£4m defender and 26-goal striker among five early-season Championship breakout stars

·5-min read
Championship breakout stars Credit: PA Images
Championship breakout stars Credit: PA Images

Breakout stars come in many forms with summer signings, promoted players and academy graduates all featuring here.

The Football League is the honing ground for tomorrow’s Premier League stars. And all five of these players *should* eventually become regulars in the top flight…


Anel Ahmedhodzic (Sheffield United)
The Bosnian international was earmarked as a potential signing for the Blades in January and his summer arrival has been more than worth the wait.

Paul Heckingbottom will be delighted that they were able to snap him up before their rivals caught wind of just how talented Ahmedhodzic is.

The £4m man fits into Sheffield United’s favoured 3-5-2 formation like a glove, with him slotting in effortlessly as a right-sided centre-back.

Ahmedhodzic is made to play the system Chris Wilder previously adopted at Bramall Lane.

Heckingbottom has continued to use it and credit should go to the club’s scouting system for finding a gem in Ahmedhodzic.

His marauding runs up the pitch, plus his goalscoring (three goals in six), have caught the eye in recent weeks. He looks to be a snip.

Aged 23, the grounds are also there for him to improve in the next couple of years.

Just like with Sander Berge, Sheffield United are well-positioned to earn a big profit on Ahmedhodzic down the line, though they won’t want to consider cashing in on their new toy just yet.


Oscar Estupinan (Hull City)
Ahmedhodzic has a strong argument to be the Championship’s signing of the summer, but Estupinan would argue otherwise.

Hull City have flaunted their new wealth this summer and the striker has been the pick of their 12 summer signings.

The 25-year-old has been a revelation in the second tier. The Tigers did well to get him after he scored 15 goals in the Primeira Liga for Vitoria de Guimaraes last season before his contract expired in the summer.

An underrated skill as a striker is scoring tap-ins. Estupinan has already mastered that art and he has seven goals in seven Championship games so far.

Two braces (against Norwich City and West Brom) and a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Coventry City make for a dream start to life in England.

Even with Keane Lewis-Potter heading to Brentford, Hull have a much stronger squad at their disposal than the one that finished 19th last term.

Currently in and around the play-off places, optimism is growing that an unexpected promotion push could be on the cards at the MKM Stadium.

Should Estupinan maintain his scoring touch, you feel that they will be there or thereabouts come the end of the campaign.


Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United)
Now onto the first of two promoted players. Yo-yo merchants Rotherham United have been a surprise package so far this term, losing just once in six games.

A few of their current crop have shone, though Ogbene’s reputation is arguably growing more than the rest of his teammates.

The Republic of Ireland forward has announced himself on the international scene with outstanding showings against Portugal and Belgium over the past twelve months.

Stephen Kenny operates him as a forward, while before this season Rotherham boss Paul Warne used Ogbene as a right wing-back in his 3-5-2 set-up.

Clearly taking on board what he is capable of when playing further forward, Warne has partnered Ogbene with experienced striker Conor Washington up front for the Millers in recent weeks.

This has delivered thus far as Ogbene has four goals in eight games across all competitions. Rotherham’s bright start suggests that they may be on for a more positive campaign than some predicted.

But a fresh issue could arise next summer as they battle to keep their best players. With Ogbene due to be out of contract in 2023, there will be no shortage of suitors pursuing his signature.


Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City)
The 20-year-old has featured sparingly for his boyhood club since making his senior debut at the start of 2021.

But after Norwich fell through the Premier League trap door at the first attempt for the second time running, changes needed to be made.

After being without a win in their opening three games, Dean Smith’s side have now won four in a row in the Championship.

There are still question marks surrounding the ex-Aston Villa boss after the Canaries were relegated with a whimper.

Omobamidele’s emergence has been a major plus point for them so far. The inexperienced centre-back has been partnered with Grant Hanley, who is as solid a Championship defender as you can find.

This has worked a treat as Norwich have only conceded six goals in seven games in the league.

Whether Norwich go up or not, it will do Omobamidele a lot of good having a full season in the back four of a Championship side battling for promotion.

He has started the 2022/23 campaign brilliantly and possesses the qualities needed to make that next step when the time comes.


Sunderland would be forgiven for wanting to hit the Neil on the head after Stoke defection


Ross Stewart (Sunderland)
Those who do not pay much attention to the goings on in League One may not have heard of Stewart prior to this campaign.

And what a shock those naive individuals have been in for watching the forward at the start of the 2022/23 season.

Stewart was one of the best players in the third tier last term, scoring 26 goals for eventual play-off final winners Sunderland.

The step up to the Championship from League One is a significant one, but Stewart has made it look easy.

The 26-year-old has been involved in eight goals (five goals and three assists) in just seven outings as he has performed sensationally alongside Everton loanee Ellis Simms.

Sunderland have made a solid start in their return year in the Championship. Alex Neil has jumped ship to join Stoke City, but Tony Mowbray is a steady pair of hands capable of guiding the Black Cats to a campaign of consolidation.

Mowbray is spoilt having Stewart provide goals in his new team. The experienced boss has recently played a handy role in Ben Brereton Diaz’s development.

The latter is on track to be a Premier League player in the near future, and on early evidence this season, Stewart will eventually follow in his fellow striker’s footsteps.

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