10 Championship Talents Flying Under the Radar
With every man and his wife now aware of Wilfried Zaha’s ability given the Crystal Palace youngster’s surprise call-up to the England squad, perhaps it’s time to introduce some of the division’s less touted names to look out for.
Far from a conclusive list, and in no particular order, it is a snapshot of the talent making its way in an ever-competitive Championship environment.
Club: Hull City
Surprisingly small for a centre-back but dominant in the air nevertheless, he signed from Manchester United in early 2011 and has been a mainstay ever since. Chester is the defensive leader in an adventurous 3-5-2 formation which has seen Steve Bruce’s Hull pushing for promotion, and is a danger from set-pieces too.
Club: Leicester City
Marshall is a classic wide man who thrives upon driving at defences and whipping the ball in from the byline. His fine form towards the end of last season and the start of this saw him earn his debut for the England Under 21s in September. The former Stoke man also possesses a rocket of a long range strike and is a fine free kick taker.
Club: Huddersfield Town
Excepting Birmingham City’s Jack Butland, Smithies is one of the youngest goalkeepers starting in the Championship today, and his potential was there for all to see when he became the Terriers' first choice back in 2008.
Although injuries have subsequently interrupted his progress, allowing Ian Bennett to don the gloves for much of last year’s promotion campaign, he’s back on track now.
Club: Derby County
Named the club’s Young Player of the Year for his efforts last season, the Irishman has had a tougher experience this time round. However, Hendrick remains a veritable box-to-box dynamo, capable of breaking up play and instigating attacks.
His winner against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground—swept into the bottom corner—was a sign he can add goals to his game.
Club: Sheffield Wednesday
An explosive winger who impressed on several loan deals from Reading to fellow Football League sides, including Sheffield Wednesday as they finished runners up in League One last season. Antonio signed permanently after his parent club’s promotion to the Premier League and brings a spark to a sometimes run-of-the-mill Owls' side.
Club: Ipswich Town
Linked with Aston Villa during the transfer window as they sought to replace the error-prone Stephen Warnock with an up-and-coming lower league left back, though they eventually plumped for Joe Bennett instead. While Ipswich have a torrid defensive record, even since the arrival of Mick McCarthy, Cresswell has been a spritely presence out wide.
Club: Brighton and Hove Albion
Blessed with a poacher’s instinct, Buckley memorably emerged from the bench to score both goals as Brighton came from behind to win 2-1 in their first game at the Amex. A versatile player and willing runner, able to make an impact out wide or up front, he is now central to Gus Poyet’s ambitious plans.
Club: Leicester City
The Frenchman has been one of this season’s surprise packages since arriving from Guingamp in the summer. Notionally an attacking midfielder, he is fond of roaming across the pitch in search of pockets of space from which to weave his creative magic.
Knockaert came to prominence as the scorer of a spectacular brace against Huddersfield, a 30-yarder and an improvisational backheel.
Over the summer, a successful loan spell was turned into a permanent deal by then-Clarets' boss Eddie Howe. Charlie Austin has been grabbing all the headlines for his goal scoring exploits but Trippier is part of an impressive clutch of young players at Turf Moor. Fond of raiding down the right, he unluckily picked up a red card for handball on Saturday.
Club: Nottingham Forest
Although waiting to dislodge a preferred centre back pairing of Danny Collins and the on-loan Elliott Ward, Lascelles is a prized teenage asset who made his first league start against Burnley at the turn of the year. Warding off interest from Arsenal amongst others, he agreed to a new four year contract back in August.
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