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Where are they now? Every EFL Young Player of the Year from the 2010s

You only need to look at some of the names that have won the Football League Young Player of the Year award to recognise that the English football pyramid is an absolute hotbed for nurturing talent.

Jude Bellingham and Michael Olise picked up the award in 2020 and 2021 respectively, before the award split into the respective leagues from 2022 onwards.

The 2023-24 season has seen Leeds United’s Archie Gray, Peterborough’s Ronnie Edwards and Tranmere’s Rob Apter named Young Player of the Year for the Championship, League One and League Two respectively.

They’re following in the footsteps of some brilliant footballers. We’ve checked in on the 10 winners of the award from the 2010s to see where they’re at today.

Nathaniel Clyne (2010)

Exceptional in his breakthrough years in the Championship, Clyne was named the Football League Player of the Season in 2010, Crystal Palace’s Player of the Year in 2010-11 and made the PFA Team Of The Year in 2011-12.

He then moved to Southampton, where his rise continued under Mauricio Pochettino and then inevitably to Liverpool, although his latter years on Merseyside were plagued by injury.

Clyne didn’t pick up either a Champions League or Premier League winners medal, having made zero appearances in either campaign, before he returned to Palace in 2020.

The experienced right-back still isn’t good for 38 games a season, but he’s put his injury woes behind him and proven himself a perfectly reliable squad option.

He even featured in Palace’s recent (title-busting?) 1-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Connor Wickham (2011)

Nine goals in 37 Championship appearances for Ipswich Town in 2010-11 were enough for Wickham to pick up the Young Player of the Year award and earn a move to Sunderland, back then established in the Premier League.

Since then, Wickham has represented no fewer than nine different clubs in the English football pyramid, with almost every stint short-lived.

He’s currently leading the line for League One Charlton Athletic, having recently signed a short-term deal until the end of the season.

At the time of writing, Wickham has scored 24 league goals across the last 10 seasons.

Wilfried Zaha (2012)

One of the most exciting young forwards to ever emerge in the Football League, Zaha was so electric in the Championship that Manchester United earmarked him as an investment for the future, ushering in the grand new David Moyes era.

Ahem. Zaha never really got a chance at Old Trafford and Moyes lasted less than a season. Loans to Cardiff and Palace followed, and he returned to Selhurst Park for good in 2023.

That second stint with his boyhood club lasted eight years and surely sealed his place in the club’s all-time greats.

Nowadays he’s turning out for Galatasaray, where he boasts the likes of Dries Mertens, Serge Aurier, Lucas Torreira and Mauro Icardi as team-mates. A proper Turkish Super Lig squad, that.

READ: 9 ballers we can’t believe played in the Turkish Super Lig

Tom Ince (2013)

Paul Ince’s son never made it out of the youth ranks at Liverpool, but he caught the eye as a talented prospect after settling into a permanent home at Blackpool.

The winger scored 18 goals for an otherwise ordinary Tangerines side that finished 15th in the Championship 2012-13, earning an opportunity on loan at Crystal Palace.

But Ince junior has never quite done it in his brief stints in the Premier League with Palace, Hull City and Huddersfield and seems to have found his level in the Championship.

Nowadays he’s turning out for Watford, following spells with Reading, Luton, Stoke, Derby and Nottingham Forest. The archetypal second-tier journeyman.

Will Hughes (2014)

The Derby academy graduate, now 29, has established himself as a solid if unspectacular Premier League player over the last seven seasons with Watford and Crystal Palace.

You’re unlikely to see Hughes challenging for any more individual accolades but we wouldn’t be surprised to see him diligently doing unheralded work for many years to come.

He’s out of contract at Selhurst Park in the summer, but Palace could do worse than extending his deal.

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Dele Alli (2015)

One of the very best players in the country on his day, Dele is yet to play for Everton this season after six weeks in rehab to deal with psychological trauma.

“I have a reminder on my phone every single day at eleven o’clock that says: World Cup 2026,” he revealed on a recent Sky Sports appearance.

“That’s my aim. That’s my level.”

We’re all rooting for the one-time MK Dons wonderkid to get back there.

Lewis Cook (2016)

Before Marcelo Bielsa arrived at Leeds United in 2018, long-suffering fans of the club got accustomed to seeing their brightest lights – be it homegrown or otherwise – leave to go and realise their potential elsewhere.

The likes of Fabian Delph, Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson, Max Gradel, Luciano Becchio, Jermaine Beckford and Kasper Schmeichel all went on to play in the Premier League after leaving Leeds.

So there was almost a sense of grim inevitability when the homegrown quartet of Lewis Cook, Sam Byram, Charlie Taylor and Alex Mowatt emerged in the mid-2010s. Such was the mediocrity around them, the writing was on the wall that they’d one day depart for brighter things.

Cook was the pick of the bunch. The club’s most talented and technically gifted academy graduate in a generation.

It was no surprise that he signed for Bournemouth the summer after being named Football League Young Player of the Year, a season in which Leeds finished in the Championship’s bottom half under Steve Evans.

The midfielder has since gone on to receive one cap for England and was on Gareth Southgate’s standby squad for the 2018 World Cup.

Unfortunately, a series of horror injuries have stunted Cook’s rise to the very top, but he remains a classy operator for the Cherries.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every England one cap wonder since 2000?

Ollie Watkins (2017)

One of the very best forwards in all of Europe in 2023-24, Watkins’ rise to the very top has been an unconventional one – and ought to serve as an inspiration to talented kids developing their skills outside of elite academies across the country.

“I benefitted from coming through at a smaller club like Exeter City I believe, rather than one of the bigger category one academies,” Watkins told the official England website.

“I think if I had joined a category one academy while I was younger, it probably would have gone to my head so I am so glad I had the journey I did.

“To go from grassroots football to becoming an England international, it has been a bit of a journey but it has been a great journey. I have had some tough times on the way but also so many good ones.”

The forward, now 28, has seemingly got better and better in his journey from Exeter to Brentford to Aston Villa. Next stop Champions League. Some story.

Ryan Sessegnon (2018)

A proper boy wonder, Sessegnon played over 4000 senior Championship minutes for Fulham before his 18th birthday – numbers that even Archie Gray and Jude Bellingham couldn’t quite reach.

So prodigiously talented, the Fulham wonderkid was inevitably tipped by scouts and pundits to become an England international and move to one of England’s powerhouses.

But six years after being named the Football League Young Player of the Year he awaits his first England cap, while he’s never really kicked on at Tottenham following a £25million move in 2019.

Sessegnon has averaged fewer than 12 appearances a year over his five years with Spurs, with just five minutes of first-team action under Ange Postecoglou this season.

Unfortunately, he’s never looked better than he did at 17. We’re rooting for him to put his hamstring injuries behind him and come good next year, but you sense he might need a fresh start to kick on.

Max Aarons (2019)

There were several brilliant young loanees in the Football League in 2018-19, including the likes of Reece James at Wigan, Ben White at Peterborough, Mason Mount at Derby and Tammy Abraham at Aston Villa.

But beating them all to the award that season was Aarons, who turned 19 midway through Norwich City’s promotion-winning campaign.

Daniel Farke’s Canaries memorably beat Leeds and Sheffield United to the top spot that season and their homegrown starlet was among their standout players.

The right-back remained at Carrow Road, yo-yoing between the top two divisions, until 2023 – when he moved to newly-promoted Bournemouth, who beat Farke’s Leeds to his signature.

Injuries have reduced him to just 12 Premier League starts for Andoni Iraoli’s entertaining Cherries this season, but he nevertheless looks a solid addition to their squad.

READ: An incredible XI of players that were in the Football League back in 2018-19