The drama in last season’s Championship lasted right up to the final penalty of the play-off Final, as Christopher Schindler’s strike sent Huddersfield Town up to the Premier League at Reading’s expense.
This term, a new crop of bright talents will be looking to write their name in the history books. Here are the top five we’re tipping to go from young prodigies to second-tier stars this season.
Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham, LB)
Probably the most high-profile name on the list, the 17-year-old is also the youngest. And the expectation surrounding the local lad – who made 18 starts in the Championship last year – is huge.
A classy passer of the ball with lightning pace, he also has a goalscoring record some strikers would envy, netting seven times in his 30 first-team outings, including a stunning brace in March’s 3-1 victory away at Newcastle United.
Ollie Watkins (Brentford, CF)
Prolific hitman Watkins ran riot in League Two last term, helping an otherwise mediocre Exeter City side reach the play-off Final, chalking up 21 goals during the campaign, including a crucial double to oust Carlisle United in a thrilling semi.
Add 13 assists to that, and you have one of the most exciting prospects in English football. That’s a view held throughout the game, with the 21-year-old named EFL Young Player of the Year for 2016-17. We have few doubts about him mastering the step up to the Championship.
Sean Goss (Queens Park Rangers, CM)
A key cog in Manchester United’s Under-23 side, the youngster excelled in Premier League 2 last term, with his classy passing and composed displays, before swapping the North-West for West London in January.
He’s been bedded in slowly by R’s boss Ian Holloway, with just six appearances to his name – though he shone in March’s 2-1 defeat of Cardiff City. Expect the former Red Devils youngster to be a much bigger fixture at Loftus Road in the coming year.
Jason Cummings (Nottingham Forest, CF)
While most fans south of the border won’t know a huge amount about the 22-year-old, he was lethal for boyhood club Hibernian, netting 48 goals over the course of the past two seasons, before joining the Reds early in this window.
A speedy, tricky forward with an eye for a spectacular finish, Cummings has all the attributes to be a success. Having matured – on and off the pitch – in the past 12 months, the East Midlands outfit have picked up the Scot at the perfect time.
Matthew Pennington (Leeds United, CB)
Despite netting in a Merseyside derby and keeping Manchester United’s star forwards quiet during his smattering of Everton appearances last term, the Toffees have sent the 22-year-old out on loan. And that’s great news for Leeds fans.
Combative, good in the air and firm in the tackle, his all-action play, and tireless work-rate will quickly endear him to the Elland Road faithful. And if he can shore up the Whites’ backline, that could be the difference-maker which sees them secure a play-off spot – or better – this term.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing