Since 2006, the Football League (or EFL as they’re known these days) have dished out a host of awards to those most deserving.
One of which, The Football League Young Player of the Year award, recognises up and coming talent with some notable former winners…
2006 – David Nugent
We have a tough time remembering Nugent as a youngster.
He’s one of those players who seem like they were born 29-years-old.
The one-cap wonder scored ten league goals for Preston in the 2005/06 season as The Lilywhites qualified for the Championship play-offs.
A natural goalscorer in the second tier of English football, his 20 goals helped secure Leicester’s return to the top flight in 2013/14.
At 32-years-old he’s still plugging away in the Championship with Derby.
2007 – Gareth Bale
Never heard of this bloke but he sounds like he’s got strong, reliable hamstrings.
According to his Wikipedia, Bale has won the Champions League three times and was once the most expensive player in the world.
Still, reckon the Football League Young Player of the Year award from his Southampton days takes pride and place on his mantelpiece.
Where is he now? Probably on a treatment table in Madrid…
2008 – Michael Kightly
Kightly signed for Wolves from non-league Grays Athletic in 2006.
At the end of the following season his sparkling performances earned him recognition from the Football League but the tricky winger’s injury troubles hindered his later years in the Premier League.
He was rarely used by Stoke and Burnley and has since returned to League One’s Southend United, 14 years after his first spell with the club.
2009 – Fabian Delph
2009 was the first time the award was given to play outside the Championship.
Yorkshire-born Delph was the toast of Elland Road in 2008/09, featuring in 42 League One games at the heart of Leeds’ midfield.
After snaking Aston Villa, he’s now set to win the Premier League with Man City having played left-back for most the season.
2010 – Nathaniel Clyne
The inexhaustible right-back made his name with Crystal Palace.
Clyne won the award at the end of his second full season in professional football after becoming a fan favourite at Selhurt Park.
Since then he’s one of 17,000 players to have traded Southampton for Liverpool.
He’s yet to regain his spot in Jurgen Klopp’s starting eleven after a back injury ruled him out for several months.
2011 – Connor Wickham
Wickham burst onto the scene as a teenager with Ipswich, making his debut 11 days after his 16th birthday.
Blessed with towering height, he scored nine league goals for the Tractor Boys in 2010/11 with many labelling him as a future England No9.
Unfortunately, four years at Sunderland stunted his development (they’ll do that) and the goals have dried up in his 20s.
Still just 25-years-old, injuries have hampered his time at Crystal Palace.
Now in his 13th season, he’s yet to reach 50 club career goals.
2012 – Wilfried Zaha
Zaha’s quick feet have made fools of defenders for years now.
He was instrumental in Crystal Palace’s promotion during his first spell at Selhurst Park.
The last player ever signed by Sit Alex Ferguson, he was discarded at Old Trafford by David Moyes and became the Premier League’s forgotten man.
Undeniably Palace’s best player since he re-signed with the Eagles in 2014, only Eden Hazard boasts dribbling stats to match over the last two seasons.
2013 – Tom Ince
The second-generation midfielder was a genuine sensation for Blackpool.
Ince junior bagged 18 goals in 44 Championship games in 2012/13 and was the subject of endless transfer rumours.
After similar second-tier success with Derby from 2015 – 2017, Huddersfield won the race for his signature last summer.
However, he left his shooting boots in the midlands — before his first Terriers goal, no Premier League player had taken more shots without finding the net.
2014 – Will Hughes
Another midfielder who made Pride Park his back garden.
Hughes’ shock of Targaryen hair made him instantly recognisable but it was his impressive passing range that earned him more than a few fans.
Now with Watford, he’s had to settle for a handful of first-team appearances this season.
The 22-year-old is still tipped for a bright future.
2015 – Dele Alli
Spurs’ free-scoring No20 learned the game at MK Dons.
He scored 16 goals from midfield in League One the season before Spurs snapped him up for £5million.
After scoring 18 league goals last season, he’s registered more assists than any other non-Man City player this campaign.
The boy has done good, put it that way.
2016 – Lewis Cook
A class act for Leeds between 2014 – 2016, Cook is the only Englishman other than Bobby Moore to lift a World Cup (2017 Under-20s).
A deep-lying metronome, he was recently given his international debut and is among the outsiders to be included in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
2017 – Ollie Watkins
A classy No10 also capable of leading the line or playing as a winger.
Watkins is the first player to have won the award after a campaign in League Two.
His eye-catching performances for Exeter City earned him a move to Brentford, where he’s continued to impress fans and pundits.
The 22-year-old is being monitored by a host of Premier League clubs and needs just one more goal to reach double figures in the Championship this season.
Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon is the heavy favourite for this year’s award.
The 17-year-old is currently on 14 league goals and has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year alongside the likes of Harry Kane and Leroy Sane.