For many supporters who follow Premier League football and clubs like Manchester United, any competitions outside of the top flight tend not to appeal as much. After all, if you’re watching the leading product, why would you endure a supposedly lesser version of the game lower down the football pyramid? There are actually an abundance of talented youngsters shining in the lower divisions, though.
In fact, given the ruthless business that football is and the influx of foreign stars that are now being snapped up by clubs in England, a large number of bright footballers have to drop down the leagues as most managers at the highest level tend not to risk putting their jobs on the line by throwing in an inexperienced kid during a must-win encounter.
On the whole, youngsters everywhere aren’t given sufficient chances to impress. The loan system is used so frequently by many top clubs, and most emerging talents eventually have to make their way into the game lower down the football pyramid; meanwhile, their former clubs are battling it out in The Premiership title race or down at the bottom of the table, entrusting foreign imports who, on many occasions, don’t actually deliver anyway. It’s a tough business, particularly if you’re an academy player on the books of a Premier League behemoth.
Thankfully, for many youngsters, a move to an EFL club is the answer. Likewise, EFL clubs have produced a number of players over the years, with Premier League giants poaching the occasional gem. Now, in 2023, there is an argument to suggest that the Football League has never had such an influx of young, eye-catching players, some of whom are being scouted by English top-flight clubs already. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
Bali Mumba – Plymouth Argyle
A recent permanent acquisition by Plymouth after a hugely successful promotion-winning loan spell with the club from Norwich City last season, The Pilgrims appear to have unearthed a gem in Bali Mumba. Why he was deemed surplus to requirements at the Canaries is unclear, but Mumba’s potential is obvious. The 21-year-old versatile defender shone from a wing-back position in League One and is continuing to take the step up to the Championship in his stride.
Jacob Greaves – Hull City
After winning Hull City’s Young Player of the Year award for three consecutive seasons, Jacob Greaves is a young professional who has been scouted numerous times by huge clubs in the country. His lanky frame and evident ability in the air make him a nightmare for strikers to come up against on a Saturday, although he probably needs to improve on the technical side of his game if he is to stand out at the highest level. Still, Greaves is definitely one to watch for Hull City this season.
Ben Cabango – Swansea City
A Welsh centre-back with immense potential, Ben Cabango is a defender many Premier League clubs will surely be following closely. An integral part of the Swans’ side these days, he’s maturing with every game and is becoming one of the most sought-after professionals outside of the biggest league in the world. Swansea will certainly do well to keep hold of the young Welsh international in the future. Right now, he’s hot property.
Jack Currie – AFC Wimbledon
After a move to Championship side Bristol City failed to materialise last campaign, AFC Wimbledon’s Jack Currie has got back to business as he continues to stand out in his left-back position for the Wombles. Aged 21, Currie has come through the academy system at Wimbledon and is being watched on a weekly basis by top clubs. Whether or not a top-flight side will make a move for him remains to be seen, but most Dons fans will tell you that the bright left-back has a big future in the game.
Adam Wharton – Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Rovers have produced a conveyor belt of gifted juniors over the years, and today is no different. The latest in a long line of naturally gifted youngsters, Adam Wharton, is a midfield player to keep tabs on this season and beyond. Aged just 19 and playing in the Championship on a weekly basis, his energy and dynamism make him one of the most exciting talents emerging out of Ewood Park.
Sean Roughan – Lincoln City
A reliable left-back who currently plies his trade for League One side Lincoln City, Sean Roughan is a player sides higher up in the football pyramid and will surely be assessing. The academy graduate is an Ireland U21 international who we could potentially see in the Premier League one day.
Jobe Bellingham – Sunderland
While his brother is adjusting to life in Spain with ease, Jobe Bellingham’s Sunderland career is gathering momentum as Jude’s sibling aims to go on a similar journey to his brother. Bellingham is far from the finished article, but a breakout season could see top-flight clubs make a move for him in the summer.
Other top youngsters in the EFL include Carlos Alcaraz (Southampton), Hayden Hackney (Middlesbrough), Samuel Edozie (Southampton), Mads Hermansen (Leicester City), Wilfried Gnonto (Leeds United), Isaac Olaofe (Stockport County), and Tommy Conway (Bristol City).