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Ten Premier League youngsters to watch in 2016/17: Part 1
The 2016/17 Premier League season is just a week away and Football Every Day’s Alex Morgan takes a look at ten young stars to watch for ahead of the upcoming campaign. In part one, we highlight Sheyi Ojo, Brendan Galloway, and Demarai Gray.
Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool)
Jürgen Klopp is unsure whether to send nineteen-year-old Sheyi Ojo out on loan this season or keep him in the first team picture, but the winger has used Liverpool’s preseason tour of the United States to make a strong case for himself. Ojo was very impressive in the Reds’ preseason friendlies against Chelsea, AC Milan and Roma, notching a goal and an assist, showcasing a scorching pace and elaborate bag of tricks.
He sacrificed his summer vacation in order to join Klopp’s preseason squad, having just previously featured for England at the Under-19 Championships this summer. He has also played for the England youth national teams at the U-16 through U-18 levels.
The winger joined Liverpool’s academy from MK Dons at the age of fourteen for a fee believed to be around £2 million and has rapidly risen through their youth ranks. He spent loan time with Wigan Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2015, scoring two goals in his first twenty-eight professional appearances in the Championship.
He was recalled by Klopp in January and has made eight professional appearances for the Reds since his competitive debut for Liverpool in a 2-2 draw with Exeter City in the FA Cup. He is battling for playing time with the likes of Divock Origi, who has a similar set of strengths, as he seeks for a breakthrough season with the Reds.
Although Klopp is still undecided in regards to Ojo’s short-term future this coming season (back-tightness ruled Ojo out of Liverpool’s recent games against Barcelona and Mainz, which may play a part in Klopp’s decision), the German manager was unwavering in his belief that Ojo would have plenty of playing opportunities in the future.
“He’s a wonderful player for sure and his future is 100 percent at Liverpool,” Klopp said.
Brendan Galloway (Everton)
Everton’s Brendan Galloway is another product of the MK Dons academy, having become the youngest first-team player ever for the Dons as a fifteen-year-old in November 2011. He has progressed a great deal in the last five years, moving to Goodison Part in August 2014 on a five year deal.
The Zimbabwe-born youngster is a highly touted centerback for both club and country, having represented England at the Under-17 through Under-19 levels. He debuted for Everton in the 2014/15 season and injuries to Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo presented the opportunity of a first-team breakthrough last season. Despite a two-month absence due to a knee injury, he made nineteen appearances for the Toffees last season and will hope to become a first-team regular this season at the age of twenty.
There have been recent rumors that Rafa Benitez is lining up a move to bring Galloway to Newcastle United before the transfer deadline closes, but the defender will likely prove one to watch wherever he is playing next season.
Demarai Gray (Leicester City)
Demarai Gray might only have turned twenty in June but he already has the most unlikely of Premier League winners’ medial to his name. The flashy winger joined Leicester City’s incredible Premier League campaign in January and made eleven appearances from the substitutes bench and a single start in his role as a supporting member of their incredible cast of champions.
Gray rose from the academy of Birmingham City and made seventy-two appearances for the Championship club as a teenager, scoring eight goals. He was the Academy Player of the Season for Birmingham in their 2014/15 campaign, his breakout season for the Blues. He renegotiated a three-year-deal with Birmingham last summer, which included a £3.7 million for his inevitable departure to a Premier League club.
After a stellar beginning to the 2015/16 season, Leicester activated Gray’s release clause in January and signed one of the brightest young prospects in English football for thirteen times less than the price of Raheem Sterling.
Gray has played for England at the Under-18 through Under-21 levels and is highly regarded as a future senior international for the Three Lions.
Having appeared in Leicester’s Community Shield defeat to Manchester United as a substitute on Sunday afternoon, Gray is poised to become a key part of Leicester’s title defense from a bench role this season. As a pacy forward, he fits into Claudio Ranieri’s counter-attacking team perfectly.