Look through the England team these days and one thing quickly becomes apparent – if you want to toughen up a player to help them reach the very top, there’s usually no better breeding ground than the EFL Championship.
Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Jordan Pickford… take a glance through an average England side these days, and you’re hard-pressed to find a player who hasn’t enjoyed at least one season in the most unpredictable league in world football.
With scouting improving all the time, that’s also increasingly true with up-and-coming players from the continent, many who need a year or two in the finishing school that is the Championship before moving onto better things.
So who might be next to join that illustrious list and step up to the big time?
Best Players In The Championship
We’ve picked out our seven stars to watch out for as the 2020/21 EFL Championship continues….
Adam Armstrong – Blackburn Rovers
The Rovers front man feels like he’s been around the block forever given his regular loan spells in the EFL since becoming a professional.
Remarkably, this ‘Championship veteran’ is still only 23 years of age, and surely deserves a crack at the Premier League at some stage given he’s hit double figures for the last two seasons in a row five years before his likely peak.
He might have to sneak a promotion with Tony Mowbray’s well-organised Rovers first to get his chance.
Arnaut Danjuma – Bournemouth
Premier League relegation can often be the making of a player. 23-year-old Dutch international Danjuma struggled to make his mark last season in a Cherries side more focused on firefighting as they battled to save their Premier League status.
However, with relegation often providing the chance for a major reset, Danjuma appears to be flourishing under new boss Jason Tindall. The Nigerian-born winger has already hit five goals in 11 games. A season in the Championship could toughen him up nicely should the Cherries regain top-flight status at the first attempt.
Bryan Mbeumo – Brentford
The lethal BMW triumvirate may be no more at Brentford, but the ‘M’ component remains firmly in place.
Mbeumo has now been handed the chance to steal the limelight that too often went to teammates Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins last season, and the Brentford strike rate of producing top talent for the Premier League suggests the 21-year-old will be the next one to step off the production line should the Bees falls short again in the 2020/21 Championship.
It’s been a low-key start for the Frenchman, but Brentford tend to kick on in the second half of campaigns. 2021 could be a big year for one of the Bees’ biggest assets.
Dael Fry – Middlesbrough
The arrival of second-tier promotion expert Neil Warnock at Boro towards the end of last season might just have been the rocket boost Dael Fry needs to realise his Premier League dream.
Even with his hometown club enduring a downturn in fortunes over recent seasons, 6ft 4in Fry has been a rock at the heart of the Boro defence.
With Warnock’s guidance, it shouldn’t be too long before he moves on to the next level – with or without Boro. He could still do with adding a few more goals to his name given his size, and has yet to register a single goal in his career. But otherwise? He’s got everything a Premier League and England manager could want and more.
Freddie Woodman – Swansea City
Given the cut-throat nature of the EFL Championship, it’s rare to see clubs take a chance on young keepers. With the odd ‘keeper clanger’ often the difference between promotion and a play-off or mid-table consolidation and relegation, most Championship managers sensibly opt for tried-and-tested names between the sticks.
Not Steve Cooper though. The England U20 World Cup winner continues to trust in youth and Woodman already has a full Championship season and play-off campaign behind him – not an experience many 23-year-old keepers have in their locker at that stage of their careers.
Parent club Newcastle still seem reluctant to sell despite a healthy stock of keepers to call on – suggesting they think Woodman could still push on further.
Ivan Toney – Brentford
They’ve done it again. Both Peterborough and Brentford, that is.
These two EFL clubs churn out 20+ goal-a-season strikers with an ease that evades so many other clubs, and hitman Toney is now benefiting from an education with both. He’s made a seamless transition to the second tier after a rich spell in front of goal with the Posh.
Toney has already bagged double figures goals for his new club, but will he finally be the man to spearhead the Bees to the Premier League?
Louie Sibley – Derby County
The 19-year-old Derby ace burst onto the scene with a flurry of goals at the end of the 2019/20 season and with time on his side he remains one to watch even though his game time has been limited so far this term due to injury.
Sibley has already grabbed a first hat-trick for the club at Millwall last summer. The relegation-threatened Rams might need to fast-track him back into the first team if their death spiral continues.
Best Championship Players 2020: Our 7 To Watch This Season
- Adam Armstrong – Blackburn Rovers
- Arnaut Danjuma – Bournemouth
- Bryan Muembo – Brentford
- Dael Fry – Middlesbrough
- Freddie Woodman – Swansea City
- Ivan Toney – Brentford
- Louie Sibley – Derby County
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