As a fascinating Championship season draws to a close we select 10 players who could thrive in the Premier League next season. We have not included players who have been on loan from Premier League clubs this season, such as Harry Wilson and Tammy Abraham, and neither have we picked players from the two automatically promoted teams (Norwich and Sheffield United) as those players are set to play in the top division next season anyway.
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Yet to make a true impression on the top flight, Grealish knows he does not have forever. As a kid the Aston Villa captain celebrated goals in the back garden by jumping into the bushes, pretending to embrace the Holte End and, while he may be living the dream, it is difficult to envisage him settling for a fourth successive season in the second tier. With only 16 Premier League starts to his name, Grealish has unfinished business. The 23-year-old deserves a bigger stage and is a Wembley win away from getting one.
Daniel James (Swansea City)
The 21-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise since failing to get a game in League One at Shrewsbury Town 18 months ago. As a result, that loan spell was cancelled but, these days, the Swansea and Wales winger has no shortage of admirers, including Manchester United. In March his slaloming runs and searing pace left Nicolás Otamendi queasy and the rest of the Manchester City defence on tenterhooks. “James is incredibly fast, it is not easy,” Pep Guardiola said, raising his eyebrows.
Jarrod Bowen (Hull City)
Across the past two seasons, Bowen has scored 37 goals – from the right wing. Comparisons with Arjen Robben may be overegging his talent but everything points towards Bowen, who was playing for free at Hereford United just five years ago, having a bright future. There is a belief that Bowen, a tenacious forward who has blossomed on the flank, will flourish at the highest level, as his former Hull City teammates Andy Robertson and Harry Maguire have done.
Ezri Konsa (Brentford)
After Lloyd Kelly’s £13m move to Bournemouth, Konsa and Middlesbrough’s Dael Fry are the only players from the most recent England Under-21 squad not on the books of a Premier League club. Brentford’s head coach, Thomas Frank, has acknowledged it is only a matter of time before the centre-back, a graduate of the Charlton academy, joins the former Brentford players James Tarkowski, John Egan and Chris Mepham, who was sold for £15m in January, in the top flight.
Danny Loader (Reading)
The Reading striker is the second-youngest name on this list. Prolific at youth level and a World Cup winner with England Under-17s, Loader has been on the radar of Bundesliga clubs and those closer to home, including Wolves, for some time. The 18-year-old still has only eight league starts to his name after making his full debut in November but his first senior goal, when he arrowed a piercing strike into the top corner at Middlesbrough in April, underlined his undoubted ability. His older brother, Ben, is a wing for London Irish.
Neal Maupay (Brentford)
Twenty-five goals later, top-flight interest in Maupay is a given. Only Teemu Pukki scored more goals in the normal season than the 22-year-old, a £1.6m signing from St Etienne two years ago on the back of an impressive loan spell with Brest. A willing runner, strong and happy to muck in, Maupay, who started his career under Claude Puel at Nice, has been ever present this season. Brentford will command a fee of around £20m this summer.
Saïd Benrahma (Brentford)
Yet another feather in the cap for Brentford’s scouting department. Signed from Nice last summer, Benrahma dazzled in his debut season in England, hitting double-figures in terms of goals and providing a league-high 14 assists, numbers that are even more impressive considering he started 63% of league matches. With quick feet and pace to burn, Benrahma – alongside Maupay and Ollie Watkins – forms one third of a tormenting attacking trident.
Adam Webster (Bristol City)
“I’m only selling [Aden] Flint if you get me Webster,” the Bristol City head coach, Lee Johnson, said last year in a conversation with the club’s chief executive officer, Mark Ashton. Since arriving from Ipswich for £3.5m, Webster, 24, has established himself as one of the best defenders in the division. A savvy modern-day centre-back and serene in possession, Webster oozes class. Has also been utilised in midfield in a 4-2-2-2 formation. There is seemingly more to come from Josh Brownhill and Callum O’Dowda, too.
Luca Connell (Bolton)
Having only just turned 18, Connell is the bona fide baby of this list but, since being fast-tracked into the starting lineup at stricken Bolton Wanderers, he has belied his years. Born on Merseyside, the shaggy-haired midfielder dubbed by some fans as the “Bolton Modric” is out of contract next month and is set to move on after 10 years at the club. Southampton and Brighton had bids rejected in January while Tottenham, Watford and Wolves are big admirers.
Che Adams (Birmingham City)
Birmingham will do well to hold on to Adams this summer. Even going back to his non-league days, when he broke on to the scene as a 16-year-old at Ilkeston, those who worked with him always felt Adams was destined for the top. He made light work of things this season, achieving a 22-goal haul in a team beset by off-field troubles. In the mould of Callum Wilson – strong, powerful and hard-working – Adams has the tools to succeed.