Liverpool Youth Teams Thread

This thread is designated for discussion of our youth teams (U21s and below), their games, competitions which they take part in, performances and future prospects.

Premier League U23 Season Preview 2020/2021: Part I
Before the start of the 2020/2021 U23 season I will bring a preview of every team and some of the players to look out for.

Today we start with three famous Academies; Arsenal , West Ham United and Leeds United .
The Gunners finished in 6th position last season and saw success with the promotion of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock to full time first team members.

Estonian Karl Hein and England U19 international Arthur Okonkwo will battle it out for the first-choice goalkeeper position, with a run at the first team squad an achievable goal if Dejan Iliev and Matt Macey depart as expected.

In defence, Zech Medley has joined Gillingham on loan and Arsenal have brought in released Tottenham defender Jonathan Dinzeyi who will compete with Harry Clarke, Marc McGuiness and Daniel Ballard in the centre-back rotation – although Ballard may head out on loan again after a promising start to last season at Swindon was cut short by a long term injury. Tolaji Bola has been the automatic starter at left back for several years but his position in now under threat by 18-year-old Joel Lopez and Bola, at 21, may feel he needs senior football. Jordi Osei-Tutu and Zak Swanson have both left on loan so options at right back look thin with Ryan Alebiosu the only real option – however it is likely Cedric Soares will drop down from time to time.

Emile Smith-Rowe has been promised a chance to compete with the first team, but it is expected he will still be a regular at U23 level. Promising 17-year-old Miguel Azeez will jump into the U23 rotation and he comes with significant hype as the latest “wonderkid”. Strangely Tim Akinola has been signed after being released from Huddersfield, much to the surprise of the Huddersfield coaching staff who went on record to say they didn’t see him playing at Arsenal’s level.

Another bizarre signing – to round out a trio of weird ones – is twenty-year-old George Lewis who joins from Fram Larvik. The uncapped Rwandan winger was spotted in a televised 9v9 tournament while on trial for Norwegian Division 3 side Floya.

Sam Greenwood has been allowed to leave for Leeds and Folarin Balogun has attracted attention from Brentford which may open the door for 19-year-old striker Tyreece John-Jules to become the main striker. Although John-Jules is less heralded than Balogun he has shown first team potential and was on the bench for the Charity Shield.

Arsenal have a strange mix of highly talented young players – Hein, Lopez, Azeez, Balogun and John-Jules supported by seemingly average squad players. They probably will be able to keep most of the squad together as first team opportunities are likely to be limited and that will help them build a strong season. I expect Arsenal to finish in the top four.

Transfers In
Jonathan Dinzeyi - Tottenham - Free
Tim Akinola - Huddersfield - Free
George Lewis - Fram Larvik - Free

Transfers Out
Sam Greenwood - Leeds - £1.3m
Matt Smith - Swindon - Loan
Zech Medley - Gillingham - Loan
Zak Swanson - Maastricht - Loan
Trae Coyle - Gillingham - Loan
Jordi Osei-Tutu - Cardiff - Loan
Nathan Tormey - Free Agent
Tobi Omole - Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 4th (Division 1)
Predicted Line-Up:

Alebiosu Ballard Clarke Lopez
Smith-Rowe Azeez Cottrell
John-Jules Balogun Lewis

West Ham
West Ham are newcomers to Premier League 2 Division 1 having been promoted from Division 2 as league champions in 2019/20. West Ham were league leaders every week from an opening day 3-0 victory over Fulham.

In goal this season they will have a choice between two England youth players; U21 international Nathan Trott, who spent last season as AFC Wimbledon’s first choice goalkeeper, and U20 international Joseph Anang. Trott is likely to go on loan again although there is an outside chance he will beat out Darren Randolph for the back up position and could get first team minutes given Szczesny’s recent injury record.

Portuguese centre-back Oscar Cardoso was a disappointment having failed to make his first team debut when he was brought in to compete, however he excelled at U23 level. He will be hoping this campaign sees him get more chances. Ajibola Alese is a talented defender and he will be the regular of the side next to Tunji Akinola or Joshua Okotcha when Cardoso isn’t there. 16-year-old Jamal Baptiste has started for the first team in pre-season and could see significant minutes at U23 level. Ben Johnson’s promotion to the first team has seen him impress and opens the right back position for Will Greenidge and Harrison Ashby who move up from the U18s. Sam Caiger should be able to get regular game time at left back behind first choice Emmanuel Longelo.

In midfield, the defensive minded Conor Coventry should be a mainstay unless he heads out on loan as he did last season. He has featured heavily for West Ham this pre-season and his public comments show he expects a first team chance this season. Alfie Lewis is the U23 captain but at nearly 21 years old he really needs some senior experience. Bernardo Rosa, a Brazilian midfielder, will likely round out the central three in a 4-2-3-1 formation, although he can also cover at full back. 20-year-old Ossama Ashley has arrived as a bit of a punt from AFC Wimbledon, having only entered the professional game two years ago when he was spotted playing for a local college. Lennon Peake, Keenan Appiah-Forson and Dan Chesters will be rotation options following their step up from U18 level.

Flying winger Nathan Holland joined West Ham in 2017 following his release by Everton and the 22-year-old had a breakout season for Oxford United in 2020. Burnley have made an approach with a view to offering him first team football, but West Ham should try to hold onto him and offer him that route themselves, especially as Grady Diangana returns to West Brom. If West Ham are sensible and move Holland into their first team then Amadou Diallo will continue to hold the left of midfield with Mesaque Dju and Dan Kemp battling for the right-hand side. Kemp had a loan spell at Stevenage last season and has generally been the more impressive of the two. (Dan Kemp joined Blackpool on loan shortly after publication)

As for centre forwards, Xande Silva is not trusted by David Moyes – as shown by his lack of appearances even when the club was down to just Haller as a recognised centre forward – and the 23-year-old should probably consider moving on. Oladapo Afolayan had a disappointing loan spell at Mansfield last season and may opt to stay close to home this time around while Sean Adarkwa will expect to be part of the rotation, and possibly first choice if the other two move to pastures new.

For this level West Ham’s squad is experienced and has a few very talented prospects. They’ll be a tough outfit for anyone in Division One.

Transfers In

Transfers Out
Jeremy Ngakia - Watford - Free
Jake Giddings - Crystal Palace - Free
Dan Kemp - Blackpool - Loan
Anouar El Mhassani - Free Agent
Reece Hannam - Free Agent
Louie Watson - Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 7th (Division 1)
Predicted Line Up:

Ashby Cardoso Alese Longelo
Coventry Rosa
Kemp Lewis Diallo

Leeds United
This is Leeds United’s first season in the Premier League 2, having gained Category One status, and they start, logically, in Division 2. They ended last season in third place in the Professional Development League just behind Nottingham Forest and fellow PL2D2 newboys, Burnley.

