Arsenal – Eddie Nketiah
“Nketiah needs to get games under his belt to develop. In the next two or three years, he needs to play 30 games for a club, and he’s not going to do that at Arsenal.”
So said former Gunners captain Tony Adams after Saturday’s FA Cup win at Blackpool, pointing to the success of Reiss Nelson at Hoffenheim so far this season.
The 19-year-old Nketiah had just started for the third time this season and has clearly outgrown Premier League 2 football, having managed as many goals as starts (7) this season for the under-23s. Most sides in the Championship would surely find room for him.
Bournemouth – Jack Simpson
An England U21 international despite having only played three cup matches for Bournemouth at the time of his international bow, the left-footed centre-back has impressed scouts country-wide and been linked with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers numerous times.
With the European Under-21 Championship on the horizon, and limited opportunities at the Vitality Stadium, it would be beneficial for the Weymouth-born defender to get more playing time under his belt between now and May.
Brighton – Viktor Gyokeres
Brighton’s expansive venture into Nordic football has brought players from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland to their development squad over the past year, and it’s Swedish winger Gyokeres who has impressed the most.
He made almost 70 appearances for Brommapojkarna’s first team before swapping Stockholm for Sussex a year ago, and has since helped the Seagulls win promotion to the top division of Premier League 2 football, where they now sit third in national title contention.
Gyokeres is far too good to be plying his trade at that level, and debuted for Chris Hughton’s senior team at Bournemouth in the FA Cup. Now he needs more opportunities at a higher level.
Burnley – Dan Agyei
A London boy who joined Burnley from Wimbledon in 2015, Agyei is no stranger to life on loan, having spent time with Coventry, Walsall and Blackpool in three different cracks at League One.
He’s still only 21, and the Clarets opted to take a more patient approach with him this season – rewarded with 13 goals in 20 appearances for the U23s before Christmas. Anyone seeking promotion to the Championship would be well-advised to take another look at a forward coming into his own and far more prepared to succeed in the professional game now.
Cardiff – Ciaron Brown
Cardiff use their development squad like an old-school reserve team, with many of Neil Warnock's first-team squad getting the occasional run-out alongside a handful of trialists and the Bluebirds' best young players.
One of those, Brown, has made fine progress since joining from Wealdstone a year ago, and has added a goal threat to his game this season. He turns 21 this month, and his next step must surely be to get back out into the senior game and continue his progress onwards and upwards.
Chelsea – Luke McCormick
Chelsea’s vast loan network stretches from Bruges and Burton to Turin and Tenerife, though the rising stars of Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Reece James in the Championship demonstrate that there is plenty of logic in getting into senior football at the earliest opportunity.
McCormick was born 11 days after Mount and played in the same team as the Derby midfielder for over 10 years, but is still to get a first taste of senior football. Tenacious in the tackle, confident in possession and a willing forward runner, he ought to interest Football League managers looking for an injection of midfield quality this window.
Crystal Palace – Nya Kirby
After Timothy Eyoma’s Tottenham debut last week, 11 of the 18 outfield players in England's victorious U17 World Cup-winning squad have now made their senior bow.
Kirby is one of seven still waiting, and the timing at Crystal Palace is hardly ideal given Roy Hodgson’s struggles. The midfielder turns 19 at the end of the month and, with Blackpool and Charlton both reportedly interested in a January loan, a temporary new home makes sense for all parties.
Everton – Ademola Lookman
When Lookman debuted for Everton in January 2017, catching the eye with a stunning late goal as the Toffees beat Manchester City 4-0 at Goodison Park, the then-19-year-old was making his 50th senior appearance following a long run in the Charlton team before his £10m move to Merseyside.
He earned his first start the following month but has only made 17 in the two years since, seven of which came during a half-season loan in the Bundesliga at RB Leipzig. As Marco Silva rebuilds Everton in his image, it seems the Wandsworth-born winger may have to continue his development elsewhere for the time being.
Fulham – Luca De La Torre
Slavisa Jokanovic’s departure from Craven Cottage was a blow for Fulham’s prolific academy. The Serbian called upon several graduates of their Motspur Park setup during his reign, including American midfielder De La Torre, who even scored his first professional goal in September’s League Cup victory at Millwall.
Claudio Ranieri, however, has a relegation battle to fight and De La Torre will have to look elsewhere for a chance to shine. With 18 months left on his deal, a decision now will prepare him for the next stage of his career.
Huddersfield – Demeaco Duhaney
The Terriers are doing things differently at youth level these days. Following in Brentford’s footsteps by eschewing the traditional academy system, they instead run an operation from U17 level upwards, which features the formation of an Elite Development Team that takes players released by other clubs and continues their progress.
Duhaney is one such reclamation project, released last summer by Manchester City, but he could arguably have had his pick of lower-league clubs there and then. The tall and elegant defender boasts the versatility to play anywhere across the back, and should be leaving youth football behind to show the adult world what he has to offer.
Leicester – Darnell Johnson
It seems as if Johnson has been around forever. Often referenced as the godson of Leicester hero Emile Heskey, the powerful defender is still only 20 and a keystone in a Foxes U23 side challenging for the Premier League 2 title.
