It’s been barely a few days since the 2014-15 Premier League season finished and we’re already counting down to the next campaign (only three weeks until the fixtures!). Taking a moment to look back at the league’s final day, though, there were a number of youngsters played by their clubs that we’re expecting to make a real breakthrough with a strong pre-season under them. We’ve listed a few of those players along with some other hot prospects that give their clubs a lot to be excited about for next term.
Reece Burke, West Ham United
The Hammers academy hasn’t produced as many first team players as it once did, certainly not under Sam Allardyce’s managerial tenure, but he looks to have blooded one through towards the end of his time at Upton Park in Reece Burke. Injuries to Winston Reid and James Tomkins saw 18 year-old Burke start at centre back away at QPR in April – his Premier League debut – and after helping to secure a clean sheet he featured in each of West Ham’s remaining four fixtures, including a start on the final day at Newcastle despite James Tomkins’ return to fitness. It’s rare that central defenders break through so young at this level, not least without previous loan experience, and Burke has really put himself in contention for a regular place next season. Whoever the next West Ham manager turns out to be, they should likely be impressed by the teenager this summer.
Matt Grimes, Swansea City
The jump from mid-table League Two to the top half of the Premier League is always going to be tough, which is almost certainly why Swansea’s Matt Grimes didn’t feature until April following his January move from Exeter City. The 19 year-old midfielder made three substitute appearances towards the end of the campaign, including twenty minutes on the final day at Crystal Palace. Jonjo Shelvey and Gylfi Sigurdsson understandably occupy the central midfield spots at the Liberty Stadium when fit, but with Leon Britton’s long-serving stint at the club seemingly winding down in reserve, there’s a great chance of Grimes getting regular game time off the bench next season, or even in the starting line-up should Shelvey depart.
Brendan Galloway, Everton
The first of two former Milton Keynes Dons players we’re earmarked, Brendan Galloway is a left back who may well be the heir to Leighton Baines’ throne at Goodison Park. Signed last summer, Galloway made his debut after playing the Toffees’ last two matches of the league season in place of the injured Baines. The full back is a regular in the England under-19 squad and played 84 minutes in the last day defeat to Spurs, only being replaced to allow Sylvain Distin a Goodison farewell in his last game for the club. Baines is an important figure for Everton but has had his share of injury problems this campaign and if that doesn’t let up then Galloway will get more opportunities. If he approaches pre-season with the attitude that he is there to compete for Baines’ spot, who knows what could happen.
Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur (pictured)
With 88 senior career appearances at the age of 19, midfielder Dele Alli has a wealth of football league experience under his belt and looks set for an opportunity in the Premier League next season. Spurs signed the teenager from MK Dons in January but immediately loaned him back so that he could continue the Buckinghamshire side’s (ultimately succesful) march to the Championship for the first time since their controversial rebrand. Alli finished the season with 16 league goals for Milton Keynes and his talents can flourish under the management of Mauricio Pochettino, who is one of the more reliable top flight gaffers when it comes to pushing young players into the senrior set up. There’s plenty of competition in midfield at White Hart Lane, and he may even make another loan move away next season, but there should be one or two Premier League suitors at the other end of the table and Alli has the ability to make an impression at that level.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea
Much was made about the Blues youngster’s league debut earlier in the season, with his appearance against Manchester City in January heralded as the start of a promising career at the top. It’s been a bit of an anti-climax since then, with just two further appearances coming since then but one of them was a start versus Liverpool where he impressed. It’s evidently very difficult to break through at the champions, where the temptation to spend big on a proven signing over blooding youngsters is massive, but with Jose Mourinho’s insistence that he will blood players from Chelsea’s heavily invested Academy, this summer should be the time for Loftus-Cheek to grab his chance.