Leif Davis - One of the Championship players on this list

10 Championship Players Destined for the Premier League

The Championship is a league brimming with exciting young talent. In one of the most competitive leagues around, regular football has had a significant impact on many players’ careers over the years.

Many of those players have gone on to have successful careers in the Premier League, using the foundations they laid in the Championship as a springboard. That begs the question: which current Championship talent could be next in line to follow that trend? This list aims to answer that question.

There are four stipulations to keep in mind before reading any further. Specifically, they are: all of these players are under the age of 25, they cannot have made more than three Premier League appearances already, loan players did not count, hence the notable omission of Taylor Harwood-Bellis, and there are no repeat clubs. 

Jack Clarke, Sunderland

Former Tottenham winger Jack Clarke is widely regarded as one of the Championship’s best players. Clarke, who had previously played Championship football for Leeds and Stoke, found a home at Sunderland

The 23-year-old’s standout attribute is his dribbling. Clarke averages the most dribbles completed per game in the Championship this season, with 3.7 per 90 minutes. He rides tackles superbly, slaloming between defenders before accelerating away into space. His ambipedality makes him unpredictable, and he is confident of carrying the ball on either foot. 

This season, he has scored 15 goals, overtaking his tally from last season, where he got nine. His assist tally has gone down, although Clarke has created 11 big chances this season compared to his seven in 2022/23. 

His output is very impressive, and if Sunderland fail to get promoted this season, don’t be surprised to see Premier League clubs in for the left-winger this summer. 

Leif Davis, Ipswich Town

Leif Davis is one of the players on this list to have played in the Premier League already. He made 2 appearances for Leeds United back in the 2020–21 season. Now at Ipswich, the 24-year-old has been a revelation. 

Davis epitomises what it means to be a modern-day full-back. He loves to get forward and is a superb crosser of the ball. Davis has a wand of a left foot, which he certainly puts to good use, both from open play and set pieces from all angles. He has 14 assists in the Championship this season, more than anyone else. 

Do not be fooled into thinking his attacking quality means Davis is not competent defensively. The left-back reads the game very well, thus making him a superb recovery defender, averaging 4.7 recoveries per game. He is also strong in duels, too. 

Davis will certainly be of interest to Premier League clubs this season, even if Ipswich win promotion to the top flight. It will be interesting to see if the 24-year-old stays at Portman Road or leaves for pastures anew. 

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Archie Gray, Leeds United

The highest compliment you could pay to Archie Gray is that he would not look out of place in Barcelona’s midfield. The 17-year-old is extraordinary and looks like he received his football education at the esteemed La Masia Academy. 

It speaks great volumes that Gray, a midfielder by trade, has slotted seamlessly in as a right-back this season. It has been an easy transition and has made Leeds a better team for it. Gray can tuck into midfield in possession, hold the width, and do both to great effect. 

The youngster is press-resistant, adept at receiving the ball on the half turn and carries forward. Gray is a wonderful passer and plays a key part in Leeds’ progression. Only five Leeds players have more progressive passes than Gray, who has 125 this season, and he has won 12 more tackles than any teammate, with 50. He is certainly a tenacious ball-winner. 

Gray is Leeds through and through, so it will be interesting to see if, or when, he leaves Elland Road. Regardless, he has the potential to go right to the very top of the game. 

Morgan Whittaker, Plymouth Argyle

The second winger on the list is Plymouth’s Morgan Whittaker. The 23-year-old is enjoying an outstanding season in the Championship for Argyle. He has 17 goals and seven assists so far, with Southampton’s Adam Armstrong the only player with more combined goal involvements.

Whittaker is one of the most direct players in the Championship this season. His 63 carries into the penalty area are bettered by only three others. The youngster loves to operate in the right-half space, getting on the ball and driving towards the back four. He is fearless. 

He has a natural goal instinct too, as his tally from this season suggests. Whittaker can often be seen popping up in the penalty box, be it at the back post or following in for a rebound. He also has superb ball-striking skills and has scored from outside the area this season. 

There is certainly no doubt that Whittaker has the skill set to play Premier League football, and he is an exciting prospect who could well be on the move this summer.

Sinclair Armstong, QPR

At first glance, the output from QPR striker Sinclair Armstrong this season may not seem very impressive. The Irishman has three goals and three assists in the Championship. However, Armstrong is so much more than his pure goalscoring numbers suggest.

