From Assal to Zemura: 10 young talents of the Football League to watch in 2022 | Football

1) Brennan Johnson, 20, Nottingham Forest

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is the electric winger’s first real taste of the championship. Johnson, the son of former Forest forward David, has lit games with straight forward spikes, providing five assists and five goals this season, the first equalizer against local rival Derby. Johnson scored an 11-minute treble on loan at Lincoln in Ligue 1 last season and is set to play a role in Wales’ play-offs quest to reach Qatar 2022. There is no shortage of top-tier admirers, but Forest is determined to keep the academy graduate.

2) Isaiah Jones, 22, Middlesbrough

It has been an incredible climb for Tooting & Mitcham United to eighth tier, where West Ham’s Michail Antonio started his career, at Middlesbrough, for whom he made his league debut in August after returning from a productive loan at Queen of the South. Jones, who once tried at Charlton, bypassed the Under-23s at Tooting to become a non-league regular at 18. At his best up front, he developed the defensive side of his game as Boro’s right winger. Sought out on loan by League Two clubs this summer, he is now at the heart of Boro’s push for the Premier League.

The Fiver: Sign up and receive our daily football email.

3) Keane Lewis-Potter, 20, City of Hull

The locals knew without a doubt they were witnessing someone a little bit special when he ended a season with 128 goals for the Hessle Rangers in the Hull & District Youth League. Lewis-Potter joined his hometown club at 14, played for Under 23 at 17 and scored 15 times last season as Hull was promoted to the championship. A winger who likes to dance on the left flank, he is quick and calm. At a time when Jarrod Bowen praises in high places, Hull has another delicate winger destined for big things.

Keane Lewis-Potter celebrates his goal against Nottingham Forest. He joined his hometown club Hull City at age 14. Photography: Jez Tighe / ProSports / Shutterstock

4) Jordan Zemura, 22, Bornemouth

The defender has proven to be influential since impressing on his league debut in August when the championship curtain rises, with Scott Parker entrusting him to be his first choice left-back. This month, Zemura, who spent three years at QPR, is expected to represent Zimbabwe at the Africa Cup of Nations, three years after working as a glassmaker after being released by Charlton. His biggest asset is surely his athleticism given the way he jumps on the flank. “It sounds like my superpower,” he said.

5) Alex Scott, 18, Bristol City

With the socks down to his ankles, no wonder the midfielder has been called a ‘Guernsey Grealish’. “I’m trying to model my game on him,” Scott says. He traveled from the Channel Islands to Southampton, which released him at 12, and then to Bournemouth in his youth, but while he was eighth at Guernsey FC, for which he played regularly at the age of 16, he impressed Bristol City on a week-long try, scoring a perfect hat-trick in an Under-18 game. He made his league debut at 17 in April and signed a new four-year contract in August, a month before his England Under-19 debut.

6) Ronnie Edwards, 18, Peterborough United

Propelled into the heart of the Posh defense after his promotion, the center-back, who turned 18 in March, has handled what Neil Warnock would call the “dirt and nettles” of the championship admirably. Edwards, who signed to Barnet at the age of 17, impressed Darren Ferguson in the preseason and thrives all the time in a relegation-fighting squad, showing aggression and a touch of class, while the president, Darragh MacAnthony, tipped him over to reach the elite. Made his Under-19 debut in England in October.

Ronnie Edwards on the ball against Nottingham Forest
Ronnie Edwards thrives on a relegation-fighting team all the time, showing aggression and a touch of class. Photograph: John Mallett / ProSports / Shutterstock

7) Twine Scott, 22, MK Donations

No player has more goals in Ligue 1 – 11 goals and seven assists in 21 games this season – and those numbers are even more impressive considering he was on loan at Chippenham Town’s sixth tier in 2020. This summer, a deviant strike for his hometown club Swindon in the preseason caught the attention of then-Newport manager Michael Flynn and the attacking midfielder hasn’t looked back since . Spectacular specialist – long-range rockets and free kicks are her strong suit – Twine, who wears the No.9 jersey at MK Dons, has added a poacher instinct to her palette.

8) James Hill, 19, Fleetwood Town

Such is the burgeoning reputation of the center-back, a Barcelona scout visited Fleetwood in October to take a look at the teenager. Hill made his first-team debut at the age of 16 against Blackpool who, along with Bolton, freed him in his youth. More than 50 senior appearances later, he’s attracting interest from top clubs. England Under-21 manager Lee Carsley watched Hill against Wycombe to see how he would cope with Adebayo Akinfenwa’s muscles and was suitably impressed, calling him to his squad in November. Hill, the son of former Bristol City full-back Matt, has had to retire with a knee injury but other opportunities present themselves.

9) Dan Neil, 20, Sunderland

The academy graduate has had a breakthrough season under Lee Johnson, winning an England Under-20s call in November – alongside teammate Dennis Cirkin – after playing in midfield. His first professional goal, a delightful left-footed strike against Accrington from outside the box in September, provided a glimpse of his abilities and artistry. Sunderland sees Neil as a future captain and he has already worn the armband during the EFL Trophy. “He has this great dribbling technique, a bit like a young Paul Gascoigne,” said Johnson.

Dan Neil from Sunderland enters Sone Aluko from Ipswich
Sunderland’s Dan Neil (left) has had a breakthrough season under Lee Johnson. Photograph: Ray Lawrence / TGS Photo / Shutterstock

10) Ayoub Assal, 19, AFC Wimbledon

Perhaps the pick of the field when it comes to the exciting youngsters of the Dons, the attacking midfielder has excelled since scoring on his league debut in March. Dons head coach Mark Robinson, who was previously academy director, fueled the development of the No.10, who began his career at Millwall. Assal, whose parents are Moroccan, has scored six goals in all competitions this season, impressing alongside Jack Rudoni, 20, Luke McCormick, 22, and left-back Nesta Guinness-Walker, 22.

About the author