Elia Caprile will likely start as the U23s first choice goalkeeper with Kamil Miazek likely to join Huddersfield Town. Aaron Pilkington and Matthew Turner are nominally backups for Caprile but may find themselves forced out by 17-year-old new signing Dani van der Heuvel who joins from Ajax.

Charlie Cresswell and Oliver Casey look sure to start the season at centre back. Casey, 19, was handed a first team debut last season and could be drafted into the first team should an injury crisis hit. Luke Lyons and Jamie Thornton will provide backup.

At right back, Leeds moved quickly to secure the signing of Cody Drameh from Fulham. The 18-year-old started for Fulham U23s last season and should make the role his own for Leeds this season. On the left flank, Leif Davis will be a regular ahead of last season’s U18s left back Joshveer Shergill unless he heads out on loan.

Alfie McCalmont recently became a full Northern Irish international and the best defensive midfield prospect on Leeds’ books although he may be tempted to head out on loan with several Spanish sides interested. Bobby Kamwa can do a similar job. Robbie Gotts has left so linking attacking and defence should be Polish midfielder Mateusz Bogusz, a talent in the centre of the park who has already voiced displeasure at not breaking into the first team. Jamie Shackleton may also find he is dropped down from time to time as he is unlikely to be a mainstay of a Premier League side. Another new signing in Joe Gelhardt will probably take the attacking midfield role as Leeds play a 4-2-3-1. Gelhardt has shown versatility throughout his short career at Wigan and that would allow former Arsenal striker Sam Greenwood to start in the most advanced position ahead of Niall Huggins and Niklas Haugland, although both are also highly rated. Charlie Allen has signed from Linfield but will probably begin the season in the U18s.

Jordan Stevens is likely to start on the right of midfield. The 20-year-old has been threatening to break into Bielsa’s team but that seems unlikely at PL level. Liam McCarron, who recently joined from Carlisle, should be competition. Stewart McKinstry is one of the more promising players at Leeds and the 18-year-old just signed a three-year contract. He will start on the left of midfield.

With many experienced Championship players expected to get regular game time then Leeds shouldn’t struggle too much in their first season at this level. Gelhardt and Greenwood should be a devastating partnership.

Transfers In
Sam Greenwood - Arsenal - £1.3m
Joe Gelhardt - Wigan - £900k
Cody Drameh - Fulham - £400k
Dani van den Heuval - Ajax - Free

Transfers Out
Matty Downing - Bradford PA - Free
Joe Stanley - Buxton - Free
Kun Temenuzhkov - Real Union - Loan
Rafa Mujica - Real Oviedo - Loan
Ryan Edmondson - Aberdeen - Loan
Harrison Male - Free Agent
Theo Hudson - Free Agent
Bryce Hosannah - Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 5th (Division 2)
Predicted Line Up:

Drameh Cresswell Casey Davis
McCalmont Bogusz
Stevens Gelhardt McKinstry

Premier League U23 Season Preview 2020/2021: Part II

Tottenham, Derby County, Crystal Palace
Spurs have been one of the better ran youth setups in the Premier League in recent years, but they limped their way to a 10th place finish last season – despite beating Liverpool 4-0 home and away.

England U21 Goalkeeper Brandon Austin has returned from a loan spell at Danish side Viborg but finds his path to the first team squad blocked by Joe Hart. He will likely go on loan again leaving Alfie Whiteman and Jonathan De Bie to battle for the number one shirt although Joshua Oluwayemi may be in contention also.

Cameron Carter-Vickers looks set to end his time at Tottenham with Luton linked. Japhet Tanganga has committed himself to Spurs for the long term but he is unlikely to see too much first team action. He will probably start the season as the number one CB for the U23s. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster and Malachi Fagan-Walcott will also get plenty of game time at centre back with Aaron Skinner a depth option. Left back Dennis Cirkin looks relatively unchallenged for the role and Jubril Okedina had a strong season at right back so will expect to continue in that role.

U23 captain Oliver Skipp has gone on loan to Norwich and a crowded midfield roster will be thinned out when Jamie Bowden, George Marsh and Jack Roles leave on also. Harvey White is a rising star who will train with the first team but most of his football will be at U23 level alongside Elliott Thorpe and Chay Cooper. 16-year-old Alfie Devine has arrived from Wigan and could be fast tracked through to the U23s.

On the wings, Shilow Tracey must surely move on having recently turned 22 and having no real shot at first team football. J’Neil Bennett was regular U23 even before his aged promotion this year and Dilan Markanday should once again feature heavily. Jeremie Mukendi and Maurizio Pochettino will be squad depth. Former Leeds winger Jack Clarke is probably heading out on loan again having spent last season at Leeds and QPR.

Troy Parrott has been loaned to Millwall and Kazaiah Sterling has been made available for sale meaning Rodel Richards, Kion Etete and Enock Asante will battle for the starting job upfront.

Spurs have a young team but should be significantly improved on their 2019/20 season as players enter their second year at this level but there is a distinct lack of firepower that could hurt them.

Transfers In
Alfie Devine – Wigan – Undisc.

Transfers Out
Luke Amos – QPR – Undisc.
Jonathan Dinzeyi – Arsenal – Free
Armando Shashoua – Atletico Baleares – Free
Troy Parrott – Millwall – Loan
Timothy Eyoma – Lincoln – Loan
Tariq Hinds – Free Agent
Phoenix Patterson – Free Agent
Rayan Clarke – Free Agent
Maxwell Statham – Free Agent

Predicted League Finish: 8th (Division One)
Predicted Line Up:

Okedina Tanganga Lyons-Foster Cirkin
Thorpe White Cooper
Markanday Richards Bennett

Derby County
Most football fans would probably be surprised to learn that Derby County are one of the best academies in English football. The 2018/19 U18 league champions were able to promote the majority of the team to U23 level and finished in an excellent 4th position even with star performers like Max Bird and Louie Sibley becoming first team regulars.

Matthew Yates has returned from a successful loan spell at Telford and will battle with new signing Emmanuel Idem for the goalkeeper’s jersey. Bradley Foster-Theninger is the most likely to provide backup from the U18s.

Ethan Wassall and Joe Bateman train full time with the first team and will be the nominal starters at centre back unless loan offers come forward for them. Jordan Brown and Callum Minkley came through from the league winning U18 side and already have significant U23 experience. Eiren Cashin is new to this level and will likely be a depth option.

Lee Buchanan will likely start at left back with Archie Brown his main competition for the left back spot following Brown’s promotion from the U18s. Meanwhile Irish defender Festy Ebosele should beat out Kornell McDonald for the right back spot.

Defensive midfielder Liam Thompson looks a sure bet for a starting position in his first season at U23 level, partnering Connor Dixon who trains with the first team. However, there may be significant game time for Jason Knight if he doesn’t hold down a spot in the first XI.

On the left-wing Cameron Cresswell has shown flashes of his ability but could probably do with a loan spell and Tyree Wilson, 18, is a genuine first team prospect and should get the nod there often. Josh Shonibare has made a good impression for the first team this summer and will likely be kept around the first team while playing for the U23s. Morgan Whittaker broke into the first team last season but he will likely drop down a level from time to time.

