19 members of the current 25-man England squad once plied their trade below the Premier League, so we know that the EFL must now be jam-packed with future international talent.
With the Euro 2020 Qualifiers taking place this weekend, Gabriel Sutton highlights 15 current EFL players who could have very exciting futures in the game, potentially on the world stage.
15. Kwame Poku, Colchester United – English
The most impressive aspect of Kwame Poku’s rise this season is that it has come at a time when Colchester have, arguably, their strongest squad since relegation to League Two.
Yes, attacking midfielder Sammie Szmodics left in the summer but John McGreal added advanced playmaker Jevani Brown to a squad with a lot of talented, forward-thinking players.
Poku did not have a senior appearance to his name prior to 2019-20, so he has shown incredible ability to become a first team regular in such a short space of time.
14. Jarrad Branthwaite, Carlisle United – English
It has been a difficult period for Carlisle, on and off the pitch, but the one positive has been Branthwaite’s emergence.
The 17-year-old plays on the right of a back-three for Steven Pressley’s side, showing comfort in possession and the unique ability to switch play to the right channel.
Virgil Van Dijk has pictures of Jarrad Branthwaite on his wall
— owen (@owencufc) November 2, 2019
13. Dennis Politic, Bolton Wanderers – Romanian
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Bolton endured a horribly uncertain summer but the silver lining, at least for Dennis Politic, is that he has had a lot of unexpected exposure to first team action – he proved himself sufficiently before the takeover and deadline day influx of signings to keep his place.
Politic is the brightest teenage dribbler in League One and there is no reason why he cannot edge himself into Cosmin Contra’s plans.
12. Jacob Greaves, Cheltenham Town – English
Greaves, on loan from Hull, fits the emerging trend of centre-backs overlapping beyond their corresponding wing-backs.
Although right-footed, the 19-year-old is more than comfortable on the left of a back-three; he can do the basics of defending with fierce bravery yet he can also make winding, skilful runs deep into opposition territory, which makes him a hugely exciting talent.
11. Jack Aitchison, Forest Green Rovers – Scottish
Aitchison is proving Forest Green’s brightest attacking threat.
The Celtic loanee first impressed fans when he came off the bench at Cambridge in September to cut inside from the left and score a terrific winner, separating the two teams in an otherwise even encounter.
Since Elliott Frear has returned to start on the left of the attacking trio, Aitchison has moved to the right and proved equally effective, showing unusual versatility.
His goal and all-round performance in the 2-1 “El-Glosico” victory at Cheltenham endeared him to fans, so perhaps he can make a similar impact when he returns to Celtic.
10. Jack Roles, Cambridge United – Cypriot
Tottenham’s hierarchy could do worse than keep an eye on 20-year-old Jack Roles.
The creative midfielder has been a delight to watch on loan at Cambridge this season, learning under former Spurs defender Colin Calderwood.
Roles has tended to play on the left of a three-man midfield in a 3-5-2, where he hugely thrived until an unfortunate injury in late-October.
9. Marcus Forss, AFC Wimbledon – Finnish
Marcus Forss has already scored eight goals for AFC Wimbledon, making him an inspired loan acquisition.
2 – Marcus Forss is only the second AFC Wimbledon player to score an away hat-trick in the EFL after Joe Pigott vs Rochdale in February 2019. Deadly.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 12, 2019
Brentford fans knew Forss’ capabilities from his appearances in the Championship last term but, with Neal Maupay always in form, he was granted only one league start.
When the 20-year-old returns to the Bees, he will have the confidence to make a huge impact.
8. Rhys Norrington-Davies, Rochdale – Welsh
Norrington-Davies thrived on loan at Barrow last season and has jumped up two divisions with ease.
Rochdale are implementing a more expansive style than we saw last season and that suits the Sheffield United loanee, who has the stamina to quickly cover long distances.
The 20-year-old has taken seven shots from inside the penalty area this season – more than any left-footed left-backs in League One – making him an adventurous alternative to Wales’ Neil Taylor.
7. Luke Matheson, Rochdale – English
From one young Rochdale full-back to another.
At just 17, Matheson has made 15 appearances for his local club, having produced a man-of-the-match display at 15.
As if that was not remarkable enough, he scored an equalizer at Old Trafford in September’s 1-1 EFL Cup draw.
Amid this meteoric progress,, one hopes that Matheson remains grounded and stays at the Crown Oil Arena (Spotland); he is at the perfect club to develop.
Pick up your GCSE results in the Summer, score at Old Trafford in the Autumn.
— Carabao Cup (@Carabao_Cup) September 26, 2019
6. Krystian Bielik, Derby County – Polish
Bielik looked competent at Championship level with Birmingham City in 2016-17, so it seems surprising that he had to drop down to League One for a spell at Charlton last term.
The Pole though is back in the second-tier with Derby County, where he is offering versatility, strength, presence and defensive insurance as well as the composure to play his way out of tight situations.
When Poland’s holding midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak retires from international football, Bielik, now 21, will be at his peak.
Bielik’s Rams teammate Jayden Bogle also has a bright future.
5. Joe Gelhardt, Wigan Athletic – English
It is a challenging season for Wigan, who are languishing in 20th.
The one bright spark though has been Geldhardt, a local lad who has enthused fans with his skill, creativity, vision and quick feet as well as his eye for a clever finish, as we saw in mid-September’s 2-2 draw at Hull.
4. Bryan Mbuemo, Brentford – French
Brentford consistently thrive at recruitment and Mbuemo looks another inspired addition.
It’s common to find young talents who excel at cutting onto their right foot from the left, but less so to find one who excels at doing the opposite.
Mbuemo can do a lot of damage when he cuts inside; long-term he could give France a direct alternative to Antoine Griezmann.
3. Han Noah Massengo, Bristol City – French
From one Championship Frenchman to another.
It is very likely that the £2.7 million that Bristol City paid Monaco this summer, when replacing Cardiff-bound Marlon Pack, will look like a bargain when the dynamic midfielder moves on.
Massengo possesses strong reading of the game, especially for an 18-year-old, as well as boundless energy that could make him a future star.
2. Jude Bellingham, Birmingham City – English
Bellingham has been thrown into league action at Birmingham almost as soon as he was eligible for senior football; the 16-year-old has played, and thrived, in several different positions.
He was Blues’ brightest spark in August’s 3-0 EFL Cup loss at Portsmouth, where he was deployed as a false nine, then featured on the left at Charlton, where he scored the only goal of the game.
In October’s 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough, though, Pep Clotet risked Bellingham in central midfield next to Ivan Sunjic; he displayed his obvious attacking capabilities in that role yet was also surprisingly tenacious.
Bellinghm has displayed incredible versatility for his age and could be a future England star.
1. Ebere Eze, Queens Park Rangers – English
Ebere makes the game look Eze.
Ebere Eze vs Wigan
— Oli (@oliqpr) August 26, 2019
21-year-old is incredibly skilful; despite not necessarily being rapid or direct, he can still carry the ball over long distances.
His ability to deceive several defenders with delightful dexterity is something not many players possess.
Eze can pick up perfect positions between lines and thread inch-perfect through balls to his teammates; he has increased his goal return this term, scoring six already while his attitude is exemplary for one so talented.
Whether with England or Nigeria, a huge international future awaits.