With the top Premiership clubs spending cash on big-money transfers like it was going out of style, we often forget that sometimes the best option for talent infusion lies within rather than without.
While it’s prudent for the bigger clubs to sign talented players with loads of experience, most teams can’t afford it. Instead, they look to their youth programs for the next big thing for considerably cheaper.
Unlike American sports, the English Premier League lacks not only a collegiate feeder system, but a draft to sign such players. Instead, most if not all organizations employ footballing academies to grow young talent, playing a direct role in the their students' development from a very young age.
Not every child who makes it through the system pans out in the long run, but some do and go on to have respected careers. Still fewer become truly great, but it only takes a few to validate the program.
Naturally, the big money clubs can afford better academies and thus attract highly rated talent, so the game even at this level is a bit tilted in favor of the top clubs. But it’s tough to accurately determine a footballer’s skill at 20 when he’s only 12, giving poorer clubs the chance to strike gold.
Consider these 20 youths (one from each current Premier League side) who are on the cusp of promotions. Most on this list might not be the next Wayne Rooney, but you never know. Whether it’s from the academy to the reserves, or from the reserves to the first team, these young talents are on the way up, and should be on any fan’s radar.
Remember their names, as you might see them on the back of well-selling kits one day. Ready for the future?