In attack, Jamal Hector-Ingram was consistently touted as a first team potential player following his move from West Ham last season but managed just one appearance. He will lead the line this term, backed up by Scottish U19 international Jack Stretton who scored 16 goals for Derby U18s last season.

Derby are a very strong team at this level and despite losing a lot of players to the first team they continue to look intimidating.

Transfers In
Emmanuel Idem – Canvey Island – Free

Transfers Out
Jayden Mitchell-Lawson – Bristol Rovers - Loan
Joshua Barnes – Stockport – Free
Alex Babos – Free Agent
Yohan Greco – Free Agent
Ethan Sephton – Free Agent

Predicted League Finish: 2nd (Division One)
Predicted Line Up

Ebosele Wassall Bateman Buchanan
Dixon Thompson Knight
Shonibare Hector-Ingram Wilson

Crystal Palace

Palace struggled in the Professional Development League last season but structural improvements have seen the club moved up to Premier League 2 for the first time. They start in the second division. Roy Hodgson has now been tasked with using these young players.

Oliver Webber is likely to be the starting goalkeeper with Jacob Russell and Rohan Luthra providing support. Both Russell and Luthra have been promoted from the U18 squad.

Sam Woods had a short spell at Hamilton and Malachi Boateng won Academy Player of the Year in his first year as a professional. Alongside them, Nikola Tavares came close to first team action last season. Jude Russell will be expected to start at right back. Tyrick Mitchell is a leading light of the academy and hopes are he can become the “new” Aaron Wan-Bissaka. As first alternative to Patrick van Aanholt he will still play regularly at U23 level. Josh Williams can also play left back is unlikely to have a long-term future at the club.

Giovanni McGregor has been on the first team bench before he was loaned to Dartford last season. He turns 22 this season and surely needs to move on. Luke Dreher is a highly thought of central midfield talent, but his season ended through injury before it began last year, and he will need to build up his fitness again. Nya Kirby is an England youth international who has impressed in pre-season and has a real chance of breaking through this season. Sean Robertson, David Boateng and new signing Jake Giddings will compete for appearances too.

Brandon Aveiro is a pacey forward player capable of playing out wide or as a number ten. The 19-year-old rejected a move to Benfica last season and could be the next in line for a first team breakthrough. Brandon Pierrick has every right to expect first team football, he has been the shining light of Palace’s academy system for a couple of seasons. Scott Banks is a Scottish youth international and just returned from a year at Alloa.

Upfront, Palace are limited in their options with TQ Addy and Robert Street the only recognised strikers as they move up from the U18 squad.

Crystal Palace have an outstanding talent or two but are largely well behind in comparison to the competition at PL2D2 level. This is set to be a tough campaign.

Transfers In
Jake Giddings – West Ham United - Free

Transfers Out
Joe Tupper – Havant & Waterlooville – Free
Jason Lokilo – Doncaster – Free
Dion Henry – Free Agent
Kian Flanagan – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 13th (Division 2)
Predicted Line Up

Russell Woods Tavares Mitchell
Dreher Boateng Kirby
Pierrick Street Aveiro​

Premier League U23 Season Preview: Part III

Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion & Sunderland
Manchester City ​
They may be powerhouses in the Premier League but, despite massive investment, the City academy has not thrived in recent years either in players development or results. As with most of the “big clubs”, Man City have a very young development team compared with some of their competition. Last season they finished in 8th position for the second year in a row.

Daniel Grimshaw is the most senior U23 goalkeeper but his route to the first team looks non-existent as Scott Carson was resigned on loan. Louie Moulden is generally considered to the most talented of Man City’s clutch of young keepers and the ex-Liverpool player will expect to win the shirt for the season. Gavin Bazunu joined Rochdale on loan and Ciaran Slicker will provide depth.

Taylor Harwood-Bellis should start the season as the first choice centre back and Joel Latibeaudiere has been his regular partner at CB in recent years but after struggling for game time on loan at Twente he may find that position under threat and is likely to head out on loan anyway. Yeboah Amankwah will go head to head with Rowan McDonald in the central area while Cameron Gbadebo, a highly touted signing from Leicester in 2019, should prove an ample deputy. Tosin Adarabioyo has been excellent for Blackburn Rovers and will likely be sold or loaned to a Premier League side. Some rumours have Philippe Sandler going into Man City’s first team but I would bet he ends up on loan again. Timi Sobowale, promoted from the U18s this season, will likely be allowed to leave.

Nathaniel Ogbeta will continue as the first choice left back while Alpha Dionkou, signed from Real Mallorca in 2017, is the closest thing Man City have to a player breaking through at right back and he should fend off the competition of U18 promotee Sam Robinson. New £5m signing Yan Couto will probably head out on loan to Spain.

Central midfield could see an overhaul as Claudio Gomes is probably going to leave the club, either permanently or on loan, which will create an opportunity for Matt Smith once again after he spent last season on loan. Collins Tanor should leave, he is 23 years old this season and has only ever been out on loan. Ivan Ilic struggled to make an impact at NAC Breda and will probably head on loan again with Perugia interested, his older brother Luka may make a similar move. The excellent Tommy Doyle will again captain the side and be partnered with Adrian Bernabe. Waiting for a chance at centre midfield is the extremely talented England U18 international, Cole Palmer, who will be an U23 for the first time this season. Paulo Fernandes is leaving the club to join Castellon and Felix Nmecha should get a good quality loan spell.

In the wide positions there is a talented bunch of players in Morgan Rogers, Jayden Braaf, Keyendrah Simmonds and D’Margio Wright-Phillips. Rogers has been underwhelming since joining from West Brom but the raw talent is definitely there. Dutch U18 Jayden Braaf is the nominal starter on the left wing. On the right-hand side D’Margio Wright-Phillips has every chance to be the starter but both he and Simmonds were impressive for the U18s and will likely share game time. Ben Knight was the starter last season but managed only one goal all season. Thomas Agyepong and Aminu Mohammed should head out on loan although Man City would also be happy to sell.

Spanish U18 striker Pablo Moreno has signed from Juventus for £9m and will compete with Nabil Touaizi for the starting role. Moreno only managed four goals in 31 appearances last season for Juventus so Touaizi may be the favourite for the role.

Manchester City are a dangerous attacking team but as they are, once again, very young they are unlikely to challenge at the top of the league.

