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From Coca Cola kid to Kazim Kazim. Whether you know him as the player who Brighton fans won in a fizzy drinks promotion or the Champions League super-sub who shook a billionaire’s empire and now goes by a Brazilian-style moniker, Colin Kazim-Richards is a modern rarity.
In these days of over-stuffed Premier League academies and foreign scouting networks there aren’t any players who come through the divisions to play at the highest level.
But if you look carefully there are some gems to be had below the Championship and here’s a few names who could be warming the away benches at Old Trafford and Anfield next season:
Rui Marques (Leeds United and Angola)
Not quite the new Rio, but Rui is proper defender — well balanced in that he can attack the ball and drop off in cover with equal assurance. His trip to the African Cup of Nations occurred at the same time as Leeds’ worst run of results and it was not by coincidence. Marques is also a leader and organiser at the back who’s English is improving. The 30-year-old showed the kind of form for Angola that has attracted interest from the Championship — that may be his next stop whether it’s with his present club or not.
Jermaine Beckford (Leeds United)
A scary talent when on his game, Beckford is the skilful big-man who finds the back of the net from all angles and has a growing repertoire of picture book goals. The 24-year-old is the reigning League One Player of the Year and also took the Football League Goal of the Year award for his memorable strike against Rotherham United while on loan at Scunthorpe last season. Derby County were interested but his sights may ultimately be on a higher ground than Pride Park.
Sam Vokes (Bournemouth and Wales Under-21)
Still at college, 18-year-old Vokes has taken time out between studies to score 15 goals for a struggling Bournemouth side this term. Has also shown he has ability at Under-21 international level with a Wales side that look favourites to qualify over France for next summer’s UEFA finals. His price tag could skyrocket if he performs there, but sadly for Bournemouth they are unlikely to hold onto him until then. Newcastle, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Tottenham are watching.
Kris Commons (Nottingham Forest)
Commons rivals Swansea’s Andy Robinson as the premier midfield player in the division, but possibly has a better chance of making it at top-flight level because of his age — 24. Injuries have dogged his career so far and again disrupted his good run of form earlier this season when he bagged eight goals before December, including a hat-trick at Cheltenham. With good vision and a cultured left-foot, Commons was often played out wide early in his career — possibly because of his height, only 5ft 6in. But his performances have demonstrated his true position is in the heart of the action.
David Raven (Carlisle)
The former Liverpool defender is building a reputation as a reliable right back at Brunton Park who possesses the strength and pace to go higher again. Raven, now 23, won Man of the Match on his Liverpool debut against Spurs but got few further chances under Rafael Benitez and left on a free transfer. After almost two seasons at Carlisle, Raven’s consistency has attracted interest from above with Paul Jewell said to be an admirer, having watched him numerous times while he was at Wigan.
Jason Scotland (Swansea & Trinidad & Tobago)
Signed from St Johnstone last summer, this has been an eye-catching debut season in English football for Scotland. The 29-year-old may have escaped the attention of the top flight due to his age, but there aren’t that many miles on his clock as he only arrived in Britain less than five years ago. Scotland’s goal tally (28 in total with 24 in the league) is impressive, but the variety even more so as he has scored every type (headers, volleys, tap-ins, free-kicks, penalties and solo efforts). He grabbed both Swans’ goals in their recent 2-2 televised clash with Bristol Rovers, hammering in an unstoppable equaliser after strong work to beat two men on the edge of the box — you can bet the scouts noted that one.