He is, however, one of a small handful of current England U20 internationals yet to make his senior debut. That should change this month, with Leicester possessing sufficient depth to make a more concerted effort to get some of their older prospects into the Football League.
Liverpool – Rhian Brewster
2018 was a difficult year for the England U17 World Cup winner. Last January he suffered a nasty injury in an U23s game that kept him sidelined for 12 months, so playing regular football again is clearly the main priority for Brewster in the second half of this season.
The cautious approach may be to keep him at Melwood, playing in Premier League 2 and training with Jurgen Klopp’s title-chasing Reds, though the talent is clearly there for the 18-year-old to branch out further afield if required.
Manchester City – Luke Bolton
Few neutrals, and even some Manchester City fans, will have been forgiven for not having heard of Luke Bolton before the Stockport-born wide man made a first-team impression during pre-season under Pep Guardiola last summer.
Reinvented as a full-back, the former forward’s industry and guile on the right side of the pitch showed he has many strings to his bow, and will have surprised those who had questions about his potential. He won’t impact things at the Etihad Stadium any time soon, though, so a loan move seems sensible.
Manchester United – RoShaun Williams
A month ago, this list might have included Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong or James Garner as some of Manchester United’s brightest young stars. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has since reportedly halted plans to farm them out on loan, preferring to keep those youngsters around the first-team squad for the rest of the season.
That leaves the next tier of hopefuls to head out instead. Williams was once considered to be among the very best, but hasn’t quite kicked on as expected and could do with a change of scenery and fresh challenge to showcase his ability. Blessed with the physical and technical traits of a modern defender, he could reward someone taking a chance on him.
Newcastle – Freddie Woodman
The England goalkeeping prospect pool isn’t exactly dry, but it’s short on stellar prospects and Woodman has been one of their better ones over the years.
A regular at every age group and an U20 World Cup winner in 2017, he got his first taste of professional football at Kilmarnock in 2017/18, but Newcastle didn’t find an appropriate follow-up this term.
He was given the chance to showcase his talent against Blackburn in the FA Cup, and really should be knocking Rafa Benitez’s door down this month to make sure he gets out there and gives himself a realistic chance of making Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 Euros squad.
Southampton – Harry Lewis
In truth, none of Southampton’s youngsters should be going on loan this month, as manager Ralph Hasenhüttl seems to be making it his mission to get a look at as many academy prospects as he can.
Six players have already made their debuts this season, with more set to follow, so really that leaves the likes of Harry Lewis to consider what’s next.
The 21-year-old goalkeeper is just two years younger than Angus Gunn, who looks set to be the custodian of the future at St Mary’s. With both Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster also between him and the first team, nobody would blame him for beginning to consider his future. A loan move for the second half of the season would set him up nicely for a summer move.
Tottenham – Tashan Oakley-Boothe
Mauricio Pochettino continues to show that minutes are available for young academy players – but not everyone’s winning. Oakley-Boothe made his Spurs debut back in September 2017 but appears to have dropped down the Argentine’s pecking order.
A January loan may therefore be wise for the 18-year-old to remind everyone of his qualities, just like fellow 2000-born double-barrelled teens Morgan Gibbs-White, Emile Smith-Rowe and Callum Hudson-Odoi
Watford – Michael Folivi
From playing at Wembley in May for Boreham Wood to finishing the year with Watford’s U23s in a losing cause at Bristol City, Folivi continues to take two steps back for every step forward.
As consistent a goalscorer at that level as you’ll find, his 31 strikes for the Hornets have so far yielded just a brief and unsuccessful spell at Coventry and half a season in the National League with the Wood.
With little more to prove at youth level the striker must head out on loan, particularly if he harbours hopes of a long-term career at Vicarage Road.
West Ham – Reece Oxford
It’s hard to believe that Oxford was still a teenager until last month, such has been his profile in recent years as the latest great prospect to emerge from the east London academy.
He’s played for Reading and Borussia Monchengladbach in the three-and-a-half years since he became the Hammers’ youngest-ever player, but no West Ham appearance for a year nor senior involvement since May suggest the Edmonton-born defender has hit something of a developmental snag.
It seems the perfect time to find a fresh challenge with little to be gained from another six months in the U23s, and there ought to be no shortage of suitors for the pacey youngster.
Wolves – Benny Ashley-Seal
‘Nomadic’ seems a harsh word to judge the journey of any young player, but Ashley-Seal’s pathway fits the bill as best it could for any 20-year-old.
After starting out in north London with Arsenal and Tottenham, the striker signed for Norwich, where he was hand-picked by the Guardian as the Canaries’ best young prospect. But after leaving Norfolk, trial spells with Chelsea and Stoke didn't bear fruit.
He has finally settled in the Midlands: only two players have more Premier League 2 goals as he leads Wolves’ promotion tilt, and he got his senior debut for Nuno Espirito Santo’s team in the League Cup earlier this season. Further opportunities will be limited, though, and the Londoner’s efforts have surely caught the attention of Football League clubs desperate for a goal-getter.