Transfers In
Pablo Moreno – Juventus - £9m
Yan Couto – Coritiba - £5m
Issa Kabore – Mechelen - £4m

Transfers Out
Felix Correia – Juventus - £9m
Thierry Ambrose – Metz - £1m
Fisayo Dele-Bashiru – Sheffield Wednesday - Undisc
Luke Bolton – Dundee United - Loan
Ryotaro Meshino – Rio Ave – Loan
Ante Palavera – Getafe – Loan
Pedro Porro – Sporting CP – Loan
Daniel Arzani – Utrecht – Loan
Issa Kabore – Mechelen – Loan
Ko Itakura – Groningen – Loan
Iker Pozo – FC Eindhoven – Loan
Nahuel Ferraresi – Moreirense – Loan
Lewis Fiorini – NAC Breda – Loan
Lukas Nmecha – Anderlecht – Loan
Gavin Bazunu – Rochdale – Loan
Slobodan Tedic – Zwolle - Loan
Aleix Garcia – Free Agent
Ernest Agyiri – Free Agent
Tom Scott – Free Agent

Predicted League Finish: 10th
Predicted Line Up:

Dionkou Harwood-Bellis McDonald Ogbeta
Doyle Smith Bernabe
Wright-Phillips Touaizi Braaf

West Bromwich Albion
After finishing third in Division Two, West Brom are well positioned for another good campaign with a solid batch of promotions from U18 level.

Goalkeeper Ted Cann returns to West Brom, the 19-year-old had a short loan at Worcester City and a spell in Yeovil’s youth team during the 2019/20 season. With Joshua Griffiths joining Cheltenham on loan and Bradley House being released, the way is clearer for Cann. Alex Palmer will likely get significant game time at U23 level, the 24-year-old is the club’s second choice having spent last season as Plymouth’s first choice.

Following the release of Jack Fitzwater and Pablo Martinez, Tomiwa Solanke and Saul Shotton are likely to be first choice centre backs with Thomas Sharpe and Harry Williams backing them up. First team defender Dara O’Shea will undoubtedly drop down to make sporadic appearances at this level also.

George Harmon, who was U18 captain, will continue to be the starting left back after having his contact extended in May. Aksum White is likely to be the first choice right back although he should have stiff competition from Taylor Gardner-Hickman who is moving up from the U18s.

Zak Brown is a promising central midfielder and recently agreed a new contract. He has the chance to get into the first team squad for cameo appearances. Finley Thorndike and Toby King are the pick of the promoted U18 players, while 16-year-old Rico Richards could make appearances at this level also.

Nick Clayton-Phillips has been drafted into the first team squad for training this summer following a loan spell at Solihull Moors. The winger will compete with Alex Gilbert who has just moved up from the U18s. Owen Windsor was a new signing from Cirencester in 2019 and he looks set to patrol the right-hand side of midfield.

Rayhaan Tulloch is one of the brightest prospects in England and the attacking midfielder will sit in just behind the centre forward. Jamie Soule is expected to be the first-choice striker while Callum Morton, who spent last season with Northampton Town, will likely head out to Lincoln this time around. Cheikh Diaby joined from Le Havre in October 2019 but failed to make much of an impact because of administrative issues about his move, so he will be hoping to be more involved this season.

West Brom had a strong campaign in 2019/20 and have reloaded their squad from their equally excellent U18 team. With Rayhaan Tulloch leading the way I expect West Brom to be one of the best sides in Division Two.

Transfers In

Transfers Out
Pablo Martinez – Bristol Rovers – Free
Sam Wilding – Sunderland – Free
Kane Wilson – Forest Green – Free
Jack Fitzwater – Livingstone – Free
Joshua Griffiths – Cheltenham – Loan
Finn Azaz – Cheltenham – Loan
Bradley House – Free Agent
Kevin Healy – Free Agent
Peter Taylor – Free Agent
Yusuff Ojebode – Free Agent
Jack Chambers – Free Agent
Eoin Ashton – Free Agent
Stanley Asomugha – Free Agent
Dan Meredith – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 1st (Division Two)
Predicted Line Up:

White Solanke Shotton Harmon
Brown Thorndike
Windsor Tulloch Clayton-Phillips

Sunderland were disastrously bad in 19/20. They finished bottom Division Two, scoring just ten goals in eighteen games and earning a solitary point in an opening day draw at Stoke. As you may expect most of the squad has been released but there is precious little to be excited about in this squad.

Anthony Patterson is the undisputed starter in goal. The 20-year-old signed a new deal in June and has no real competition for the position. It is a sign of Sunderland’s struggles that Patterson has played 28 times for the U23s and never kept a clean sheet.

Brandon Taylor broke into the Sunderland first team last season but still will make most of his appearances at U23 level where he will partner new signing Bobby Beaumont. Patrick Almond and Jack Armstrong will provide depth from the U18 squad.

Harrison Devine will take over at left back with new signing Kenton Richardson taking the right back berth, although he maybe fast tracked to the first team. Tomas Howard can cover both sides so should get plenty of appearances.

Sam Wilding has joined from West Brom and the 20-year-old defensive midfielder no doubt expects a good showing at U23 level to lead to first team action. Jake Hackett and Daniel Neill both have featured for the first team during pre-season and should be regulars for the U23s. Joseph Lilley will also enter the rotation having aged up from the U18s.

Jack Diamond has been training with the first team and the winger will likely bounce between the two squads. Ciaran Dunne did not do enough to move up to first team level last season and can expect another crack at the U23s. Meanwhile Vinnie Steels joins from Burnley following his release and will likely take a starting job.

Benjamin Mbunga Kimpioka is in limbo and may leave. Steels wasn’t the only Burnley player to move his way to Wearside. Will Harris has joined permanently after appearing for Sunderland in a trail game last season. He and Lee Connelly are expected to be the striking options for this Sunderland side.

The Wearside outfit needed a revolution at youth level following their dismal 2019/2020 showing and they have done a lot of rebuilding. However, the calibre of players being brought in just doesn’t create much excitement and Sunderland look set for another lowly season.

Transfers In
Sam Wilding – West Brom – Free
Bobby Beaumont – Wrexham – Free
Vinnie Steels – Burnley – Free
Will Harris – Burnley – Free
Kenton Richardson – Hartlepool – Free

Transfers Out
Bali Mumba – Norwich - £350k
Andrius Edmundsson – Aguilas – Free
Jordan Hunter – South Shields – Free
Jack Connelly – Cabinteely – Free
Jack Bainbridge – Southport – Free
Ahmed Abdelkader – Free Agent
Ruben Sammut – Free Agent
Connor Slack – Free Agent
Kane Evans – Free Agent
Michael Collins – Free Agent
Nathan Greenwood – Free Agent
Owen Gamble – Free Agent
Ryan Leonard – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 14th (Division Two)
Predicted Line Up:

Richardson Taylor Beaumont Devine
Hackett Wilding Neill
Steels Harris Diamond​

Premier League U23 Season Preview, Part IV

Everton, Middlesbrough & Fulham

Everton have previously won Division One but last season they were underwhelming in a 7th place finish. There has been a small turnover in the playing squad but no major investment so far.

Portuguese U21 international Joao Virginia is the highest rated of a clutch of young goalkeepers. He spent a short time with Reading on loan last season and another loan is possible. Harry Tyrer started the majority of U23 fixtures last season so will expect to hold that position again this year. Nicholas Defreitas-Hansen, an American born Danish U19 international, is a strong backup.

