As Matt Grimes sits wondering how soon he will step onto the Premier League stage with Swansea City after his move from League Two Exeter, other ‘gems’ are working towards their fixtures outside the top flight. There are many more young, quality players, and a few not so young, who are capable of stepping up a division or two and, from a patriotic point of view, so many of them are English.
It’s not until you delve beyond the top flight or, in my case, see so much Championship, League One and League Two football that you realise just how much talent is there. And the quality of play as well as players is improving year on year. So much so that the jump from a lower league club to Championship or even Premier League is not as daunting as it was a decade ago.
Demarai Gray is one of the hottest properties at present. The 18 year old has already amassed nearly 30 appearances for Birmingham City and the club has already rejected bids from Premiership Crystal Palace as well as Bournemouth, who look like they are heading there. The England Under 18 and Under 19 international started his football career at local Birmingham club Cadbury Athletic, as did a certain Daniel Sturridge.
The right winger shot into prominence with a 34 minute hat-trick against Reading last December and in addition to actual bids from Palace and Bournemouth the youngster, not 19 until this summer, has also been strongly linked with the usual suspects; Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Dele Alli is also 18 and made his MK Dons début aged just 16 and what makes him such a great prospect is that the midfielder has the goal touch. He has already scored two hat-tricks for Milton Keynes, both last year. His first treble ensured a 3-1 victory over Notts County, while still short of his 18th birthday and in September 2014 he scored three goals against Crewe in the Dons’ 6-1 win. He too has a growing England pedigree having progressed through the Under17s and Under 18s and is currently part of Sean O’Driscoll’s Under 19 set up.
Daniel Powell is a team mate of Dele Alli at MK Dons and although it seems he has been around a long time, he has already made more than 160 appearances for Karl Robinson’s side since making a scoring début as a substitute, back in 2008 aged just 17. The 23 year old is a powerful striker or winger and his current contract ends in June this year so he could be one of these hidden gems who makes an upward move sooner rather than later.
At the other end of the age scale and despite not being a hidden gem, more an unpolished one, is Paul Gallagher, currently on loan at League One Preston North End from Premier League strugglers Leicester City.
I have seen Paul play several times this season and each and every time he has stood head and shoulders above any other player on display. OK, you may say it is only League One opposition but as recently as January 3rd he scored both goals to dump Championship Norwich City out of the FA Cup. It is perhaps his lack of goals that has hindered a top flight career, at Leicester his record is something around a goal every four games but he has other strengths that could entice a top flight club to take a chance on an experienced 30 year old with well over 300 league games to his name. And talking of names it was while at Leicester that the City manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson likened Paul to being, ‘not far from David Beckham in terms of set-piece delivery.’
Paul Gallagher sees a bigger picture than most. His vision is on a par with the best of players currently earning their living in the Premier League. His range of passing is comparable with the aforementioned ‘Golden Balls’ and his calm steadiness on the ball in the maelstrom of midfield sees many a game centre on him.
So there you have it, just four of the many gems outside the Premier League who would not cost the earth for a top flight club to polish up to realise vast potential. And I haven’t even touched upon; Britt Assombalonga, Jesse Lingard, Jordan Rhodes, Nahki Wells, Alfie Potter, Sam Ricketts, etc!