For many years, Premier League clubs turned their noses up at the prospect of signing players from England’s lower leagues, instead choosing to scour the foreign markets for new recruits.
However, in more recent seasons, the Championship, League One and League Two have become hot beds of emerging talent, and a steady supply of raw diamonds have been climbing up through the reaches of English football to become top tier superstars.
Since 2015, players like Mason Holgate, Will Hughes, Demarai Gray, Daniel James, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Lewis Cook, Nick Pope, Dele Alli and James Maddison have all made the transition from the EFL to the Premier League, proving that it’s possible to unearth some real gems in the Football League.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the EFL wonderkids that could be ready to make the jump to the Premier League this summer.
Joe Gelhardt – Wigan Athletic
17-year old Wigan starlet Joe Gelhardt is already drawing covetous glances from a whole host of Premier League clubs, though the Liverpool-born attacker has yet to fully establish himself as a first teamer at the DW Stadium.
Gelhardt had featured in a credible 15 Championship (two starts, 13 sub) fixtures before the 2019/20 campaign was curtailed, and the youngster has already shown enough flashes of quality to suggest that he has an extremely bright future.
The forward has been prolific at youth level for England since 2018, hitting a remarkable 19 goals in 27 appearances for the country’s Under 16s, 17s and 18s in total.
Nathan Collins – Stoke City
Republic of Ireland Under 21 international Nathan Collins is regarded as one of the brightest prospects currently playing outside the Premier League, and if the Stoke City centre-back decides to leave the bet365 Stadium this summer, he will have a lengthy list of suitors to choose from.
Standing at an imposing 6’5” tall, Collins has the potential to be an incredibly dominant figure, and while appearances in the Championship this term have been relatively fleeting, it won’t be long before he adds to his four starts in the division.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and German club Werder Bremen are all believed to be monitoring his progress closely.
Sam McCallum – Coventry City
19-year-old Coventry City wing-back Sam McCallum has been lighting up League One this season with his dynamic displays down the left-flank.
McCallum is routinely one of City’s best performers this term, and Premier League outfit Norwich were quick to identify his obvious potential.
The Canaries signed the defender in January for approximately £3.5m and loaned him back to Coventry for the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign.
It’s likely that McCallum will spend his first year at Carrow Road in the Championship with relegation favourites Norwich, though he will almost certainly end up in the Premier League eventually.
Charlie Kelman – Southend
Having been compared to Wayne Rooney all his life, Southend striker Charlie Kelman is used to dealing with the pressure that comes with being touted as a future star.
Like the former Man Utd and Everton attacker, the 18-year-old seems to thrive when handed a stage to perform, and Kelman had scored an impressive seven goals in just 13 starts for Southend before the pause button was pressed on domestic football in March.
Tottenham Hotspur were thought to be weighing up a January transfer deadline day move for Kelman at the beginning of the year, and there is every chance that they could make a more concrete attempt to sign the teenager this summer.
Han Noah-Massengo – Bristol City
Championship outfit Bristol City raised a few eyebrows last year when they managed to wrangle highly-rated midfielder Han Noah-Massengo away from Monaco during the summer window.
The all-action 18-year-old swapped the Principality for Ashton Gate in what was considered a surprise move, though the teenager’s performances with the Robins have already put him on the radar of several top clubs, including Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund.
Han Noah-Massengo has been a regular fixture in Lee Johnson’s XI this season, starting 21 Championship matches overall since August. With the right development team around him, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Noah-Massengo could become one of the leading midfielders in the world.
Dara O’Shea – West Brom
After a non-descript start to the 2019/20 campaign, Dublin-born defender Dara O’Shea exploded to prominence with WBA after the turn of the year, turning in one superb performance after another at right-back for the Baggies.
O’Shea excelled in West Brom’s shock 1-0 FA Cup 4th Round win at West Ham in January, and the promising fullback hasn’t looked back since.
Now, a clutch of Premier League clubs are watching the 21-year-old closely, though O’Shea will likely play against them next season with automatic Championship promotion favourites WBA.
But how does O’Shea compare to some of the best right backs in the world? You may get a chance to find out next season.
Jude Bellingham – Birmingham City
No lower league wonderkid article would be complete without Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham.
The 16-year-old midfielder is the youngest player on our rundown and whiz kid almost certainly has a higher ceiling than any of his counterparts in terms of potential.
Birmingham look set to cash in on their crown jewel this summer, and Bellingham is expected to command a fee north of £30m when he does eventually settle on a new destination.
Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund are believed to be going toe-to-toe for his signature, though the German giants are thought to be closer to completing a deal.
Jude Bellingham is listed among our FM20 wonderkid midfield gems of the future. Find out who joins him in our guide here!
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