Leeds, Man City & Chelsea starlets among 8 nominees for PL2 POTY
The 2022-23 Premier League 2 campaign has drawn to a close, and some of its most outstanding rising stars – including players at Leeds United, Manchester City and Chelsea – will be hoping to push on and break through into regular senior football next season.
Man City retained their crown in the top tier of the professional Under-21 development league, while in the second tier Southampton achieved promotion as league leaders and Leeds went up via the play-offs – they’re set to replace relegated Tottenham and Leicester City.
The competition has announced its eight nominees for Player of the Season. We’ve taken a look through to give you the lowdown on each and every one of them.
Reyes Cleary (West Brom)
England Under-19s gave Clearly a well-deserved first call-up back in March after his scintillating form for West Brom’s youth side.
The 19-year-old forward scored 16 goals and notched three assists in 12 Premier League 2 appearances.
“We have really worked on Reyes with his fitness,” Baggies Under-21 manager Richard Beale said back in October. “He’s worked really hard to get himself fitter and in better shape, and he’s reaping the rewards of that now.
“He’s a really, really good finisher and he’s got bags of pace. They’re not two bad attributes to have for a player in his position.”
Cleary made a handful of appearances for the senior team last season but his season ended early after suffering a nasty injury in April. He’s one to watch next season – it’ll be interesting to see whether he gets integrated into Carlos Corberan’s first-team plans.
Carlos Borges (Man City)
The Portugal Under-19 international, a winger, absolutely tore the Premier League 2 a new one with 21 goals and 11 assists in just 24 appearances.
You already get the sense that Borges, 19, has already outgrown youth football and deserves a shot in senior men’s football next term.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll have a role to play in Pep Guardiola’s team, but at the very least a loan elsewhere could well be beneficial for all involved.
Oscar Bobb (Man City)
Manchester City signed Bobb from Oslo-based Valerenga back in 2019. He had just turned 16 back then but was already being earmarked by The Guardian’s Next Generation feature as City’s brightest prospect.
Fast forward four years and his development is going as planned. The forward has progressed through Norway’s youth ranks and was one of City’s brightest sparks as their Under-21s retained the Premier League 2 title.
Bobb was named City’s EDS Player of the Year last season and could end year two with another individual accolade. He notched a league-high 16 assists last term and his senior debut will surely come next season.
Adedire Mebude (Man City)
Scotland fans are getting very excited about their latest Under-21 prospect – and rightly so, given the cracking strike he unleashed nine minutes into his debut.
Completing a trio of Man City wonderkids, the future looks very bright indeed at the Etihad.
Dominic Ballard (Southampton)
“Honestly, a great season. We deserved everything we got and what an honour,” Ballard reflected on Southampton Under-21’s table-topping 2022-23 campaign.
“We have come up as a group and I wouldn’t want to spend it with any other boys. We all have our achievements together, we win together and we lose together, and we have obviously had two of these nights now when we have won.
“It has been a good season for me personally and I just think it is a reflection on the team. It is not just my doing, it is everyone and I just want to push on now and try to break through to the first team, hopefully.”
The 18-year-old striker scored 13 goals to fire the young side to promotion.
The senior team’s relegation to the Championship may present an opportunity for Ballard to make his breakthrough next term.
Mateo Joseph (Leeds United)
We don’t like to blow our own trumpets, but we suggested that young Joseph was one worth keeping an eye on at Leeds when he first signed for the club in January 2022.
The striker had shown plenty of promise out at Espanyol and his rise has continued at West Yorkshire. The 19-year-old striker was outstanding for Leeds’ Under-21s as they achieved promotion and has a few appearances for the first team under his belt.
Joseph is eligible to play for Spain but appeared to have nailed his colours to England’s mast for now – the day after featuring in Leeds’ 3-0 play-off final victory over Nottingham Forest, he flew out to Argentina to join the Young Lions camp for the upcoming Under-20 World Cup.
Mateo Joseph is some player ⚽pic.twitter.com/jJdp6zSGUw
— LUFCMOT (@LUFCMOTcom) May 17, 2023
Alfie Gilchrist (Chelsea)
The likes of Fikayo Tomori and Levi Colwill have emerged as quality young centre-backs from Chelsea’s academy in recent years and if the early evidence is anything to go by, 19-year-old Gilchrist could be the next off the Cobham assembly line.
The local lad comes from a family of die-hard Chelsea supporters and has risen through the ranks since signing as an Under-11 from QPR.
One that Mauricio Pochettino may well be keeping tabs on as he looks to steer the ship around for Todd Boehly’s flailing youth-focused programme.
Back in January it was reported that Patrick Vieira personally intervened to keep Wells-Morrison at Selhurst Park amid loan offers for the highly-rated prospect.
The central midfielder, 19, has been named on Crystal Palace’s bench on a few occasions but is still awaiting his senior Eagles debut. Nevertheless, he progressed along nicely as a near ever-present for Darren Powell’s Under-21s.