Last year we wrote about the best young players in the world. This time we have turned our attention to the best young English players. Many of these 16 and 17 year olds have made few Premier League appearances but I expect that to change in the coming twelve months. Interestingly, two of the best English soccer academies, Manchester City and Middlesborough do not have a player listed.
Jose Baxter 16 – Everton – Striker
Baxter has been tagged with the title of better than Wayne Rooney was at 14. Bootle-born, he left school last summer and joined the Everton first-team squad that toured Switzerland and the US. Made his competitive senior debut with a substitute appearance at home to Blackburn in August, becoming Everton’s youngest first-team player.
Mark Beevers 18 – Sheffield Wednesday – Defender
Last season’s supporters’ player of the year at Hillsborough, the centre-half has signed a contract to keep him at Wednesday until 2012. He stands 6ft 4in tall, is deceptively quick across the turf and strong in the air. Expect a lot of interest from Premier League teams this January and in the summer for this rising star.
John Bostock 16 – Tottenham Hotspur – Midfielder
Bostock has already been involved in one controversial transfer with his summer move to Spurs for an initial £700,000. He was Crystal Palace’s youngest player when he made his debut at 15 years 287 days last season. Tall, elegant and visionary, the attacking midfielder became Tottenham’s youngest player, at 16 years 295 days, against Dinamo Zagreb.
Nathan Delfouneso 17 – Aston Villa – Striker
The 6ft 1in Birmingham-born striker made his first-team debut earlier this season in the UEFA Cup against Hafnarfjorour and scored a hat-trick on his first appearance for the England Under-17s in October 2007. Delfouneso has been a prolific scorer at the academy and reserve level for Villa.
Fabian Delph 18 – Leeds United – Midfielder
Leeds have already turned down a £1m bid for Delph from Newcastle United. He is a dynamic talent who has just broken into Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21 squad. Arsenal and Manchester United are also seriously interested, but his value has risen closer to £6m according to Leeds.
Daniel Drinkwater 18 – Manchester United – Midfielder
Two-footed and boasting a fine passing range, Drinkwater has been with Manchester United since he was nine. He is an England Under-19 international who spent most of last season on the sidelines injured.
Jordan Henderson 18 – Sunderland – Midfielder
An elusive right-sided midfielder or deep-lying forward, and equally happy in the hole or drifting wide right, the Wearside-born Henderson caught the eye of England’s leading clubs during Sunderland’s run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals last season. He made his first senior start against Blackburn in the Carling Cup recently.
Gavin Hoyte 18 – Arsenal – Defender
Younger brother of the former Arsenal full-back, Justin, the defender joined the club at nine and has proved quick, athletic and can play both at right-back and centre-half. A regular with the England Under-19s squad, Hoyte is part of Arsène Wenger’s Carling Cup squad.
Henri Lansbury 18 – Arsenal – Midfielder
Strongly built and powerful yet creative on the ball and a goal threat, the England Under-17 midfielder has been at Arsenal since he was nine. Lansbury’s missed the second half of last season as he recovered from the glandular fever, but he is back to full fitness now.
Josh McEachran 15 – Chelsea – Midfielder
A skilful left-footed midfielder whom Chelsea have retained despite persistent interest from Manchester United. He can play on the left or right and has already impressed Luiz Felipe Scolari at Stamford Bridge as he furthers his development in the youth sides. Has been captain of the England Under-16s.
Jacob Mellis 17 – Chelsea – Midfielder
The England Under-19 international signed from Sheffield United in the summer of 2007 and can play anywhere on the pitch. He scored twice against Liverpool reserves recently and has also played full-back and centre-half within the Chelsea academy set-up.
Victor Moses 17 – Crystal Palace – Forward
Born in Nigeria but resident in the UK since he was five, the graduate of Palace’s academy broke into the first-team last season and has since signed a four-year professional contract at Selhurst Park. Strong, skilful and quick, he has maintained his progress this term.
Nile Ranger 17 – Newcastle United – Striker
The word among Newcastle United’s youth and reserve ranks is “Ranger is the danger”. The prolific striker, signed away from Southampton’s youth set-up, has sat on the first team bench a few times already this season and is tipped for Shearer-esque scoring feats.
Jack Rodwell 17 – Everton – Central defender/midfielder
Rodwell made his debut for Everton as a substitute against Alkmaar in the UEFA Cup at the age of 16 years 284 days, making him the youngest ever Everton player to appear in Europe. A current Under-19 international often compared to Rio Ferdinand, he is strong, quick and assured. Has made eight first-team appearances this season.
Freddie Sears 18 – West Ham United – Forward
A run of 25 goals in 24 matches for the youths and reserves forced him into the first-team set-up last season, and it took the striker just five minutes and 16 seconds to score his first senior goal, the winner against Blackburn in March. He has featured regularly this season under Gianfranco Zola.
Jonjo Shelvey 16 – Charlton Athletic – Midfielder
The club’s youngest player, debuting at 16 years 59 days against Barnsley in April, he had made his mark as a goal scoring midfielder in the youth and reserves set-up at the Valley. He captained the England Under-16s in their 2007 Victory Shield campaign, scoring three goals in as many games.
Danny Welbeck 17 – Manchester United – Striker
Skilful, strong and fast with a prolific scoring record for the United junior sides. Sir Alex Ferguson likens the slightly unorthodox Welbeck to Portsmouth’s Nwankwo Kanu and has said “Danny has marvelous things about him.” An Under-19 international who has trained with the first team.
Aidan White 17 – Leeds United – Defender
The full-back, who boasts a fine left foot and decent pace, made his debut earlier this season in the Carling Cup defeat of Crystal Palace and was given a standing ovation upon being substituted. He is now making regular appearances in the League One club’s first-team set-up.
Jack Wilshere 16 – Arsenal – Midfielder
Eye-catching performances in the Carling Cup this season and Arsenal’s youngest league debutant, at 16 years 256 days, when he came on against Blackburn in September. He scored his first senior goal in the 6-0 rout of Sheffield United and had a fine game against Wigan on Tuesday.
Michael Woods 18 – Chelsea – Midfielder
Plucked from Leeds United’s academy, much to the Yorkshire club’s frustration, the England Under-18 international made his first-team debut at Chelsea in January 2007 at 16 years 275 days. Scolari called the defensive midfielder up for the recent Carling Cup tie against Burnley.