There are three talented central defenders in Jarrad Branthwaite, Lewis Gibson and Ryan Astley. Branthwaite has moved into first team consideration and is currently part of a rotation so Lewis Gibson and Ryan Astley are likely to be the regulars at this level. They will be backed up by Con Ouzounidis while Joseph Anderson will probably be the left back of choice with Kyle John at right back. New signing Niels Nkounkou will challenge for the left back berth once he is settled in.

Callum Connolly has returned from Fleetwood but the defensive midfielder is expected to make a permanent departure. Dennis Adeniran has been a mainstay of Everton’s U23 set up but he now expected to replace Connolly with a loan spell at Fleetwood. There is a quintet of promoted U18 midfielders; MacKenzie Hunt, Bobby Carroll, Sebastien Quirk and Rhys Hughes who will compete with Norwegian Einar Iversen, who should feature heavily. Beni Baningime is desperately trying to get out on loan with a move to Blackpool falling through last minute. U18 midfielder Tyler Onyango is highly rated and often steps up to U23 level.

Nathan Broadhead is a standout goalscoring winger. He impressed on loan at Burton Albion last season and has brought the form back to the U23 squad, scoring six goals in two games. Josh Bowler was distinctly average for Hull City in 19/20 and it is understood he has made it clear he wishes to go out again. Anthony Gordon shouldn’t be seen very often at this level having made a good impression of the first team.

Upfront, Ellis Simms is a physical presence with a good goalscoring record at every youth level. Lewis Dobbin and Thomas Cannon are U18 prospects with the profile to play a rotation role this season. Cannon can also play out wide which may help his acceleration through the ranks.

This Everton side look extremely short on depth having cut rid of some of the deadwood. With more loans in store for various squad members it is unlikely Everton will be able to achieve much this season.

Transfers In
Niels Nkounkou – Marseille - £200k

Transfers Out
Fraser Hornby – Stade Reims - £1.6m
Kieran Phillips – Huddersfield – Free
Morgan Feeney – Sunderland – Free
Alex Denny – Salford – Free
Nathan Markelo – Twente – Free
Matty Foulds – Free Agent
Manasse Mampala – Free Agent
Korede Adedoyin – Free Agent
Joshua Hosie – Free Agent
Jonathan Anderson – Free Agent
Jack Barrett – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 11th (Division One)
Predicted Line Up:

John Gibson Astley Anderson
versen Quirk Hughes
Cannon Simms Broadhead


Middlesbrough have traditionally had an excellent academy system and last year saw the promotion of Aynsley Pears, Djed Spence and Hayden Coulson as well as various cameos from other young prospects. In the league, the U23s finished in 5th position – a decent showing considering the number of players moving up into the first team.

Ashley Pears looks set to be the club’s first choice goalkeeper, although Blackburn would like to sign him, and Joe Fryer is set to sign for Swindon. Brad James had a good loan spell at National League North side Gateshead and may well head out on loan again. Zach Hemming spent time with Hartlepool United and Blyth Spartans – particularly impressing on his loan at Blyth. As well James, it is likely Hemming will want to build on that experience with another loan spell. That leaves Solomon Brynn has the most likely choice as U23s starter, the 19-year-old is a former England U18 international.

Sam Stubbs, signed from Wigan in 2018, has built up an interesting resume with Notts County, Hamilton Academicals and ADO Den Haag. Having been successful in his brief stint with Den Haag – he started all eight games he was available for – there must be an opportunity for the 21-year-old in a Middlesbrough team cutting back on wage expenditure. Nathan Wood should be a regular starter for the U23s but will also get first team minutes. The England U18 international broke into the line up several times last season.

At left back, new signing Williams Kokolo will compete with Jack Robinson. Terry Stephenson is another option; he has just moved up from the U18s. Daniel Dodds took over at right back following Djed Spence’s promotion to the first team and he will hold that role again.

The most experienced U23 midfielders are Ben Liddle and Connor Malley but both are expected to leave on loan. Liddle went to Scunthorpe last season while Malley had a short spell with Ayr United. Promoted U18 trio Harry Green, Cain Sykes and Hayden Hackney are likely to compete for the starting job at centre midfield. Hackney has trained with the first team in pre-season and was singled out for praise. Isiah Cornet is a French attacking midfielder who should play often in a 4-2-3-1.

Marcus Browne had a productive loan spell with Oxford United, so much so that Neil Warnock has said he expects him to be a key first team player. Isaiah Jones, brought in from Tooting & Mitcham last year, will likely be one of the starting wingers with Joseph Gibson on the opposite flank. Sam Folarin is expected to leave on loan and that leaves Alberto Balde and Isaac Fletcher in support.

Middlesbrough brought in Cole Kiernan from Sunderland on a free transfer and he will compete with last season’s top scorer Rumarn Burrell. Tyrone O’Neill, who was at Darlington last year, should head out for another loan spell.

'Boro have a strong youth set up, as always, and despite losing a few talented players to the first team they will still be competitive this season.

Transfers In
Cole Kiernan – Sunderland – Free

Transfers Out
Enes Mahmutovic – PFK Lviv – Free
Mitchell Curry – Free Agent
Stephen Wearne – Free Agent
Nathan Dale – Free Agent
Layton Watts – Free Agent
Nicholas Hood – Free Agent
Harry Flatters – Free Agent
Harold Essien – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 2nd (Division Two)
Predicted Line Up

Dodd Stubbs Wood Kokolo
Hackney Green
Gibson Cornet Jones


Fulham have a way of developing physical and tough players through their academy that always give a good account of themselves in the youth leagues. However, last season they finished in a disappointing 10th position in Division Two.

All three of Fulham’s U23 goalkeepers are current or former England youth internationals. Luca Ashby-Hammond has appeared at U19 level, outdoing his older Brother – Taye – who made it to U17s. George Wickens, an U18 international rounds out the trio. Taye Ashby-Hammond is the oldest of the three and had a good loan spell at Maidenhead United last season. Luca though has overtaken Taye in the club’s eyes. He was just starting a loan spell at Harrow Borough when the league was curtailed, and it is possible he could go out on loan again. George Wickens is sure to get plenty of game time having led the U18s team to a league title in 19/20.

Last year’s centre backs; Moritz Jens, Ben Tricker and Zico Asare have all left the club so the two starting centre backs from Fulham’s U18 league winning side could move straight into the U23s first XI. Connor McAvoy already has a handful of appearances at this level and has played for the first team in pre-season. His partner, Luca Murphy, joined Fulham in 2019 after a controversial transfer where Murphy cancelled his contract with Hartlepool in order to force a move to the Londoners. Hartlepool were left furious at the loss of an asset for no financial return. Murphy, who was also wanted by Wolves, West Ham and Leeds, put the episode behind him to excel in Fulham U18s title charge. There is legitimate excitement at Craven Cottage about the potential of both McAvoy and Murphy.

