden played out on the right of a front four for England, mainly due to England’s attacking riches in this age group, but inflicts more damage through the middle where he ended in the closing stages of games. Could he be the academy product to finally cement a place in City’s first team?
Insider’s view: “Foden is the no.1 prospect at the moment. He’s a part of the first team already and Guardiola has been raving about him pretty much since he arrived in Manchester. He’s been at City since he was six and signed officially when he was eight. He’s a no.10 who is good at both dribbling and playing through balls. He also scores goals. He plays with his head up and is very good technically, so much so that you would think he’d come through the ranks at a Spanish or French club”. Sam Lee, Goal.com
48. Callum Hudson-Odoi
Age / Position: 17 / Winger & Forward
Club record: Two appearence for Chelsea. 14 apps for Chelsea U23s, ten goals, four assists. 25 apps for Chelsea U18s, ten goals, nine assists.
England record since U16: 24 caps, five goals and an U17 world champion.
Summary: While Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Rhian Brewster often grabbed the headlines for England Under 17s, Hudson Odoi is another incredible attacking talent from the 2000 crop.
Fantastic physically, he has height, strength and speed, all of which proved far too much for Spain’s right back in the World Cup final. He created both of Phil Foden’s goals in that game and was arguably more of a menace to the Spanish defence than Foden himself. Hudson-Odoi is evidence of a new breed of English player emerging who are fantastic athletes but also gifted technically too.
Insider’s view: “Hudson-Odoi is one of the brightest young prospects in English football.
An attacking midfielder equally comfortable on the wing or playing in the hole as a number ten, it is no wonder that Hudson-Odoi is drawing comparisons to senior teammate Eden Hazard.
Having joined the club at U8 level, Hudson-Odoi is a Chelsea boy through and through and his progression is a sign of the growing strength of the Blues’ academy.
He impressed for the Chelsea U18s last season on their way to an historic treble and even scored in the final of the FA Youth Cup against Manchester City — one of his eight goals in 25 appearances for the U18s. Garry Hayes, Bleacher Report
49. Jadon Sancho
Age / Position: 17 / Forward
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Club record: Six apps for Borussia Dortmund, one assist. Three apps for Borussia Dortmund II, one assist. Five apps for Borussia Dortmund U19s, three goals, one assist. Seven apps for Manchester City U23s, three goals, two assists.
England record since U16: 32 caps, 22 goals and an U17 world champion. Named player of the tournament at U17 European Championships, 2017.
Summary: Sancho was comfortably the most hyped English youngster until Phil Foden’s exploits at the World Cup (a tournament Borussia Dortmund only allowed Sancho to play in the group stages of). The Guardian recently named him as England’s most likely winner of a Ballon D’Or.
The former Watford academy product is a walking highlight reel and YouTube will tell you all you need to know about him. Sancho loves to occupy the left wing from where he uses his blend of devastating speed, skills and finishing to punish opponents. He has plenty of tricks and can be guilty of over complicating matters at times. However, no one can argue with his goalscoring and assist records, especially for England.
He has recently broken into the Dortmund senior team, following his well publicised move from Manchester City last summer, and he certainly has a better chance of making the breakthrough in Germany than he does at a club with billions in the bank. If he does fulfil his promise
50. Tashan Oakley-Boothe
Age / Position: 17 / Central Midfield
Club record: One appearance for Spurs. Four apps for Spurs U23s. 17 apps for Spurs U18s, two goals.
England record since U16: 29 caps and an U17 world champion.
Summary: Oakley-Boothe is a bit of an unsung hero for England. He can go through the whole game without doing anything spectacular, but what was clear to anyone who watched England’s Under 17s at the World Cup and Euros is how important he is to the team.
His ability to keep the ball in all manner of situations, find the right pass and his composure and authority to bring it out from deep positions was crucial to the success of the team. He has been in and around first team squad at Spurs since last season and made his first team debut in the Carabao Cup in September.
Insider’s view: “Pochettino is a big fan of the 17-year-old central midfielder. After discussions with the academy coaches, including the Head of Coaching and Player Development John McDermott, Oakley-Boothe was chosen among the group of youngsters to join the first team on their pre-season tour of the USA in the summer.
While the others had more of a watch and learn brief, Oakley-Boothe was used across the matches against PSG, Roma and Manchester City. In the latter match, in Nashville, he came off the bench to form an incredibly young central midfield pairing with Winks.
The teenager is composed on the ball despite his tender years and has a great engine on him” Alasdair Gold, Football.london
51. George McEachran
Age / Position: 17 / Central Midfield
Club record: One appearance for Chelsea U23s. 35 apps for Chelsea U18s, nine goals, nine assists.
England record since U16: 26 caps, two goals and an U17 world champion.
Summary: The McEachran name has been destined for big things before: older brother Josh was part of the England Under 17 team that won the 2010 Euros and seemed set to be the first player since John Terry to break into Chelsea’s first team from the academy. It never quite worked out that way and Josh’s star has has faded since.
