Ten Football League teenagers to watch in 2019 | Ben Fisher | Football
Jack Clarke, 18, Leeds United
After several game-changing cameos off the bench, the York-born forward was finally handed his full debut by Marcelo Bielsa last Sunday. Raw and direct, Clarke has the ability to grab games by the scruff of the neck; he kickstarted an extraordinary comeback victory at Villa Park last month and made a similar dent against Nottingham Forest and, before that, Sheffield United. Clarke has pleasantly surprised Bielsa, becoming the Argentinian’s go-to man, asked to spark Leeds into life at half-time on no fewer than six occasions since November. “When I started to look at his skills I didn’t imagine that he could make the difference as he is,” Bielsa said.
Max Aarons, 19, Norwich City
After unsuccessful spells at Tottenham and QPR, the former Luton schoolboy arrived at Norwich on the same basis as a 16-year-old. Earmarked by academy staff as a future first-team right-back even before earning a contract, he was championed by the then youth coach Matt Gill after shining on tour in Latvia. Aarons, a cousin of the Newcastle winger Rolando, has not looked back since, establishing himself as a fixture in Daniel Farke’s high-flying side and winning four caps for England Under-19s since breaking into the team at the start of the season.
Antoine Semenyo, 19, Bristol City
It speaks volumes that Manchester United are among the clubs watching Semenyo, who joined Newport on a season’s loan in the summer. His performance helped the Exiles dump Leicester out of the FA Cup and led to Danny Simpson being hooked on the hour. Originally from south London, the powerful forward joined Bristol City almost 18 months ago after being spotted playing for South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, where the Championship club’s academy is based. Semenyo impressed on loan at Bath City last season and made his Bristol City debut in May. Saikou Janneh, the 18-year-old scoring for fun on loan at Torquay under Gary Johnson, the father of City’s manager, Lee, is another exciting forward.
Tom Bayliss, 19, Coventry City
The youngster is the latest academy graduate to excel in the first team, following in the footsteps of James Maddison and Callum Wilson. Bayliss will likely make his 50th league appearance on Saturday and the ball-playing central midfielder has been at the heart of the Sky Blues’ rise since his full debut a little over a year ago. Tall and slight, Bayliss signed as an under-11 following an open trial but has had to overcome a couple of setbacks, including a hairline back fracture in his mid-teens, and the very late developer was made to wait before being offered a scholarship. “James always lit up training and the games, but Tom’s journey was a lot more steady than that – in a good way,” said academy manager Richard Stevens.
Arvin Appiah, 18, Nottingham Forest
“Remember the name,” said the Forest academy manager, Gary Brazil, last summer. There is a reason why Forest are keen to tie the winger, who has just turned 18 and made his league debut on New Year’s Day, to a new long-term contract. Appiah, another graduate from the revered academy, spent pre-season with the first team and has been tracked by top-flight clubs since shining for the under-23s as a 15-year-old. Born in the Netherlands to Ghanaian parents, Appiah has played for England through the age groups and was part of the under-17s squad that reached the semi-finals of the European Championships in May. A full-back’s worst nightmare, Appiah ghosts past players. “I think 2019 will be a good year for him,” Aitor Karanka said.
Jayden Bogle, 18, Derby County
The right-back has seized the chance afforded to him by Frank Lampard with both hands. Bogle caught the Derby manager’s eye in pre-season, was promoted to the first team and has kept Andre Wisdom out of the side ever since. Bogle progressed through the under-18s and under-23s last season before making his mark in the Championship and signed a new contract in September. The Reading-born defender joined Derby from Swindon in January 2016, the same month another prospect who has impressed Lampard, the winger Luke Thomas – previously coveted by Southampton and West Ham – arrived from Cheltenham. With Louie Sibley and Max Bird, too, Derby are not short of talent.
Marcus Tavernier, 19, Middlesbrough
The left-winger grew up in Leeds, played for Newcastle and scored his first league goal against Sunderland. But he is finding his feet at Boro, the club he joined at 13 and for whom he made his first-team debut four days after hitting a hat-trick for the under-23s. He started last year on loan at MK Dons but since returning to the Riverside the England Under-20s international has showcased further glimpses of his ability, predominantly off the bench for his club. Tavernier was briefly promoted to train with Gareth Southgate’s England squad in September, as cover for Raheem Sterling.
Dru Yearwood, 18, Southend United
Chris Powell has been careful not to amplify the noise around the energetic midfielder, though it has been impossible for his manager not to acknowledge the talents of a player who joined Southend aged 11. That Yearwood was named by Powell as captain for a game in November is a mark of his maturity, with his performances attracting attention from clubs including Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough. Yearwood earned an England Under-18s call-up in May but was forced to pull out with a hamstring injury. “This is the best place for Dru at the current time,” Powell said.
Daniel Adshead, 17, Rochdale
There are stories of a 16-year-old Adshead doing his homework on the team bus to Millwall and having to get changed away from his Rochdale teammates owing to child protection regulations but, 12 months on from his full debut, his challenge is to cement a regular starting berth. Athletic and intelligent – he attended the same college in Gorton as Nicky Butt – Adshead was fast-tracked into the first team at Rochdale, with whom he first trained at 14. He signed a professional contract in September and as his manager, Keith Hill, said: “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know Dan’s got a great future.”
Rekeem Harper, 18, West Bromwich Albion
Harper was a striker but academy staff at West Brom spotted glimpses of Patrick Vieira’s powerful style and moulded him into a box-to-box midfielder three seasons ago. Not even born when the former Arsenal midfielder lifted the World Cup with France in 1998, he made his debut 18 months ago. Harper has worked with Darren Moore, now head coach at Albion, since the under-12s so seemingly has the perfect manager to help him into the first team on a more regular basis. He impressed after being handed a starting berth in the FA Cup last weekend. “He’s got wonderful balance, his first touch and control is excellent, he moves the ball away from danger and he’s got the ability to put his foot on the gas,” Moore said.