All the best players start somewhere, but some seem to begin earlier than others. Here, in association with our pals at YouthHawk, we’ve put together the 50 hottest prospects in English football today.
Our parameters are simple: we looked for teenagers who are quite fine at football and contracted to English clubs right now. That’s it (sorry, Jadon).
Some clubs have a thriving youth setup that’s constantly churning out a new generation of would-be world-beaters, if not always providing them with the platform to show what they can do. Even teams that struggle to invest in their youth systems still manage to unearth the occasional superstar-in-the-making, however – and our list combines students from some of the country’s best academies with the standout performers elsewhere.
Here are the top 50 teenager players we’re most excited about right. If you think we’ve missed someone, let us know at @FourFourTwo…
Please note: We’re releasing the first 20 on Monday, the second 20 on Tuesday and then our top 10 on Wednesday. So make sure you stop by each tday to digest the list properly…
50. Amadou Diallo (West Ham)
Image: West Ham United FC
The second-youngest player on our list checks in at number 50, but despite only just having turned 16 he’s already well on his way to the top.
While preparing to sit his GSCEs this summer, the talented attacking midfielder has been impressing for West Ham’s under-23s, and is hopeful of being the next youngster to earn playing time under manager Manuel Pellegrini.
The two-footed Diallo is a keen dribbler with a dangerous shot, and is one to watch very closely indeed.
49. Jude Bellingham (Birmingham)
Bellingham is the only player younger than Diallo on this list but, like his fellow schoolboy, has also taken to under-23 football far better than your average 15-year-old has any right to.
A regular captain of England at U15 and U16 level, the Blues youngster profiles as a modern-day midfield schemer with lovely balance, tons of creativity and an eye for goal.
48. Dru Yearwood (Southend)
While teenagers up and down the country struggle for playing time at the highest levels, the Football League continues to offer a platform to impress early and often – and that has particularly been the case at Southend United.
All-action midfielder Yearwood has asserted himself as a crucial part of Chris Powell’s team since breaking into the Shrimpers’ squad at the start of last season, standing out for his ability to win back possession and then thrillingly transition into attack. Big clubs are taking notice.
47. Michael Obafemi (Southampton)
Once eligible for Ireland, England or Nigeria, the squat, muscular Obafemi was brought to attention in December when he became Southampton’s youngest-ever Premier League goalscorer at Huddersfield.
It came a month after the Dublin-born striker committed to Ireland, and his star will surely continue to ascend throughout 2019 and beyond now that he’s working under Ralph Hasenhuttl – a manager who is exceptionally keen to give his young players a chance to shine at St Mary’s.
46. Stephen Walker (Middlesbrough)
In the space of five days late last month, Walker scored a hat-trick for Middlesbrough’s under-18s to kill off Everton in the Premier League Cup, and then joined MK Dons on loan until the end of the season.
The move provides a chance for the prolific forward to build on a fine first half of the campaign in which he made his Boro first-team debut and continued to earn England recognition.
Walker is a natural finisher with fluid movement, and helping Milton Keynes to promotion from League Two could be just the start for him.
45. Arvin Appiah (Nottingham Forest)
An ever-uncertain managerial situation at the City Ground has done little to halt Appiah’s trajectory into Forest’s first-team squad. The 18-year-old scored on his debut in the League Cup against Burton Albion in October, before signing a new long-term contract last month.
With Forest now trying to reclaim an identity under Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, the East Midlanders could do a lot worse than turning to the famed Nigel Doughty Academy and begin to utilise Appiah’s exciting raw, attacking talent.
44. Adam Idah (Norwich)
And on the Daniel Farke revolution goes at Carrow Road. The opportunities handed out to the likes of Jamal Lewis, Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell make this a very exciting time to be in Norwich’s academy.
Adam Idah is yet to join them in making a senior appearance, but the Irish forward’s goalscoring form over the last two years has earned him fluttering eyelashes from some of English football’s biggest clubs. He will likely get his chance under Farke before long.
43. Matt O’Riley (Fulham)
Were it not for injuries, O’Riley could have found himself in a similar position to Ryan Sessegnon by now.
One of the jewels in Fulham’s impressive youth setup, this tall and elegant central midfielder made his senior debut in August 2017 but has managed just two further appearances since. As a result, he has an interesting decision to make this summer as he approaches the end of his first professional contract.
Like so many English youngsters, the lure of the Bundesliga looms large. O’Riley may take some convincing to remain in SW6 regardless of whether Fulham are a Premier League team next season or not.
42. Ethan Laird (anchester United)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Old Trafford has delivered more than most Reds fans will admit they dared hope for, including the promise of more playing time for the best of their next generation of academy prospects.
Chief among them is Laird, a versatile defender who plays best at right-back but is also a capable central defender with size, speed and top-class decision-making. Injuries have afflicted him for some of this season, but with the prospect of a debut to come, it could end up being a year to remember for a player who joined the club aged eight.