George tends to play deeper than his brother but they are very similar players in terms of their creativity and awareness with the ball. George is also more aggressive without the ball and offered a fantastic base for England’s attackers to get forward at the Under 17 World Cup, alongside Tashan Oakley-Boothe. He is excellent at winning the ball back in the opponents half and quickly releasing forwards for a counter attack.
Insider’s view: “There are big noises about his ability in the junior ranks, yet the club continue to manage his profile well and aren’t heaping on the pressure. He has been used to good effect in Jody Morris’ FA Youth Cup winning side, where we’ve seen his technical ability in all its glory, but a promotion to Antonio Conte’s first-team squad looks some way off.” Garry Hayes, Bleacher Report
52. Rhian Brewster
Age / Position: 17 / Centre Forward
Club record: 19 apps for Liverpool U23s, eight goals, eight assists. 11 apps for Liverpool U18s, five goals, four assists.
England record since U16: 27 caps, 24 goals and an U17 world champion in 2017 where he also won the Golden Boot with eight goals.
Summary: The hype machine understandably got into full swing for Brewster during the World Cup when he scored consecutive hat tricks in the quarter and semi-finals against the USA and Brazil. He then went on to score a crucial goal in the final just before half time to ignite the engines of England’s remarkable comeback against Spain.
His goalscoring record for England is truly phenomenal and he looks the closest thing to a natural poacher or ‘fox in the box’ type of player since Gary Lineker. He did score a wonderful free kick for England in the group stages but it is his movement in the penalty area that marks him out as a real threat. Jurgen Klopp and Steven Gerrard have both spoken highly of him in the past although he has a bit of queue in front of him at Anfield— Firmino, Salah, Mane, Sturridge, Ings, Solanke — so would be better served by getting some time out on loan.
Insider’s view: “Brewster’s star is rising rapidly, and attention clearly increased as he won the Golden Boot at the U17 World Cup in 2017, but at 17 he is still has a long way to go.
He’s a rapid, versatile forward whose ability to operate in a variety of roles provides him an elusiveness in attack, and his finishing is second to none in Liverpool’s academy.
He still needs to bulk up, but he already plays with such intensity and an unrelenting industry that he will almost certainly make it at Liverpool in the coming seasons. Jack Lusby, This is Anfield
53. Kane Wilson
Age / Position: 17 / Right back
Club: West Brom
Club record: Eleven apps for Exeter City, one goal, one assist. One appearance for West Brom. 17 apps for West Brom U23s, one goal.
England record since U16: Nine caps.
Summary: A right back with a big future according to Tony Pulis, a manager who seemed to take short-sighted pleasure in keeping his young players away from England squads come tournament time.
Wilson is on loan at Exeter where he was sent off in injury time of his debut for kicking the ball away (2nd yellow card). He has been used at left back at West Brom showing his versatility and despite only being 17, his physical presence has already been noted by coaches and teammates — which perhaps helped him make his first team debut aged 16 and adapt to lower league football on loan.
54. Steven Sessegnon
Age / Position: 17 / Full back
Club record: Two apps for Fulham. Six apps for Fulham U23s, 22 for Fulham U18s.
England record since U16: 11 caps, and an U17 world champion.
Summary: Capable of playing on either side of the defence as well as a holding midfielder, Steven is more versatile than his brother Ryan and a bit more defensively disciplined. Having said that, he was very much an attacking threat from right back at the World Cup, notching up a very impressive five assists in five games. He is less of a goal threat than his brother but still very capable of marauding dribbles and overlapping runs — him and Phil Foden seemed a dream pairing in the latter stages of the tournament on England’s right side.
55. Morgan Gibbs-White
Age / Position: 17 / Central Midfield
Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Club record: Twelve apps for Wolves. 16 apps for Wolves U23s, two goals, five assists.
England record since U16: 16 caps, four goals and an U17 world champion.
Summary: Gibbs-White was the surprise package in the Under 17 World Cup team, replacing Jadon Sancho after the group stages (when he returned to Dortmund)— with most pundits assuming Angel Gomes of Manchester United would step in. However Gibbs-White proved his worth scoring two crucial goals in the knockout stages, including the equaliser in the final against Spain.
He has already played 12 times for the Wolves first team including four times this season, a serious achievement given the money the midlands club spent in the summer. There have been rumours of Premier League interest and Liverpool were linked with a £5 million move. Capable of playing as a straight central midfielder or further forward as he did for England, Gibbs-White is adept at making runs in to the box to support forward players. Underrated.
That’s the list. Who did I miss out? Who do you passionately disagree with?? Let me know in the comments.
Despite the current negativity around the England senior team, this list of players demonstrates that there is real abundance of talent in the youth ranks and it is (hopefully) only a matter of time before watching the England senior team becomes an exciting experience again. The thought of some of these players lining up with each other, the attacking stars in particular, is fairly mouthwatering. An attacking trio behind a central striker could be a mix of any from the likes of Sancho, Foden, Mount, Sessegnon, Nelson, Alli, Hudson- Odoi, Gomes or Lookman. Those creative positions is where the real strength lies and where England look set to thrive in the coming years.