Where will the next generation of home grown Premier League stars come from? Nextsoccerstar.com predicts who will be the winners and losers in the ‘youth’ stakes this season….
Disclaimer: This is a prediction of which club is most likely to give their young players a chance this season, not predictions of where each team will end up – for that, see our 08/09 predictions.
1st — Tie Arsenal/Manchester United
Wenger will again go with youth this season. There are some who believe he’s risking a top four finish taking this approach, but not his rivals — that is for sure. The young players coming through at Arsenal will take the Premier League by storm.
Manchester United spend more than most on new players, but no young player looking to break into the elite can have any complaints working for Ferguson. He can rightly be viewed as a master of balancing youth and experience. This season will be no different. That extra spark of energy will give him the edge over his rivals to the title. Wenger may have more superb young players, but Ferguson will have the better balance.
David Moyes is a carefully brave man. He takes chances in a pragmatic way. If there are players in the Everton squad who have the ability but not the experience, then there’s a very good chance they will get into the squad and be given an opportunity to become a regular. With their well organised youth set-up working well expect to see a young Everton star this season.
3rd Manchester City
It’s an open secret that City are in a financial corner. Shinawatra is in trouble and the club appear to be in the business of selling off their better players. Mark Hughes will want to get some stability into his team and what better place to start than with City’s younger players? Richards is a prime example of the staying power and quality of the City youth programme. For a talented young player City would be a great club to play for this coming season.
Gareth Southgate is a lucky man. ‘Boro boast one of the finest training grounds in the world and they also boast one of the finest youth programmes too. Everything is geared towards producing players of quality. It’s only a matter of time before a player breaks into the big time – that time could be now.
5th Blackburn Rovers
Paul Ince will want to make an impression on the Premier League. Unlike some managers who will be content with surviving, he will want to make a statement. Any young player with a hint of something about them will definitely get their chance. It will either work or fail miserably, but failing miserably is not Ince’s style so the player getting that chance will need to be on their mettle.
6th Aston Villa
When Martin O’Neill was a player at Forest he was the ultimate young star. Now in his role as manager he’s much more likely than most to blood a young player. With Villa’s squad looking on the small side and with a number of players making waves at youth level there is a high chance that we will see a new star at Villa this season.
7th West Ham United
The Hammers were once the home of youth player dreams. Those days may have long gone, but they still have a vibrant talent factory which is bound to throw up a gem this season if Curbishley has the confidence to play them. He knows that there is no room for error or he’ll lose his job. Unlike other managers who would shy away from the hazard of playing an unknown, Curbishley has the guts to go for youth. West Ham’s youth stars may just be in luck.
The Liverpool history is built on producing great young players. This season may not be a vintage year, but the buzz seems to be that they are working hard to reclaim their crown as the kings of youth development. Benitez is facing a make-or-break season and it is unlikely that he will risk all on youth, but there are likely to be some opportunities for any player who turns his head.
9th Newcastle United
Kevin Keegan is entering the season with a small squad smattered with players so injury-prone he can’t be banking on them. Luckily for him he has a small, but highly talented group of youngsters who have the ability to step into the breach. It may be he has no choice other than to play them. With his desire to attack at will this presents a once in a lifetime opportunity season for Newcastle’s youth.
Sunderland have spent on experience this summer. They were severely lacking a large enough squad last season, which can’t have been fun for the über-competitive Keane. What he will have learnt from Ferguson is that the balance between youth and experience is vital; Keane will surely be looking to get that right. There has never been a better opportunity for Sunderland’s youth players to assert themselves.
Harry Redknapp and transfers go together like Bread and Honey. If you are a young player at Portsmouth coming through the ranks you’ll have to be the real deal to make it into the first team. With Harry ducking Willie McKay’s calls at the moment and money too tight to mention, this might just be the season we see just what Pompey’s youth are like.
12th West Bromwich Albion
Tony Mowbray and West Brom stand the best chance of survival amongst the newly promoted clubs. They are also more likely to give youth a chance. Mowbray has carved a decent reputation as a forward thinking, bright coach who loves to attack and play the ball as opposed to launching it. That’s a positive sign for the club’s young players. There won’t be many opportunities at first – even Mowbray will be thinking safety first – but if his team get into mid-table then it is a distinct possibility that he will unleash some of his promising squad of young players onto the Premier League.
13th Bolton Wanderers
Last season was a scary ride for Bolton. Gary Megson will be desperate to hold on to his job and avoid any more nightmares. It’s a certainty that wherever possible he will rely on experience, but with a relatively small squad and the need to compete vigorously in every game there is definitely an opportunity for a young Bolton player to make a place in the first team their own.
Roy Hodgson is the kind of manager who doesn’t like surprises. The last thing he’ll want is to be made a fool of by blooding a young player who doesn’t click. His squad is packed with players who aren’t exactly spring chickens, reflecting his ethos. But, he will know that to sustain any sort of run he’ll need energy and that means fresh legs. Any player breaking into the Fulham team will need to grab the opportunity fast.
15th Tottenham Hotspur
The last thing Spurs want after last season’s limp finale is anything other than a top five finish. Ramos will still feel like he’s settling in and the last thing he’ll be doing is risking his reputation on untested players. Long term it may be different – Spurs are a forward thinking club – but this season could be a tough one for any young players looking to get into the first team.
As every season goes by that establishes Wigan in the Premier League the possibility grows that a young hero will get into the first team and stay there. The signing of Cattermole was an interesting one. They were buying a player who ‘Boro, a club of similar size, developed themselves. Wigan are building a solid youth structure, but it will be a while yet before they are producing their own Cattermoles….
17th Stoke City
It’s batten down the hatches time for Pulis this season. Every game is going to be a struggle — not ideal for the confidence of a young player. In an ideal world Stoke would pack their team with experience, but it’s unlikely to happen, so somewhere down the line a fresh talent will have a chance to prove themselves. To ask them to flourish in those circumstances is asking a lot.
18th Hull City
No one is giving Hull a chance in hell this season apart from Phil Brown and die hard fans. They don’t have the financial power to last in the Premier League, but they may just have the guts. If Brown can diffuse any expectation and just let some of his talented young players enjoy their game and go for it, we may be in for a surprise. Having said that, the reality is that it’s going to be one long slog and to expect any young stars to emerge is asking a lot.
When you have all the money you could need and a fat cheque coming in the post from Adrian Mutu why do you need to bother with young players? It’s the reality facing any young player wanting to play for Chelsea. When winning is all that counts for new boss Scolari this season, it is unlikely that he will take a chance on unproven talent. The hope young players have to cling to is that Scolari has the cojones to play them, but none of them will be holding their breath.
Which young players do you expect to star this season?