In the UK, there’s a tendency to focus on the Premier League. The EPL is the Holy Grail of English football, but it isn’t the only division in the country. The Football League is a breeding ground for exciting young men who have gone on to do big things. Last year, for instance, Aston Villa had Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish in their ranks.
With a new campaign on the horizon, it’s time to concentrate on the potential gems making the step up in quality. They may have spent most of their careers in the Championship, yet the following have what it takes to become EPL stars.
Brentford’s Toney is the type of striker fans and pundits get excited about because he regularly tops the scoring charts for the Bees. In Brentford’s 2020/21 campaign, the Englishman bagged 33 goals in 48 games, with a percentage of 0.72 goal per game. At 125 minutes, his minutes-per-goal was the second-best in the league, too.
It’s Toney’s overall game that makes him an intriguing prospect in the Premier League because he can make a goal as well as scoring one. In the Championship, Toney notched 10 assists leaving him fifth in the division’s rankings.
Add to this the fact that Brentford F.C. has a history of developing Premier League-quality forwards, and you can see why the Premier League betting experts believe the Bees will be the league’s top newcomers at 1/1, compared to Watford at 15/8 and Norwich at 11/4.
Whether it was with Norwich or Villa, Emiliano Buendia was going to return to the promised land this year. As it happens, Villa’s hierarchy thinks the Argentine is the ideal midfielder to keep the ball ticking over in the middle of the park.
Getting the ball to Grealish’s feet is key, and Buendia has those qualities in abundance after spending last season creating opportunities for his fellow teammates. To end the campaign with 16 assists is no mean feat – he secured four more than anyone else – but neither is scoring 15 goals at the same time. The Canaries were always expected to find staying in the Premier League a challenge, but losing 16 assists, 15 goals and 107 chances created explains why they are odds-on to be relegated at 5/6.
Ismaila Sarr is another Canaries player who makes the list. Thankfully for Norwich supporters, he’s set to begin the season at Carrow Road. If his previous performances in the Championship are anything to go by, he will be more than a handful for the entire division. He was fouled 62 times, for example, highlighting his dribbling skills and trickery.
It’s not just last season that makes him one to watch. Yes, 13 goals, four assists, and 10.13 expected goals are impressive statistics, but Sarr has played at a higher level before. In 2019, he joined Watford when the club was still in the EPL. It wasn’t a successful experience because Watford went down, but he showed glimpses of his potential by scoring two goals and making the third in a 3-0 victory over Liverpool in February 2020.
Now that he has a full campaign in the Championship to fall back on, even if the quality is lower, you would expect the experience will stand him in good stead.
On the surface, these three are the guys who seem to have the best qualities to survive and thrive in one of the biggest leagues in the world. If they do, it will only reflect well on the Championship, so keep your fingers crossed!