With the January football sales fast approaching, it’s time for every manager to start compiling their transfer window wish list. With plenty of young talent coming through, don’t be surprised if these names feature heavily in transfer tittle-tattle, as their respective managers hang huge price tags around their necks to deter any would-be suitors. Yes, it’s time for Soccerlens’ guide to the cream of the crop of Football League youngsters.
1. Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield Town)
The footballing gods may see this as karma. Ten years ago, Ipswich snatched fans favourite Marcus Stewart to Portman Road. This season it’s payback for the Yorkshire team, who snapped up 19-year-old Rhodes after his release from Ipswich in the summer. Already the Terriers leading scorer with 14 goals this season, Rhodes is one of those fearless teenagers who can score from nearly anywhere on the pitch and could help fire Huddersfield to promotion. Roy Keane would be forgiven for casting laser-like glances in the direction of the Galpharm.
2. Danny Seaborne (Exeter City)
Six months ago Seaborne’s career appeared to be going the way of many a young footballer. After coming through the ranks at St James Park and captaining the side to their Conference playoff victory at Wembley at the tender age of 21, Seaborne found himself out of favour and was tipped to be released in the summer. But the centre-half has refocused and is arguably Exeter’s most improved player this season. Norwich have already made a bid for him and with his current deal expiring in June, plenty of clubs could be in for the Barnstaple born defender.
3. Charlie Austin (Swindon Town)
If Swindon fans were crying into their foaming Wiltshire ale at the departure of top-scorer Simon Cox to West Brom in the summer, then they’re currently raising a glass to his replacement, Charlie Austin. Manager Danny Wilson picked up the 20-year-old from Poole Town, where he’d scored 64 goals in 59 appearances. The former Reading trainee has carried that form into League One, where his poachers instinct has seen him net four in the last three games. Like Cox, he could find a move to the Championship in the offing.
4. Jonjo Shelvey (Charlton Athletic)
Not many 17-year-olds would turn down the chance to join a Champions League club, but teenager Shelvey decided he would be better off playing League One football for Charlton this season. The Addicks youngest ever player, the Romford-born player operates as an attacking midfielder or second striker and has already clocked up 32 appearances and five goals. Manager Phil Parkinson has been using him sparingly, but Shelvey is a big part of Charlton’s future and it’s surely a matter of when not if he moves into the Premier League.
5. John Bostock (Brentford, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
Perhaps Jonjo Shelvey had John Bostock in mind when he turned down a move to the Premier League. Bostock made his debut for Crystal Palace aged just 15 before being snapped up by Spurs for a paltry initial £700,000, something that had Palace chairman Simon Jordan frothing at the mouth. Bar a couple of substitute appearances in the UEFA cup, the 17-year-old was loaned out to Brentford to get more first team action, and immediately bagged a brace on his debut. Far too good for League One, the question is does Harry Redknapp fancy him enough at White Hart Lane.
6. Alex Smithies (Huddersfield Town)
Two Huddersfield players in this list? Some may say its a clear case of Soccerlens’ Yorkshire bias, but the rest would point to the fact that Smithies is part of the reason the Terriers are flying high in League One at the moment. Lee Clark’s men may be free-scoring but their defence is less than sound and the 19-year-old goalkeeper has often come to the rescue, catching the eye with a string of impressive performances between the sticks. Stoke and Spurs are rumoured to be interested and Smithies is surely destined for a higher level.
7. Adam Le Fondre (Rotherham)
At 23 Le Fondre may be pushing the definition of young but such have been his performances this season that he deserves a mention, and may just be at that age of last chance for a big move. He’s certainly going about it the right way – always highly-rated at Rochdale, the Millers broke the bank to take the striker to Rotherham this August. He’s repaid their faith with 14 goals in 19 starts and is one of the main reasons why Ronnie Moore’s men are pushing for a return to League One.
8. Craig Dawson (Rochdale)
If Rochdale are to end 35 years in league basement, then keeping hold of the likes of Dawson will be vital to the Dale. Still only 19, the defender started his career at Ratcliffe Borough before Rochdale fought off competition from a host of other clubs to sign the classy youngster. Ever-present for Keith Hill’s men this season, he’s helped Dale to a goal difference of 23 already this season. Rochdale are traditionally a selling club but if they can hold onto Dawson this January they stand a great chance of going up.
9. Ashley Westwood (Crewe)
Crewe may have made an indifferent start to life in League Two but their ability to produce great young talent is undiminished and 19-year-old Westwood is the latest star in the making to roll out of the Alex’s academy. A tenacious midfielder, Westwood has been ever-present since Dario Gradi re-took the reigns at Gresty Road and was recently rewarded with a new contract, tying him to the club until 2012. It will be a surprise if somebody doesn’t try to prise him away before then.
10. Brett Pitman (Bournemouth)
One of the few pieces of joy to emerge from the financial chaos at Bournemouth over the past few season has been the ongoing improvement of Jersey-born Pitman. Having signed for the Cherries at 16, he was thrust into the fray during one of Bournemouth’s periodical financial meltdowns and has slowly thrived. Now 21, the tricky striker has matured nicely, netting 11 times this season and playing a huge part in the Cherries unlikely push for promotion this season.
Of course, there’s some fine youngsters turning out for other clubs up and down the league, so tell us if you agree with the list and who you think is heading for a bright future in 2010.