7 Championship players who could be poached by Premier League clubs

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Nottingham Forest's Brennan Johnson during the match against Birmingham City at City Ground, Nottingham, February 2022.

The Championship is renowned for its competitive nature, where the quality of football is a step above that of any other second tier in Europe. Here, we take a look at players from the division who we think are ready for a transfer to a Premier League club this summer.

For a look at how successful players can become after taking that step up, just take a quick look at Gareth Southgate’s England squad from last summer’s Euros. A stint in the Championship is something many of the nation’s stars have etched on their CVs; Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Mason Mount… we could go on.

Fulham and Bournemouth will be returning to the top flight next season but the story of the season is arguably Nottingham Forest. Rock bottom of the table in September, Steve Cooper and his young side have risen to third spot and will fancy their chances of promotion in the play-offs.

For football clubs – particularly in the Premier League – there can quite often be a desire within scouting departments to search for signings on the continent. Conducting transfer business with clubs lower down the football food chain is often overlooked.

But, sometimes, a player is simply too good to miss out on. We have taken a look at seven players who could be in line to make the illustrious jump up to the Premier League next season.

Fabio Carvalho

Fulham’s teenage sensation came a stone’s throw away from signing for Liverpool in the January window – and Carvalho will move to Anfield this summer.

“About next season, he will not be our football player,” Fulham boss Marco Silva recently confirmed. “It’s difficult for me, I can’t speak about the situation.

“You know how I love the boy, I don’t need to repeat again. I would love to have him with me more time as well at this football club, but it’s what you can do and it’s difficult sometimes for us to accept, that is football and that’s life.”

It’s easy to see just why Carvalho is catching the eye. He’s scored 10 and assisted a further eight goals in the league for Marco Silva’s league-winning side this term.

It looks like Jurgen Klopp has found another bargain.

Brennan Johnson

Nottingham Forest reportedly turned down bids from a number of Premier League clubs for Johnson in January.

Forest have confirmed their spot in the Championship play-offs, and pushed Liverpool all the way in the FA Cup in March, and the 20-year-old is a big reason for the club’s recent success.

Johnson is out of contract at the end of next season. This makes it likely Forest will be forced to cash in on a player who has netted 15 times this term – supposing he doesn’t sign a new deal in the coming months.

“What you see on a daily basis is a young player who is never late – who comes in with the right attitude and works hard in training,” Forest boss Steve Cooper said about Johnson.

The forward, whose performances have already earned international recognition with Wales, looks set to go all the way to the top.

Djed Spence

Yet another Forest player who has impressed at the City Ground.

The 21-year-old full-back is on loan at the club from Middlesbrough, Neil Warnock sending him away to “sort himself out.” He’s certainly done that.

Like his team-mate and Carvalho, Spence attracted interest from Premier League sides in January. Arsenal were believed to be keen following his man-of-the-match display against the Gunners in the FA Cup third round.

Arsenal star Gabriel Martinelli, who struggled to make an impact in that FA Cup defeat, is certainly a fan.

“He [Spence] is very strong, good on the ball, calm and quick. I was surprised; he is a really good player,” the Brazilian said after a torrid afternoon up against the attack-minded defender.

He’ll surely be a Premier League next season, whether with Forest, Boro or somebody else.

Nottingham Forest defender Djed Spence celebrates against Birmingham City in Birmingham, England, October 2021.

READ: Djed Spence has turned into Cafu – of course Arsenal & Spurs are excited

John Swift

The 26-year-old midfielder has been in sublime form for Reading in what has been a difficult campaign for the Royals – they only avoided relegation due to the points deductions handed to Derby County.

Swift has been a key man for the club since his arrival in 2016 but, with his contract set to expiry, Premier League sides are expected to be sniffing around the Portsmouth-born player. West Ham and Leeds have reportedly expressed their interest already.

Twenty-four goal contributions in 38 Championship outings this season represents a fantastic return for a player who progressed through the Chelsea academy ranks.

Sorba Thomas

Huddersfield have overachieved this season and will aim for a Premier League return via the play-offs. Thomas is one of the main reasons why.

The Terriers signed the forward from National League side Boreham Wood in January 2021. This term he’s gone on to become a full international for Wales and has been a near ever-present in the starting line-up for Carlos Corberan’s side.

We’ve seen others propel themselves through the pyramid from non-league to the elite level – Jamie Vardy immediately springs to mind. Thomas is showing he’s potentially cut from the same cloth as Leicester City’s talisman.

Ben Brereton Diaz

The Stoke-born striker made his international debut for Chile in last year’s Copa America. We can put our necks on the line and safely say he’s the first and last person from the Potteries that this will happen to.

Under Tony Mowbray at Blackburn Rovers, Brereton Diaz has bagged 21 goals this season – only four players have scored more in the Championship – but he’ll be disappointed at how Rovers’ season tailed off after Christmas.

“Brereton with the ball at his feet is an extraordinary talent,” Mowbray said recently. “He’s a wonderful footballer who can dribble with both feet, take people out of the game.”

At just 23, Blackburn’s talisman will be high up on the list of targets for a number of Premier League clubs. Brighton, Leeds and West Ham have all registered an interest, but an eye-catching move to Sevilla has also been mooted.

READ: ‘Something I’ll never forget’: Brereton on Chile and his Copa adventure

Lloyd Kelly

Bournemouth boss Scott Parker gave the captain’s armband to Kelly on a stand-in basis with Steve Cook out of the side. But following Cook’s departure to Forest in January, the ball-playing centre-back was handed the role on a permanent basis, becoming the youngest skipper in the division at 23.

The former England Under-21 international has always possessed bags of potential, and he’s now showcasing his quality at the Cherries as a mainstay in the club’s line-up.

“I think Lloyd Kelly has got the attributes and the ability to be a top Premier League centre-half,” Bournemouth boss Scott Parker said last month. “And I think we are blessed and very, very lucky to have someone of his quality, really.

“You take players like Lloyd Kelly probably for granted in the sense of he makes things look very effortless and easy.”

Parker has assembled a squad littered with Premier League experience and Kelly will get his chance to shine in the English top-flight for the Cherries – or one of the many Premier League suitors circling around the Bristolian defender.


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