Who will be next year's DJ Campbell?
Which current Championship attacker will make the grade next year in the Premier League? That is the question Andrew McCarten poses and he offers four names that he thinks have the best chance of lighting up the top flight in 2011/12. There is, of course, a certain player they will all be trying to emulate too.
One of the major successes of Blackpool’s firebrand first campaign in the Premier League is their livewire centre-forward DJ Campbell. Ian Holloway once cited Campbell as the reason why football had gone mad following his move from Birmingham to Leicester for around £2million, describing that fee as “madness.” Prolific goalscoring in the non-league system with Chesham United, Stevenage, and Yeading, and a continuation of that fine form with Brentford in League One, saw Campbell move to St Andrew’s. His time with the Blues was nowhere near as successful, failing to find the net and often the first eleven before their relegation.
It seemed the England C international was destined to a life in the Championship, or worse. However, his move to Blackpool from Leicester on deadline day has proved to be a brilliant signing for the Tangerines; Campbell will undoubtedly finish the season in double figures (he has nine goals already), and there is even talk a full England call-up isn’t far away. With Leon Best also making the step up and scoring goals frequently, we look at some players in the Championship who could be primed to break out next year in the top flight.
Jay Bothroyd, Cardiff City
The most obvious choice. He has hit double figures for the third season in a row for the Welsh club, but this year his form has been exceptional; 15 league goals to date, with a further 2 in the Carling Cup, saw the former Arsenal youth product earn his first senior England cap against France. In doing so, he became Cardiff’s first full England international and the most recent Football League England cap since David Nugent scored on his debut against Andorra while with Preston North End.
A product of the Arsenal youth system, Cardiff’s number nine will hope that the club can finally achieve their dream of making it to the Premier League after coming very close in the past few years under Dave Jones. They remain in contention with fellow Welsh club Swansea to secure an automatic promotion spot but if the Bluebirds fail to gain promotion, a host of clubs would be interested in bringing Bothroyd up a division.
Adel Taarabt, Queen’s Park Rangers
Another player who has been on fire in this year’s Championship is Moroccan playmaker Adel Taarabt. Despite widespread hype over his obvious talent, Taarabt never made the breakthrough during his time at Tottenham following his move from Lens in 2007, with lack of first team football playing a big role as he never started a match for Spurs.
A move to Loftus Road has resurrected his career, and the attacking midfielder has been the main playmaker for QPR this season, scoring 15 goals in the league. Even more impressive is his 13 assists, showing that he can set up just as much as he can score. Still just 21 years old, Taarabt again looks destined for big things, and the chance to play against the world’s best is the perfect test.
Shane Long, Reading
The Royals’ two seasons in the Premier League, from 2006 to 2008, came a bit early for the Tipperary native, who at the time was still behind fellow Irishman Kevin Doyle, Leroy Lita and Dave Kitson in Steve Coppell’s preferred forward line. Long managed seven goals in all competitions during these two years, and the past two seasons in the second tier have seen him solid, if not spectacular. However, this year has seen the 23-year-old come up with the performances required of a club’s top striker, and his 18 goals in the league have kept Reading in play-off contention.
Long has displayed leadership and maturity in abundance. Giovanni Trapattoni has also taken notice, with Long featuring more regularly for Ireland. He scored in the 3-2 loss against Russia and also won and converted a penalty in the friendly against Norway. With Robbie Keane’s injury problems and lack of playing time, Long could well partner Doyle again when qualifiers resume later in the month. And if Reading fail to go up, he could also prove a bargain for a host of British clubs, with Celtic, Liverpool, and Birmingham all rumoured to be keeping tabs on the striker.
Scott Sinclair, Swansea City
Another England youth international building his career back up in the lower leagues, Sinclair made only five senior appearances for Chelsea during his time at the club from 2005 to 2010, most of it spent on loan. He finally left Stamford Bridge this past summer and moved to Swansea in search of first team football, where he has become an immediate fans’ favourite at the Liberty Stadium. Sinclair has started almost every match for the Swans and has been in scintillating form on the wing, scoring a stunning 16 goals.
His stellar year is a major reason why Swansea are in contention for automatic promotion, and could eclipse Welsh rivals Cardiff in becoming the first Welsh side in the Premier League. He cost half a million pounds, but the Bath-born sensation could be worth much more in the coming years and is definitely one to watch at just 21 years of age.