BEST YOUNG championship PLAYERS
Profiling the best young players coming out of the Championship
Every year, the Championship provides a platform for great young talent – be it home-grown academy players, products of the EFL system, or loanees from Premier League clubs. We’ll keep this page updated with the up-and-coming youngsters as the season develops.
You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.
It’s fair to say that Fabio Carvalho has exploded into the wider consciousness in 2021/22 after making his Premier League debut for Fulham late last season. The timing has in some ways not been ideal for Fulham, who have been left scrambling to re-sign him as he enters the final year of his contract.
While automatic promotion from the Championship looks likely for Fulham, extending Carvalho’s contract looks far from a certainty.
STYLE OF PLAY
Carvalho is technically superb. Playing as an attacking midfielder, or even drifting out wide, Carvalho offers so much dynamism that is underpinned by his ability to first receive the ball calmly and effectively, and then burst into space to drive his team forward.
And he turns this into meaningful contributions in the final third. It helps to play with a striker of the quality of Aleksandar Mitrović at Championship level, but Carvalho is a great foil that can rotate around the Serbian with ease, whether that be finding him with crosses, through balls, or cutbacks from the by-line.
He does all this so effortlessly. He is light on his feet and glides as he carries the ball into space. He plays with his head up and has a strong sense of awareness both as a creator and in front of goal. Being able to do this is great, but in a league as notoriously robust as the Championship, it suggests he is ready to take a step up to the next level. With the progression of players through the Championship and into the Premier League becoming an increasingly fruitful pathway, Carvalho looks primed to launch himself into the top flight next season; either with Fulham or elsewhere.
Levi Colwill started out at Southampton but was soon signed by Chelsea, where he has spent the majority of his formative development. And after a single season in under-23 football, his rise kicked into another gear with a loan move to Championship side, Huddersfield Town.
Since making the move last summer, the 18-year-old Colwill has established himself as a key starter, impressing almost every week with his performances, and has been fast-tracked into England’s under-21 group.
Seriously, Levi Colwill is special. Can't think of (m)any 18-year-old defenders that have fit into a league like the Championship as seamlessly (and immediately) as he has. Impressive performance after impressive performance, game after game.— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) September 17, 2021
STYLE OF PLAY
If you could build your ideal centre-back, you’d probably assemble something that closely resembles Levi Colwill. He’s tall, physical and fast; composed and robust; technical and confident. He is an exciting prospect as an athlete, defender and ball-player.
He’s very advanced relative to his age, and that can be attributed to his well-rounded athletic profile. He’s big and physical but has the change of speed to cover ground and the agility to adjust position.
Defensively, there are elements of dominance to his style and skillset. Colwill’s a committed defender that visibly relished the rugged nature of Championship football, and he makes intelligent use of his physique in contact. He’s also an adept defender on the move, with the dynamic mobiliy to defend space, and is a capable defender when stepping onto the front foot.
Where he also stands out is in his ball-playing ability. Colwill constantly breaks lines when in possession, as a passer and carrier. He can execute fast, precise passes off his left foot into midfield and drive forward with powerful carries that disrupt opponent’s defensive structure.
Colwill has every element to be an elite-level defender in future. Chelsea’s Cobham academy has done it again.
Brennan Johnson is Nottingham Forest through and through. Son of former Premier League player David Johnson, Brennan joined the club at eight years old.
He had to leave to make his breakthrough in senior football, though. The decision to join Lincoln City on loan in League One during the 2020/2021 season proved to be the perfect one. Johnson made 40 appearances in total, contributing to over 20 goals in the process. Since returning to Forest, Johnson has cemented himself as a starter.
STYLE OF PLAY
Capable of playing across the forward line, Johnson has found a role on the right-side of Forest’s attack this season. From there, he contributes to a goal every other game in the Championship.
Perhaps his outstanding quality at present is his ability to cover long distances, with and without the ball. Johnson is an effective runner and carrier from deep. He has the control to travel through bodies and the robustness to withstand contact at high speeds, as well as the speed to create separation. These runs and carries get him into dangerous areas around the box, where he can cross or shoot.
Johnson isn’t much of a combination player, he’s more direct than that. He can be fairly prone to poor decisions and execution in the final third, but he still manages to impact games on a consistent basis. That is testament to his relentlessness in attack; he doesn’t seem to get disheartened, he keeps making the same movements and keeps getting into dangerous positions.
Scottish by birth, Australian by blood: it has been an interesting journey that now sees Harry Souttar represent the Socceroos as Australia’s finest centre-back prospect in over a decade. The fact that he had never stepped foot in Australia until his national team debut on home soil has been quickly forgotten, as the Stoke City defender has quickly settled into the team, proving effective at both ends of the field.
STYLE OF PLAY
He has been dubbed big Harry Souttar for a reason. Standing at a towering two metres tall, the Australian is a monstrous presence, with the broad shoulders and physicality to match. Despite this, he has still proven himself to be quite mobile and agile, although he can be prone to the odd clumsy moment that comes with being so enormous.
Souttar is developing into a very good all-round defender though. He is obviously dominant in the air, but he is also strong duelling for possession with the ball on the ground, although he can struggle when he is forced to defend a lot of space; especially when he loses blindside runners.
The Australian possesses a modern skillset in possession. He is not afraid to launch a long-range pass, and he is routinely accurate. And he is also happy to lower his eyes and find a midfielder between the lines. Every now and then, he will take matters into his own hands and go for a wander into midfield with the ball at his feet too. To add to this, his great goalscoring record from set pieces tops off a surprisingly well-rounded skillset in possession.
Unfortunately, a ruptured cruciate ligament injury will likely postpone his arrival in the Premier League until next season at the earliest.
Countless high-level players have spent significant periods of their development in the Championship. Just recently, the likes of Jarrod Bowen, Ebere Eze, Kalvin Phillips, Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher and Marc Guéhi have proven that the Championship is a fruitful league.
Ben Brereton Díaz, Fábio Carvalho, Brennan Johnson, Levi Colwill, Morgan Gibbs-White, Keane Lewis-Potter, Ronnie Edwards – the list is long and diverse.