Armstrong is a natural-born finisher. His goal against Leicester City this season shows just how good his penalty box instinct can be when he gambles and manages to get on the end of a loose ball from a set-piece. Aside from that, the 20-year-old is quick and strong, which he uses to his advantage when holding the ball up for his teammates.

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Armstrong’s profile as an international with the Ireland under-21s is coming back into trend at the top level of football. Do not be surprised to see him playing Premier League football soon.

Hayden Hackney, Middlesbrough

As a young midfielder, there are not many better people to learn from than Michael Carrick. Luckily for Hayden Hackney, he is under the tutelage of the man himself at Middlesbrough, a club where the youngster has become a key player.

Hackney is a superb all-phase number eight. He can operate in the final third equally as well as he can in a deeper lying role. A tenacious ball-winner, Hackney reads the game superbly and is adept at breaking up opposition attacks.

On top of that, his passing is a joy to behold, both in a deeper position, starting attacks, and in the final third. Only six midfielders have played more final third passes in the Championship this season than the 21-year-old, with 200 exactly. Hackney is also a silky dribbler, excellent on the half turn and able to carry quickly across large spaces.

The England under-21 international is a player destined for the Premier League. Having learned from one of the best midfielders of the 21st century, he is sure to be of interest to plenty of top-flight clubs soon.

Jaden Philogene, Hull City

Hull City winger Jaden Philogene went viral recently for scoring one of the best goals in recent years: an extraordinary rabona that followed a nutmeg and a dummy, sitting the defender down in the process. However, he is much more outside of the wonder strike.

Philogene is rapid, which is one of his biggest strengths. He easily accelerates away from defenders with a quick burst of pace. He is also one of the most skilled players in the Championship, with an endless array of tricks. Crucially, however, he uses them in the right place and at the right time.

Currently on eight goals and 6 assists so far for Hull in the league, Philogene is both a good finisher, possessing good ball-striking skills, and a creative outlet for Hull.

Philogene is another player on this list to have played in the Premier League. He has played three times for Aston Villa in the top flight, in the previous three seasons. He is certain to return to the pinnacle of English football again one day.

Nathan Wood, Swansea

One of the best young centre-backs in the Championship is Swansea City’s Nathan Wood. The 21-year-old, who has also played for Crewe and Middlesbrough in the EFL, has become a key player for the Swans in his two seasons at the club so far.

Wood is a superb progressive passer and loves to bring the ball out of defence before launching a long pass to a teammate or playing one into the feet of a midfielder. Standing at around six-foot-two inches, the defender is dominant in duels, too. Wood wins an average of 62% of aerial duels per game, as well as 65% of ground duels. He has the makings of a top modern-day centre-back.

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The 21-year-old, who is an England under-21 international with two caps so far, has already been linked with a move away from South Wales. There is every chance a Premier League club will line up a move for Wood this summer.

Yaser Asprilla, Watford

South America is a continent well-known for producing some of the most talented football players in history. Watford’s Columbian midfielder Yaser Asprilla may be one of the next players who can be included in that category.

What sticks out about 20-year-old Asprilla is his excellent composure on the ball. This goes for moments when he is both dribbling and passing. Asprilla’s composure on the ball helps him buy himself time, get past a defender, or be able to pick the right pass. He doesn’t delay things for long, but he is one of those players who seems to have so much time on the ball.

The Columbian’s ball-striking is also a notable feature of his game. Do not be surprised to see Asprilla unleash a powerful shot from outside of the penalty box. He has scored six times in the Championship this season in total, also assisting five.

Asprilla is certainly an exciting prospect for Watford. It will be interesting to see how long the Hornets keep hold of him, with Premier League sides sure to be taking an interest soon enough.

Gabriel Sara, Norwich City

Rounding out this top 10 list is Norwich City midfielder Gabriel Sara. The Brazilian has taken his impressive form from 2022–23 into the current season and has exceeded his output already.

Sara is an absolutely creative machine. He is the only Norwich player to be in double figures for assists, with 10 to his name so far. The last Norwich player to hit double figures was Emilano Buendia in 2020/21. Sara has created 14 big chances, and averages 2.5 key passes per game. He is an elite creator.

As well as his assists, Sara has chipped in with seven goals in the Championship. In fact, he has the third most goals for Norwich, too. The 24-year-old is also a great ball carrier, confidently picking up the ball in deeper areas and carrying forward to help progress play.

Norwich are pushing for a playoff spot this season, currently two points off sixth place. Whether they go up or not, do not be surprised to see Sara in the Premier League next season.

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