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The Next Gen Stars

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With the 2023/24 English football season already in full swing, football supporters’ eyes have fixed firmly on the Premier League. Rightly so, as this is the ultimate test of a league footballer’s skill and ability.

Remember, though, that the young footballers currently plying their trades in one of Europe’s top divisions generally started somewhere else. Perhaps they were youth team prospects at the major teams in the EPL, or they could be foreign exports that played at a top level somewhere else in Europe or further abroad.

Often, though, these young, future stars come from lower divisions in the English league set-up. Invariably, this is from the Premier League’s natural feeder league, the English Championship. The young prospects included in our list are all well-positioned to star for their Championship sides during 2023/24.

These are footballers who could definitely make the step up to the EPL during or following the current season. One criterion we’ve included for our list is that all players we mention are 23 years old or younger. Another is that they haven’t played more than five Premier League matches in their careers to date.

For these reasons, some prospective young stars in the Championship aren’t named. Think of Southampton’s Kamaldeen Sulemana and Illan Meslier of Leeds, for example. We won’t be including these comparative EPL veterans.

Ben Cabango (Swansea City)

Since 2018, 23-year-old Welshman Ben Cabango has already played for his club 135 times. At 1.86 m, he has been a commanding presence in the Swansea central defence since. He made his international debut slightly over a year later and has represented Wales on seven occasions so far.

He also was a member of the Welsh squad for the 2022 World Cup squad in Qatar. This season should provide the ammunition for Premier League clubs to consider signing the £11.5 million-rated defender. Or could he potentially reach the Premier League with Swansea next season? Many bookmakers rated according to tips from the most successful sports bettors on SBS have them at around 12/1 for promotion this season, so Cabango and his teammates will have some work to do to fight off hotter prospects like Leicester (2/3), Southampton (6/8) and Leeds (15/8).

Callum Doyle (Leicester City)

Doyle is only 19 years old and already has over 80 Championship matches worth of experience thanks to three loan spells in the division. Already employed at a massive home club in Manchester City, Doyle now adds a Leicester City loan period to his previous Championship ones at Sunderland and Coventry City.

Like Ben Cabango, Callum Doyle is a central defender of some potential. With England caps at three different age group levels, Doyle scored in the final of the 2022 UEFA European Under-19 Championship. His goal helped England to win the trophy. Already contracted to Man City, it is up to Doyle, while at Leicester, to prove to Pep Guardiola that he can step up and represent his parent club in the EPL.

Ethan Laird (Birmingham City)

At 22, Ethan Laird is embarking on a new stage of his fledgling footballing career. Laird, a product of the Manchester United youth system since the age of 10, has recently signed a contract with the Blues. Three previous loan spells at Swansea, Bournemouth, and Queens Park Rangers have earned the promising right-back almost 60 Championship appearances.

Ethan Laird has already made three appearances for his new club and represented Man Utd in Europe on two occasions during his 12-year stay there. He has also represented England at U17, U18 and U19 level. Ethan Laird will be looking to help Birmingham City challenge for the Championship this season. Doing so would allow him to play at the Premier League level next time around.

Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion)

Dike is already capped ten times by the USA, scoring three international goals. He came to West Bromwich Albion last season with both international and MLS experience. Representing Orlando City, Dike scored 18 times in 35 games for the MLS franchise. The striker also already had previous Championship experience. A loan at Barnsley in 2021 resulted in 19 games, nine goals, and much attention from visiting scouts.

Since arriving at The Baggies, Daryl Dike has made 25 appearances. Injuries hampered his progress last season, but he still scored seven goals. Sadly, the same applies to this season, and the US striker will miss the early months of WBA’s 2023/24 campaign with another injury. When he’s fit again, Dike has both the track record and ability to fire in the goals again, potentially setting up a future in the Premier League.

Shea Charles (Southampton FC)

Midfielder Shea Charles is a new addition to a Saints squad seeking immediate promotion back to the Premier League. 23-year-old Charles has already made one EPL appearance for the champions Manchester City. He joined Southampton in a potential £15 million four-year deal in July.

Shea Charles has caps at every level for Northern Ireland. These include eight full internationals for his adopted country. Born in Manchester, he had been on Man City’s books since the age of seven. With no loan spells away from the club, Charles is competing at a new level this season. Every sign is that he will play a pivotal role in his new club’s promotion bid.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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