Ten Emerging Talents in the Championship

Posted by on Nov 3, 2009 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Among the performers who have lit up this burgeoning Championship campaign are some familiar names. Michael Chopra has so far justified every last dime of his weighty fee, Kevin Nolan has buckled down and rehabilitated his reputation as an all purpose midfielder-cum-forward, and Adam Johnson’s sleek skills on the Middlesbrough wing have helped Smogheads forget the injured Stewart Downing. But who are the emerging stars of the league? Which players have burst on the scene and chalked up their greatest achievements this season? Here is a pick of those who have grasped our notice:

Chris Burke (Cardiff City)
Burke has that wispy, unconvincing blond hair that you just know won’t be around in five years, but his right wing displays for the Bluebirds have been revelatory this season. At times, one suspects him of plundering a younger relative’s Airfix kit, such is the tendency for the ball to appear attached to his right foot. The ex-Glasgow Ranger has two caps for Scotland and notched a brace in a 5-1 Kirin Cup win over Bulgaria in 2006: few facts can sum up that country’s current football malaise than this one.

George Boyd (Peterborough United)
It was Kris Boyd who also scored twice in that victory in Kobe, but it is another Boyd who joins Burke on this list. The ex-Stevenage man has the flowing locks and swashbuckling elegance of a Dumas hero, so an interview with him disappointed in revealing him to be man of Kent rather than Anjou. That said, Scotland have made a claim and he took part in a Giant’s Causeway B Team derby against Northern Ireland in April. Against a backcloth of ridiculous rumours surrounding Darren Ferguson’s future, Boyd has made short work of the step in class.

Tamà¡s Kà¡dà¡r (Newcastle United)
No relation to the Hungarian communist leader and scooper of the sadly now defunct Lenin Peace Prize, Jà¡nos Kà¡dà¡r, the Magyar central defender has chalked up just the three appearances for the Magpies thus far, but each has been auspicious. Kadar was central to last night’s excellent 1-0 win against a blunt edged Blades and was eulogised warmly by ex-Geordie hero, Chris Waddle throughout the commentary on BBC Five Live.

Martyn Woolford (Scunthorpe United)
Prominent in the third tier, the ex-Glasshoughton Welfare man has proved instrumental in Scunny’s patchy, but ultimately encouraging start to the season. Two goals against Newcastle and a winner over Derby County have confirmed the self-confidence described in a summertime post from my fellow blogger Lloyd.

Radosław Majewski (Nottingham Forest)
There are so many good East Europeans in this league that one might expect Å»ywiec or Baltika to launch a sponsorship bid. Majewski’s low centre of gravity and cool possession allow him to pull clever strings in the depths of the Forest midfield; the aesthete’s rebuke to the more obvious athletic talents of David McGoldrick and Lewis McGugan. The Pole has been integral to the reversal of the Tricky Trees’ sticky start and is proving more convincing than his more expensive fellow signings. On loan for the moment, a potential fee of a million and a half has been agreed.

Jamie Mackie (Plymouth Argyle)
A graduate of the dying embers of Wimbledon Football Club and a native of Sutton, Mackie has been an underrated player for some time now, having joined Argyle from cross-Devon rivals Exeter City in 2008. Consistent and in possession of a deceptive turn of pace, Mackie provides one of the few sparks in a struggling side that nonetheless posted a gutsy win at the Riverside on Saturday.

Martin Woods (Doncaster Rovers)
He may have missed that crucial penalty at St. James’ Park, but Woods, though something of an unsung hero for a few seasons now, has really flourished in the red and white hoops this year. The departure of more heralded talents such as Richie Wellens and Matt Mills, has allowed the Scotsman to assume centre stage this time out. Clever wing play and physical strength have provided Woods with the reputation of a redoubtable opponent; his passing is pivotal in the Rovers system.

Nicky Maynard (Bristol City)
Bristol City were apparently so unimpressed with Maynard’s first, misfiring season in a red shirt that they signed David Clarkson to compensate; they perhaps shouldn’t have bothered. Maynard has hit the net nine times already since August — only two less than he managed in the whole of last term. A winner against Middlesbrough in the dying days of August proved to be the first nail in Gareth Southgate’s coffin and the confidence has grown since then.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (Blackpool)
Until a few years ago, it seemed to only be Americans who sported the first name, “Jay” but this double barrelled son of the capital has proved to be one of the best loan signings in a cornucopia of temporary deals at this level. The trickery of his mazy dribble in the heart-stoppingly entertaining 3-3 draw with Doncaster on Saturday was just one sign of his immense talent. Blackpool are the revelation of this season so far — how romantic would it be to see them in the top echelon again?