Left back Jerome Opoku had a good loan spell at Accrington Stanley that turned into a contract extension. He will head out on loan to the Championship this time around. Jaydn Mundle-Smith gained some much needed first team experience at Maidenhead but the most interesting prospect is new signing, 17-year-old Ziyad Larkeche who joins from Paris St Germain. A regular in their UEFA Youth League squads, Larkeche joined Fulham with first team opportunities in mind. Right back Cody Drameh started a majority of games last season but he was allowed to leave for Leeds. Steven Sessegnon could drop back down from the first team squad but Blackburn and Bristol City have already made loan offers so another year in the U23s seems unlikely. There are no other natural right backs apart from U18 Luciano D’Auria-Henry so he should get some game time.

Jayden Harris and Tyrese Francois have threatened to break into the first team for years now and will continue to patrol the Fulham midfield along with either Ryan De Havilland or Thai U23 international Ben Davis. Matt O’Riley rejected a new contract and left the club as a free agent. The England U18 international is a big loss as he had first team potential but should have no issues finding a new club.

The wide attacking roles will likely to filled by Sylvester Jasper, Fabio Carvalho, Sonny Hilton and new signing Kieron Bowie.

Up front, Fulham will deploy the excellent Jay Stansfield in the centre forward role. Stansfield is a product of the Exeter City academy and left them in controversial circumstances. He scored 22 goals in 14 appearances for the U18s and got into the Fulham first team squad on multiple occasions. Timmy Abraham will be his main competition while Terry Ablade and Jean-Pierre Tiehi both join the squad after being promoted from the U23s, although neither of them are prolific goal scorers.

With an influx of talent from the league winning U18 team, I expect Fulham to improve slightly from their showing last season.

Transfers In
Kieron Bowie – Raith Rovers - £150k
Ziyad Larkeche – Paris St Germain – Free

Transfers Out
Moritz Jens – Lausanne-Sport - Undisc
Cody Drameh – Leeds - £400k
Toni Stahl – Energie Cottbus – Free
Nicolas Santos – Racing Santander - Free
Marlon Fossey – Shrewsbury – Loan
Martell Taylor-Crossdale – Colchester United - Loan
Matt O’Riley – Free Agent
Zico Asare – Free Agent
Cameron Thompson – Free Agent
Ben Tricker – Free Agent
Tristan Cover – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 7th (Division Two)
Predicted Line Up:

D’Auria-Henry McAvoy Murphy Larkeche
Harris Francois De Havilland
Carvalho Stanfield Jasper


I’m a bit surprised to see Sheyi Ojo going out on loan again, rather than on a permanent deal. Apparently his 7th loan since 2015. @Sweeting, are we waiting/hoping for a breakout season that nets us a nice transfer fee? I’m also surprised to read that he’s under contract until 2023.

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Not surprised, he just isn’t impressing enough I think. Maybe a general lack of motivation.

Probably needs a good spell like Ejaria has had at Reading for someone to keep him or generate more interest.

So far, I don’t think no club he’s been loaned to tried to buy him in the first place.

Yeah I think we are still hoping he has a season where he explodes and becomes a player desired by others. He does have the talent but he struggles to apply it consistently in a match environment.

It is, surprisingly, becoming more common for teams to hold on to players. Man City and Chelsea regularly hold on to players into their mid-20s in the hope they one day have a big year and can get them £10m.


From your perspective, is this mutually beneficial (the lower leagues gain access to these players at a lower barrier to entry – loan fees, lower or perhaps shared wages) or exploitative (the wealth of transfer fees accrues upward in the pyramid, rather than flowing down to clubs who might otherwise own those players when they finally “make it”)?

Gotta be exploitative on surface. No reason to keep these players who won’t make it past the ‘expiration date’ other than to make a buck.

But a bit deeper, I guarantee we pay and treat those players and surround them with first class environment they wouldn’t receive at first division/ championship level, and give them every chance to maximize the potential. LFC can be patient with youngsters a way that teams without our resources can.

Minus the Rocky complex where only the young/poor will make it because they want it more, it’s not a terrible system, even if it would be nicer to see the prospects spread more evenly through the divisions. At some point (looking at Chelsea now), the scales will tip to exploitive levels, but hard to argue they don’t try to maximize youth development and ensure they will all have careers, even if it’s probably not with parent club.

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Realistically though, with 7 loans in 5 years, how much time has Sheyi Ojo (for example) spent actually working with our staff and in our facilities?

That’s a decent point, but someone has to want him to sell him. Not sure when his last contract was signed, for promising youngsters we generally have them sign contract to protect value (and probably give them decent salary for youth) before we send them out, and then hope they prove their worth. If they don’t prove worth, they have contract they signed to fall back on that gives them time to be valuable and earn second contract somewhere eventually. Ojo is in that territory somewhere. Unfortunately, he hasn’t lived up to promise he showed as 17/18 yr old prospect, and so no teams are willing to pay fee/ better his wages currently. So we give him another chance to impress somewhere.

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Interesting question. Elements of both sides being true.

Certainly this season in particular, when EFL clubs are slashing costs drastically, I think we could/should see a massive increase in the number of loanees because its easier to pay for them. A lot of EFL footballers are realising that their income will not as high this season and they may have to move their entire lives across the country to earn half as much as they did last season. In that sense both the EFL clubs and the players going on loan have a massive advantage in that the clubs are paying rediced fees for, in theory, better players and the players are secure in the knowledge they have a good contract with a solid club.

The flip side is that top PL clubs can and do manipulate the transfer market because of their use of the loan system. Chelsea regularly have 30+ players on loan at any one time. For the players I doubt this is an issue - they’re likely being paid much more than they would at the club they move on loan to and realistically they don’t care about the idea of moving to a club permanently (EFL contracts are usually one year deals anyway) so I can only see it as a mutually beneficial thing between players and “big” club.

The clubs that loan these players in may be a bit frustrated that status quo never changes because these players who would have been released and available to sign 20 years back and now being held on to longer and longer and, as you say, they wouldn’t see the financial benefit of the player performing well.

There is certainly an element of the rich getting richer (doesn’t it always seem the way?) but I think the benefits to the players is something worth considering more often than it is in these conversations normally. My personal preference would be a cap on the number of loanees you can send out and another cap on the number of loanees over the age of 23. For example, clubs are limited to 12 loanees and of those 12 a maximum of 3 can be over 23 years old - something like that.

Premier League U23 Season Preview 2020/2021, Part V

Chelsea, Burnley & Norwich

Chelsea were crowned champions for the curtailed 19/20 season, leading the league by three points at the time from Leicester City. This is by far the biggest squad in the U23s nationally… be prepared to hear the word “loan” a lot.

Jamal Blackman, who turns 27 next month, is on his 8th career loan spell with Rotherham United. Jamie Cumming, a former England U19 international, has joined Stevenage for the year. Nathan Baxter, 21, has been attracting interest from the Championship and League One after back-to-back successful loan spells with Yeovil Town and Ross County. American U17 international Ethan Wady looks a long shot for the U23 job after aging out of U18 football. The stopper started just three times for the U18s in 19/20. Most likely is that Croatian U19 Karlo Ziger will wear the gloves; he started eleven of eighteen matches last season.