41. Faustino Anjorin (Chelsea)
While their kids might not get the chance to shine at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s academy production line shows no sign of slowing down and former Blues are frequently turning up in matches across the country.
England Under-18 midfielder Anjorin, reminiscent of Michael Ballack when he’s at his dominant best, has already scored in six different youth competitions this season as well as for his country, and seems on course for a breakthrough into senior football before his teenage years are out.
Having just turned 17 in November, that would be no mean feat should it happen in the near future.
40. Luca Connell (Bolton)
“Passes and moves like a Premier League player.”
Bolton fans’ heady praise for a player who only made his first-team bow at the start of January may surprise some, but for anyone who’s had the chance to watch the versatile, shaggy-haired midfielder in action, it will be simple affirmation of what they already suspected.
His decent record in front of goal for the Trotters’ U18s caps an impressive attacking skill set, and the Liverpool-born Ireland youth international has already been the subject of bids from Premier League clubs.
39. Andre Dozzell (Ipswich)
Things haven’t quite gone to plan for Dozzell since he scored on his Ipswich debut as a tender 16-year-old in 2016; it’s been injuries and his club’s tumultuous slide down the table which have blighted his progress.
Still only 19, the son of ex-Tractor Boy Jason has a wand of a left foot and the ability to control a game’s tempo from his favourite position in the middle of the park. Put together, it makes him an easy watch.
Dozzell might well end up taking a longer road to the top, but anyone willing to put their faith in him right now could end up snagging themselves a bargain.
38. Nathan Wood-Gordon (Middlesbrough)
Image: Middlesbrough FC
Part of Wood-Gordon’s rapid ascent to making first-team appearances while still only 16 can be attributed to his size. But he is far from merely an impressive physical specimen.
The son of former Boro defender Dean Gordon is mature beyond his years, looks like the consummate modern-day defender with good feet, and is a regular captain of his England youth teams.
37. Troy Parrott (Tottenham)
Calls from some quarters for the Dublin-born forward to lead Tottenham’s line in the absence of Harry Kane were highly optimistic, but they showed the esteem in which Parrott is held at Hotspur Way.
He only turned 17 in February but has hit the ground running since moving to London from Belvedere last season, and has already made an impact at under-23 level too.
36. Joe Gelhardt (Wigan)
Image: Wigan Athletic/Bernard Platt
Wigan’s youth system doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of the country’s more underrated setups, but good work is being done up in the north-west.
That’s underlined by the presence of two of their products featuring regularly England U17 squads this season (see also: Jensen Weir). Gelhardt has frequently donned a Three Lions shirt since he was 14, and is a bit of a throwback centre-forward who knows where the goal is.
A first-team debut in August has helped to ward off interest from bigger clubs, and he signed his first professional contract in August 2018.
35. James Garner (Manchester United)
There are spectacular, flashy and eye-catching prospects, and then there’s Garner. But don’t read that the wrong way.
The 17-year-old is rock solid with the composure of a grizzled veteran, and it seems inevitable that he will join the glittering, growing list of successful midfield graduates at Old Trafford. He has already been mentioned in passing by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a player of interest, and a first-team debut before the end of the season could come his way.
34. Harvey Elliott (Fulham)
Fulham’s desperation to keep another of their special talents forced them to accelerate Elliott’s development through their academy ranks – culminating in the 2003-born midfielder becoming their youngest-ever player in the League Cup at Millwall in September 2018.
Bigger clubs will continue to circle while he can’t sign a professional contract until April 2020, but Elliott can be reassured that there is a proven pathway into senior football at Craven Cottage… even if he might have to take his GCSE exams first.
33. Angel Gomes (Manchester United)
Gomes is not your typical English footballer. His laid-back, languid and laconic style often makes it look as if a game has passed him by but, trusted by the right manager, he can make a midfield tick in a way that many other players simply cannot.
He became the Premier League’s first 2000-born player on the final day of 2016/17, and although still short of stature, he continues to develop nicely.
32. Rhian Brewster (Liverpool)
Having been crowned under-17 world champion and finishing as the tournament’s top goalscorer in October 2017, Brewster looked destined for a thrilling 2018 that looked like his for the taking.
But then came a serious injury suffered just 12 days into the year, which ruled him out for the best part of its remainder. Liverpool won’t rush him back, but when he’s ready, the Reds have a natural goalscorer who could quickly shunt himself further forward in the pecking order at Anfield.
“With a little bit of luck – which you always need – we will have a lot of fun with him,” Jurgen Klopp smiled recently.
31. Dwight McNeil (Burnley)
A young footballer’s journey rarely follows a straight line, and McNeil has certainly experienced the twists and turns that most youngsters endure. Released by Manchester United as a 15-year-old, he earned a scholarship down the road at Burnley and eventually settled into a regular role under Sean Dyche this term – no mean feat at a club that isn’t noted for using young talent.
Deceptively quick, decisive and confident, the 19-year-old scored his first top-flight goal against West Ham in late December.
Please note: We’re releasing the first 20 on Monday, the second 20 on Tuesday and then our top 10 on Wednesday…