Tom Cleverley (Watford)
Another loanee, and one who performed with gusto in Watford’s brilliant 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday a week ago last Friday, the shave headed youngster’s usual employers are those Red Devils of Manchester although he made his way to the North West via Basingstoke and Bradford. Five goals in twelve matches in yellow and an England under 21 debut have signalled his emergence — it’s likely he’ll follow other previous Watford loansters Liam Bridcutt, Jack Cork and Gavin Hoyte out the door at Vicarage Road, but they’ll enjoy having him while he is there.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.


  1. Nick P
    November 3, 2009

    I agree with your selection of Majewski, as his talent is obvious despite his tendency to fade out of games as they wear on.

    However, your suggestion that his skill and touch provides a contrast with Lewis McGugan is misplaced. McGugan is every bit as able in possession and his problems in the past have stemned from a lack of fitness and athleticism – something which he seems to have adressed over the summer after public criticism from the manager.

    I'd also disagree that Majewski has been more convincing than Forest's other signings, especially if you take into account the likely £1.5m fee. Only Chris Gunter cost more outright, and of the other signings, Dexter Blackstock and Paul Anderson have provided tangible contibutions on a greater number of occasions, whilst Paul McKenna has become the pivotal force in the side.

  2. Lanterne Rouge
    November 3, 2009

    Fair point on McGugan who is an impressive performer. I guess I was reflecting on the fee for Majewski in comparison with the others, but yes, all look good at the moment. I was very impressed with Gunter in particular when I saw him play in the flesh and have always rated McKenna.

  3. Liz
    November 3, 2009

    Ironic that Jay Emmanuel Thomas actually drives me insane. Last home game I groaned when he came on.

    Fantastic with the ball – occasionally – hopeless without it. He would be sensational if there were no opposition players on the pitch…

    But he's only 18, and we are in nosebleed territory, so I'll stop whinging and give him a chance;)

  4. Lloyd
    November 3, 2009

    Emmanuel Thomas certainly looks laconic, but if he's coming up with the goods, then why not stick him in? He's looked mesmerising on the box. Problem may be that Adam and Bouazza aren't going to do his running for him, so it'll open Blackpool.

    I've seen Majewski twice this season, and I really like him. He's all action, has good vision and likes to shoot. What's more, he looks capable from free-kicks. I haven't seen enough of McGugan, but his equaliser was nice on Sunday. He definitely looks like a naturally gifted footballer.

    Pleased to see Jamie Mackie get a mention. He'd run through the proverbial brick wall, and his finishing is starting to improve. Being given an opportunity to play in attack rather than on the wing has been a real boost for him this season. Nigel Clough recently spoke about him in the press, so other clubs are already well aware.

    I've seen Maynard and Cleverly and agree that they are emerging as Championship talents. A confident Maynard is a real threat and his willingness to shoot on sight reminded me of Sylvan Ebanks Blake when he was at Home Park. Maynard is more slender and possibly has more guile, too.

    Further to LG's suggestions, I'd also add Anthony Gerrard and Adam Matthews of Cardiff and Palace's Freddie Sears. The latter seems to have gone right off the boil since that Ashton Gate debacle, though.

  5. Ben
    November 3, 2009

    Definitely agree with Burke and Majewski, though neither really shone against us. For Forest, I thought Paul Anderson, Wes Morgan and Guy Moussi were more impressive. Gunter had a bit of a torrid time.

    Boyd's having a good season, but no mention of Craig Mackail-Smith (even if he does look like a prize showpony, a budget Torres)?

    My Watford-supporting friend is raving about Cleverley, and Henri Lansbury looks like another very astute loan signing by the Hornets.

    We were on the receiving end of goals from Woolford the other week (though both were gifts), but I guess he might be worth a mention.

    As for our own Kadar, I thought he looked very shaky in the first half last night – a major factor in our early defensive uncertainty. Came good in the second period, but not worthy of a place in this list. I'd go for either Andy Carroll (finding his goalcoring form and a real handful for defenders) or Nile Ranger (again, a real handful who just needs to get a goal under his belt) – or both. (For the record, our best players thus far this season, I'd say, have been Alan Smith, Jose Enrique and Kevin Nolan – all of whom were useless last term.)

  6. Lanterne Rouge
    November 6, 2009

    Anthony Gerrard has also impressed but it feels hackneyed to have nominated him given his famous brother. Henri Lansbury looked excellent for Watford against Sheffield Wednesday but Lloyd felt he underperformed when he saw him in action at the Madejski.


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