Barcelona’s Xavier Mbuyamba. The Dutch U19 international has inevitably been labelled “the New van Dijk” due to his physique and play style. There is little doubt Chelsea have signed a high potential player, his career at Barcelona only hit the buffers when he was caught in a philosophical split between La Masia and Barcelona hierarchy. It is reasonable to expect him to go on loan as this is one of the reasons he chose to leave Barcelona, who refused him that opportunity.

Ethan Ampadu will likely start the season in the heart of the Chelsea defence. He couldn’t break into the Leipzig team last season but has spoken of his desire to fight for a spot at Chelsea. Jack Wakely is not normally a regular but is now the senior centre back in terms of age. Dynel Simeu appeared on the bench for the first team last season and looks set to be a regular also. Pierre Ekwah and Sam McClelland will provide backup after their promotions from U18. Levi Colwill, 17, will undoubtedly get some minutes. 22-year-old Jake Clarke-Salter has been a surprise inclusion in Chelsea’s pre-season fixtures but the England U21 international is expected to leave permanently anyway, while Matt Miazga is set for yet another loan spell.

Left back Juan Familia-Castillo, a Dutch U20 international, had been expected to make his loan to Ajax permanent but Ajax turned down the option. He is now discussing a move to Sporting CP. Ian Maatsen is yet another prospect from the Netherlands and the 18-year-old is on the verge of a loan move to Reading. On the right-hand side, Dujon Sterling’s loan to Wigan was ended by injury last year so he will head out again. There is yet another batch excellent right-back coming through at Chelsea – who have already produced Reece James and Tariq Lamptey in recent years - in the form of Henry Lawrence and Valentino Livramento. The pair are both England U19 internationals and will compete for a starting role, although Livramento may be forced into playing as a winger.

The superb Conor Gallagher impressed on loan with Charlton and Swansea, so the 20-year-old looks set for a Premier League move with Crystal Palace in discussions to take him for the year. Academy Player of the Year Billy Gilmour will work his way back to fitness this season and likely spend a lot of time in the U23 side, despite his breakthrough at the end of last season.

Lewis Baker was once a highly touted prospect but the former England U21 international struggled for game time at Fortuna Dusseldorf and, now aged 25, will probably leave on loan again. George McEachran had a quiet spell at Cambuur and probably needs to enhance that experience with another loan. Luke McCormick left for Shrewsbury last season labelled as a “wonderkid” but managed just 340 minutes of football in six months before his loan was cancelled so another attempt at senior football is likely. Tariq Uwakwe nearly joined Hull on loan in January and could look to go out again. Jon Russell is not an elite talent but he may find himself a regular this year as others find temporary clubs. 17-year-olds Lewis Bate and Xavier Simons will step up from time to time.

Charly Musonda Jr made his Chelsea debut in 2018 and was expected to show himself as one of the best young players in the country on a subsequent loan to Celtic. Unfortunately, due to perpetual knee injuries, Musonda has only made seven appearances since – three for Celtic and four for Vitesse. Chelsea are concerned that the 23-year-old’s professional career may even be over now if the injuries cannot be sorted. The next off the conveyor belt is 18-year-old Thierno Ballo, who was quietly impressive last season and has pushed himself into the first team reckoning. Faustino Anjorin can play role across the frontline and will expect more first team action this season, he was easily the best player in the Chelsea academy set up last year.

George Nunn is in pole position to lead the line as Ike Ugbo, Cercle Brugge, and Armando Broja, Vitesse, have both left on loan.

Chelsea have another batch of impressive youth talent and potential first teamers everywhere you look. They are certainly favourites for the league title again this year.

Transfers In
Xavier Mbuyamba – Barcelona – Free

Transfers Out
Nicolas Tie – Vitoria - Undisc
Josh Grant – Bristol Rovers – Free
Jamal Blackman – Rotherham – Loan
Jamie Cumming – Stevenage - Loan
Trevoh Chalobah – Lorient – Loan
Marc Guehi – Swansea – Loan
Armando Broja – Vitesse – Loan
Izzy Brown – Sheffield Wednesday – Loan
Ike Ugbo – Cercle Brugge – Loan
Marcel Lavinier – Free Agent
Richard Nartey – Free Agent
Jordan Aina – Free Agent
Jake Askew – Free Agent
James Clark – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 1st (Division One)
Predicted Line Up

Lawrence Ampadu Simeu Familia-Castillo
Gilmour Russell
Livramento Ballo Anjorin


Another newcomer to Premier League Two, Burnley finished 2nd in the Professional Development League last season and bring a relatively experienced squad into Category One football. Sean Dyche is notoriously poor at youth promotion so will any of them get a chance?

Augsburg giant Marc Richter has joined the club on a free transfer and is expected to be the first choice at U23 level. The equally massive Lukas Jensen has earned first team minutes this pre-season and looks set to be the third choice for the first team with occasional minutes at youth level. Harry Allen and Lewis Thomas have both moved up from U18 level and may find themselves blockaded from much football by the talent ahead of them.

Jimmy Dunne is an interesting test case for Dyche’s ability or desire to promote younger players into his first team. The 22-year-old has had five different loan spells and was named on the bench regularly towards the end of last season. With Ben Gibson leaving the club he must surely have a chance of seeing the field this season. Dunne has started every pre-season game for Burnley and his partner has been 19-year-old Bobby Thomas. Thomas has impressed with his composure and will surely be a key player at U23 level. Edon Pruti will rotate in at CB in his first year at this level.

Former Liverpool player Anthony Driscoll-Glennon enjoyed a productive loan at Grimsby and was able to make the Premier League bench several times. Grimsby manager Ian Holloway has already spoken of his attempts to bring Driscoll-Glennon back to the club so he will probably go out on loan, although he has been involved at left back for the first team in pre-season. Matty Rain will be the U23 left back if Glennon does leave because the promising defender Ali Koiki rejected a contract offer after growing frustrated at the lack of first team chances.

Scotland U18 international Kane Patterson should hold down the right-back position, as Ryan Cooney and Jordan Cropper have left on loan, but he is challenged by new signings Marcel Elva-Fountaine and Connor Barrett who have signed from Reading and Leicester respectively. Barrett also can slide inside to centre-back.

Mace Goodridge is the pick of the bench for Burnley in midfield with the former Man City and Newcastle trainee pushing for first team action last season. At 21-years-old however Burnley are keen to get him out on loan and he is expecting to see at least League One football. Another former Liverpool player, Adam Phillips, has rejoined Morecambe already. Josh Benson, previously at Arsenal, is expected to go back to Grimsby where he and Glennon were last season. Will Rickard, who is a new arrival from Swansea, will feature in the centre of the park. Aiden O’Neill is expected to leave after his loan spell at Brisbane.

