All the big name players we see started somewhere, they were all once given an opportunity to shine. Rowett’s faith in the Blues youth academy saw many rising starlets come through the ranks, and there’s still more to come, but who’s the next talent? We’re not in the position as a club to invest time in youth as some other clubs are, we are in need of experience, but this is a list of players tipped for big things.
Demarai Gray left the club for a fee of £3.5 million or there about in the January window previous to that just gone. His move to Leicester has since seen him win the premier league, play Barcelona and score two tremendous goals. One of which came the other day against Derby County, leaving many blues fans pondering just why he couldn’t do that every week for blues. Tottenham manager Pochettino on the other hand feels he can do this game in and game out, with him rumoured to be lining up a bid for the young Englishman in the coming transfer window. Klopp too looks likely to engage in a bidding for war for the young player for Liverpool. If such is to happen it is believed Blues will obtain around 15% compensation of the given amount as he is a product of our academy, just as we saw occur following Nathan Redmond’s big money move to Southampton from Norwich, since having flourished under their ranks in a bid to be called up for England. The bid itself is as yet unknown and any details are yet to be confirmed.
Ronan Hale is a player the Blues faithful have been calling upon the manager to play since his prolific season with the under 21’s. The 18 year old’s been punching above his weight for a while now and seems one of the most likely of the group to find a place in the squad in coming seasons. He gained media attention once again yesterday, having scored the winning goal for Irelands under 19 squad against Portugal. If you haven’t seen the goal yet it can only be described as a wonder goal, as he cuts in on the Portuguese defender before curling home a beautiful strike in to the right hand side netting off the post.
Another Irish player playing alongside Hale yesterday was O’Keefe. The versatile midfielder who can play either in a central midfield or right midfield role seemed to appear strong to secure a place in the squad under Gary Rowett but his spell was cut only too short as Rowett was surprisingly sacked before we could see the best of the young midfielder. Since he has lost his squad position under Zola and seems to have faded back under the development-first team fringe. Let’s hope we see him again soon!
Jack Storer seemed the first man on the team sheet in preseason, his prolific run saw, many fans go mad to see more of the blue nose striker. However there is a reason why Stevenage let go of a talent that could have propelled them to a new level of football. He has an aggressive streak that has hindered his development under all of is managers over the course of his short career so far. However he is still young, he can still make a truly brilliant footballer. However he is currently just a petulant, unmanageable teen with a lot of potential. His loan too Yeovil lasted no more than a week before it was cancelled. Despite no details of why, many assume it’s a result of his poor temperament once again. He has however been drifting in to the squad in recent weeks, maybe he’s buckled down? He’s a controversial one, his seven goals in as many matches in preseason shows he has the goal scoring ability. That combined with the passion and aggression many fans would applaud at the blues would make him an instant fan favourite or even a future cult hero just as Gary Rowett predicted. I personally remain agnostic as to whether he will make the cut, he has the ability, but in modern day football you can’t come off the bench and head-butt someone inside your first 10 minutes of play.
Brown seems to have been the talent of talk for far too many years now. However the attention he has received and the pandering he has had since such a young age seems to have back fired on the Blues. The central midfielder or right midfielder is quick and skilful, attracting the glance of scouts from premier league clubs for many years. However of field antics have seen his development in to a strong young player stunt at various periods. He has insisted in recent interviews he is no longer taking his career lightly. He’s since joined Chesterfield on loan in league one, let’s hope he’s not going to be another Koby Arthur, and never truly stamp his mark.
The young central midfielder was tipped for big things towards the end of blues campaign last season. He made a handful of starts and impressed on all of them. He has now been reunited with ex blues manager Lee Clarke with Kilmarnock, in the Scottish premiership. Upon joining them in the summer window they sat 6th in the table. It seems a good environment to set up his blues career, which could be a good one, given his good eye for a long range goal and a pass.
Many forget he is 20 years old, then again that’s not always so easily remembered given the level of maturity, skill and experience we so often see out on the pitch from him. His finishing seems to come so naturally, each of his goals so far have been perfectly executed. The well-built striker, centre forward and occasional winger looks to be a bargain should he fill his so obvious potential that his brilliant hold up play, skilful runs and beautiful finishes might suggest. Having seemed too settle so well in to the ranks I can only pray we get more balls in to his pathway. He set a target of scoring 15 goals this season, whilst that might not happen I think we’ve still got a very big talent on our hands.
Cogley said in an interview in 2014, whilst in the blues development squad, that he was hard working and looked up to Danny Alves as a right back. Back then he was just one of many young players in the club, but now he is one we all know. Having been subject to recent premier league transfer speculation, the young right back stayed loyal to the blues in signing his contract extension. He is one of few young players whose place in the squad has looked equally if not stronger throughout the transition of manager. Zola clearly likes his attacking nature. From the stands I must admit he sometimes appears a little out of his depth hosting the league’s best wingers, but given time to develop he looks to be a real talent, especially going forward.
Recently having made his switch to Bolton Wanderers and making his one and only start under Zola in the FA cup, the winger who looked to win our praise after scoring at Fulham last season, seems still to be on Zola’s radar. His electric pace and skilful runs make him a Demarai Gray like winger but I personally sense he has a greater physical presence as Gray did at his age. I’m excited to see how his time at Bolton goes.
The powerhouse midfielder bought for the development squad caught many an eye when making his first starts at development level. His composure on the ball and great physical presence make him fit to play even in the rough environment of the Championship at his current age. However given a little more experience he could make a big player for blues, he’s one I’m excited for and I desperately hope to see him impress on his loan move to Grimsby.
Keita has what it takes. Lightning pace, brilliant skill, and that touch. He looks a bargain buy and a talent worthy of playing for any big club in the not so distant future. Admittedly he sometimes appears to drift away from his man on the wing but for his first few starts in the championship, he looks strong and determined. Having initially been kept out of the squad due to language barrier he now appears to be settling in. I can see him leaving for a large sum of money in the future, should blues not let him go cheap as we have seen so many other players do so in the past.
I haven’t much to say about this player, other than he is a large physical presence and looks worthy of fighting for his place at the blues. The young defender, aged 22, impressed at non- league level with Stourbridge, and what other way is better to toughen up a player than having him play in probably the dirtiest league around. I hope the blue nose defender has what it takes to make his dream move work. He certainly has an eye for goal, scoring 7 in 55 appearances from a centre half position at Sturbridge.
Kerim Frei, who many seem to forget is only 23, due to the fact his career started so early in the premier league with Fulham. He made his premier league debut at an age of just 17. He went on under Martin Jol to start against Man United, Chelsea and a number of Europa League appearances. His initial starts at the blues depict a player of great pace, ability and skill, it’s a shame we haven’t seem so much of him in the previous two games.
This isn’t an exhaustive list despite it being a rather long one. However it is obvious blues have a lot of young players each ready to fight for their opportunities in the first team. Assuredly many will not make it, many will use this club as a platform for setting up their careers elsewhere, and others just won’t cut the bill. However as a club we’re now in a position where we don’t have to sell our talents cheap (other than in the case of Alex Jones), we can finally develop these young players in to ones worthy of becoming great players. I hope you enjoyed this article. Please comment below who you’re most excited about seeing breakthrough in to first team football, or mention any other young players I might have forgotten. Personally I’m most excited about Jack Storer, Ronan Hale, Che Adams and Maxwell.