England’s European U21 Championship campaign might have come to a premature end this summer, but there are still plenty of young, home-grown talent on display in the Britain next season. Here, news.bwin.com/en/ looks at five of the best.
Canada-born but eligible for England and Jamaica as well as the country of his birth, Junior Hoilett has been on the books at Blackburn Rovers since he was 13 and on the fringes of the first team since 2009. Although highly-regarded at Blackburn, it is only in the last six months that Hoilett has fully announced himself as a player to watch with a string of vibrant performances which played a part in keeping Rovers in the Premier League. With just 12 months remaining on his contract, Newcastle are rumoured to be monitoring the situation and Blackburn boss Steve Kean is desperate to tie him down to a new deal. “He can be top, top notch,” the Scot opined recently. “He can go all the way to being a very, very special player in this league.”
Newcastle keeper Fraser Forster has yet to pull on an England jersey at any level despite showing considerable promise during loan spells at Stockport, Bristol Rovers, Norwich and Celtic. However, with Fabio Capello seemingly bereft of options for the position of Joe Hart’s understudy, a good season from Forster could catapult the 23-year-old into national team reckoning. Celtic are attempting to broker a deal which will see Forster return to Celtic Park, although should Newcastle choose to keep the 6ft 7ins stopper on their books a loan move to a Premier League club – like Norwich, say – could yet be in the offing. Either way, expect him to be turning out regularly for a top club next season.
While hardly a fresh face on the scene, Gibbs has made just 13 Premier League starts for Arsenal. But with established left-back Gael Clichy apparently on his way out of the Emirates Stadium, Gibbs is likely to feature more regularly for the Gunners this season. Comfortable on the ball and blessed with an abundance of pace, the 21-year-old has already shown sufficient potential to earn himself two full England caps. However, a succession of injuries has stunted Gibbs’ progress and an extended run in the first team will be needed for him to re-enter Fabio Capello’s thoughts as an understudy to Ashley Cole.
England U21 star Connor Wickham had been linked with a number of top-flight clubs for more than a year before completing his move from Ipswich to Sunderland on 29th June. With the fee said to be worth up to £12 million over the course of Wickham’s four-year deal at the Stadium of Light, the transfer saw him become the most expensive football league acquisition by a Premier League club. Given the price, all eyes will be on Wickham to see whether he can live up to Steve Bruce’s label as a “great prospect”.
The return of Kenny Dalglish as manager at Liverpool improved the first-team prospects of a number of youngsters at Anfield. One of these was John Flanagan, an 18-year-old right-back from Merseyside. After making his debut on 11th April, a typically understated Dalglish said the “young boy is not bad” when quizzed about the defender’s chances of making it as a first-team regular. The fact Flanagan went on to make seven appearances for the Reds before the end of the season suggests his progression could be worth checking up on over the next few months.