Rhys Fenlon is a flying winger who has been key for the U18 side. He moves up to U23 level and will likely start on the left wing. On the opposite side Chris Conn-Clarke performed well in Burnley’s run to the FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final.

Mitchell George had a short spell at Clitheroe in 2020 and he joins Max Thompson and Je-Nai Tucker as second year scholars starting at U23 level. Tucker can play upfront or on the right and he has featured at first team level in pre-season.

Joel Mumbongo is an athletic striker who also has had some first team minutes – the Swedish forward turn 22 in January so may expect to see more action. Max Thompson made his Premier League debut last season and is seen as a very bright prospect, as is Lewis Richardson who should get game time from the U18 squad. Rob Harker has signed a new one-year deal despite a tough time on loan at Hartlepool.

Just like at first team level Burnley are tall, strong and physical playing in a structured 4-4-2. Several of the players are finally pushing for first team recognition but I expect they will largely stay the same group all year.

Transfers In
Connor Barrett – Leicester – Free
Will Rickard – Swansea – Free
Marc Richter – Augsburg – Free
Marcel Elva-Fountaine – Reading – Free

Transfers Out
Vinnie Steels – Sunderland – Free
Will Harris – Sunderland – Free
Scott Wilson – Barrow – Free
Ryan Cooney – Morecambe – Loan
Jordan Cropper – Chesterfield – Loan
Adam Phillips – Morecambe - Loan
Kai Calderbank-Park – Free Agent
Joel Senior – Free Agent
Olatunde Bayode – Free Agent
Christian N’Guessan – Free Agent
Henri Ogunby – Free Agent
Ali Koiki – Free Agent
George McMahon – Free Agent
Ollie Younger – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 10th (Division Two)
Predicted Line Up:

Patterson Dunne Thomas Glennon
Conn-Clarke Goodridge Rickard Fenlon
Mumbongo Thompson

Norwich City

Norwich had a poor season in 2019/20, gaining only 17 points from 17 games in Division Two.

First choice Aston Oxborough is likely to miss the season after he suffered an achilleas tendon injury which will probably allow former Scotland U17 international Jon McCracken, who nearly quit the game last season due to lack of playing time, to challenge for a starting position again. However, his competition is ex-Arsenal and current Wales U19 goalkeeper Daniel Barden who has been in the first team this pre-season and is lined up for starts in cup competitions.

Louis Lomas’ loan to Tampa Bay Rowdies was cut short due to Covid and the defender has returned to start for the Norwich U23s in pre-season. Irish U19 Andrew Omobamidele has also pushed into the first team reckoning, despite being only 18, and the pair will feature heavily for the premier youth squad. Akin Famewo will also be in consideration although he could head out on loan as his spell at St Mirren ended early due to Covid. Central defence will be covered by American Jonathan Tomkinson.

Caleb Richards wrote a vegan diet book in April but so far it hasn’t helped him advance his career as the left back was rejected by Harrogate Town following a trial. Rob Nizet is likely to start the season at left back taking over from Richards. Sam McCallum will be a first team player. Welsh U19 international Ethan Vaughan will start at right back if he can hold off the challenge of Matthew Dennis who has just signed from Arsenal. Bali Mumba, 18, signed from Sunderland but is expected to play most of his games in the first team.

Charlie Gilmour is a 21-year-old defensive midfielder formerly at Arsenal and he has returned from a loan at Telstar hoping to become a first team player but leaving on loan or permanently seems more likely. Daniel Adshead and Sebastien Soto have followed the path laid out by Gilmour and headed out to Telstar also. Saul Milanovic has been a regular at U23 level and his contract extension could hint at first team game time if he keeps playing well. Frenchman Melvin Sitti will move between the U23 and first team.

Reece McAlear will be on the edge of the first team, the Scottish U18 international has already been on the bench this season in the EFL Cup. French midfielder William Hondermarck is similarly highly rated, and he also was on the bench for that fixture.

Winger Josh Martin will certainly be in first team action at various points, but the winger will still play significant U23 football. Josh Giurgi is a second-year scholar who has moved up from the U18s and he will expect plenty of game time after the Irish U18 had a strong U18 campaign. Shae Hutchinson should lead the line, the 19-year-old scored three goals last season in nine appearances. Adam Idah may well drop down but the hope is he will be able to lead the line in the Championship.

Norwich have many talented players from throughout the UK but it did not come together last season. With players like Josh Martin however they should improve to some extent.

Transfers In
Bali Mumba – Sunderland - £300k
Sebastien Soto – Hannover – Free
Matthew Dennis – Arsenal – Free

Transfers Out
Mason Bloomfield – Hartlepool – Free
Tom Scully – Accrington – Free
Timi Odusina – Hartlepool – Free
Nick Hayes – Salford – Free
Billy Johnson – Stevenage – Free
Diallang Jaiyesimi – Swindon – Free
Gassan Ahadme – Oviedo – Loan
Archie Maire – King’s Lynn – Loan
Simon Power – King’s Lynn – Loan
Ísak Snaer Thorvaldsson – Akranes - Loan
Rocky Bushiri – Mechelen – Loan
Carlton Morris – MK Dons – Loan
Daniel Adshead – Telstar – Loan
Sebastien Soto – Telstar – Loan
Joe Rose – Bury Town – Loan
Jordan Thomas – Leyton Orient – Loan
Aiden Fitzpatrick – Queen of the South - Loan
Alfie Payne – Free Agent
Savvas Mourgos – Free Agent
Anthonius Berekeley – Free Agent
Arash Armadi – Free Agent

Predicted League Position: 12th (Division Two)
Predicted Line Up

Vaughan Lomas Omobamidele Nizet
Sitti Hondermarck McAlear
Giurgi Hutchinson Martin

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Highlights of the u18s 4-1 victory against United (friendly) up on the offal. Despite 4 or 5 of the best players being on the bench they still managed to get the win. That’s what looks particularly good about this group, particularly in midfield, they all look like good players rather than just a handful.

The u18s start their league campaign on saturday against United whilst the u23s start against Everton. Good fixtures first up.

@Sweeting any idea why no u23 highlights have been recorded for LFCTV but the u18s have? Location of the games?

I’ve been a bit frustrated with the lack of U23 highlights as well. I know LFCtv don’t have massive funding behind them so yeah I would assume that we are not willing to send a camera crew away to record the friendlies. Might be an issue with access also if the other team don’t want the matches to be recorded - sometimes when trialists are involved the clubs get a bit protective.

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does LFCTV show the youth games once the proper season starts, or only highlights?

Depends how they feel. Sometimes they can’t be arsed, particularly if the first team play the same day then they just seem to ignore the youth matches.

any difference in coverage of 18s to the 23s? Signed up for free month trial, just trying to figure out if I want to keep it lol. Do they have youth games on replay if they show it live?

I do the same thing every year, sign up and then cancel it when I’m disappointed at the coverage. Highlights are normally made available but not guaranted for every game.