With the start of the 2017/18 domestic campaign knocking on the door, the opportunity for a relative unknown to prove themselves and find stardom in the Championship has arisen once again.
Over the last few seasons, Moussa Dembele, Jordan Pickford, Troy Deeney and Demarai Gray have all used England’s second tier to catapult themselves to fame.
Here are a plausible handful performers to watch out for next term, and why they could be the next big thing to come out of one of the world’s most competitive divisions.
1. Martin Braithwaite – Middlesbrough
Garry Monk’s mission to propel Middlesbrough back towards the heights of the Premier League again next term will only be a success if he buys well in the summer, and Martin Braithwaite could arise as a worthy catalyst for the club.
The Danish international striker recently linked-up at the Riverside from Ligue 1’s FC Toulouse for £9.6m, a figure, which could prove a bargain for the speedy attacker.
Scoring 12 times last season and offering three assists means that Braithwaite has the ability to cause opposing defenders a problem, and should only improve under Monk’s command for Boro – a shrewd move which ultimately harbours much promise.
2. Helder Costa – Wolverhampton Wanderers
There appears to be a Portuguese theme happening at Molineux with Nuno Espírito Santo at the helm, and fellow Portuguese national Helder Costa emerges as one of the second tier’s most exciting talents to watch.
With the Portuguese game lauded for its guile and trickery, Costa embodies everything to which you would have expected given the country’s reputation for endorsing attractive football.
The 23-year-old’s offensive stats at Wolves were virtually mirrored last term after finding the net 12 times and providing 11 assists, and being fairly tender in years, the attacker is destined to have much more of a prolific campaign on the cards when it kicks off in August.
3. Adama Traore – Middlesbrough
Signings – like Braithwaite for Boro – will always bolster a club’s chances of promotion, although Adama Troare, who had invaluable experience in the Premier League last term, will also give them a real sense of hope and confidence.
At times (albeit too infrequently) last season the winger was almost unplayable, a true shining light for Middlesbrough in a season season which was gloomy to say the least. However, the 21-year-old still has the capacity to shine even brighter.
The former Barcelona B man marries both pace and power in his game, traits which make him a potent character to contend with on the wing, and will leave many a defender scratching their head next year.
4. Tom Cairney – Fulham
A season for Fulham which left them dangling agonisingly on the cusp of a trip to Wembley was propped up by Tom Cairney, a playmaker who was a top performer in the middle of the park.
The newly-capped Scotland international’s locker is filled to the brim with talent, skills which saw him score 13 times last term from both inside and outside the box, whilst supplying his squad with 12 assists making him an assured outlet.
Fulham are amongst the few clubs which have been favoured for promotion next season, and if the 26-year-old is firing on all cylinders, the Whites will surface as one of the undoubted favourites.
5. Abel Hernandez – Hull City
Hull City were also unfortunate casualties from the top-flight last season, and the Tigers’ Abel Hernandez suffered through a frustrating year in front of goal, but a potential change in luck is looming large.
Despite only notching five goals last term, it would be foolish to write the Uruguayan striker off as his underlying calibre is surely ready to wake from its dormant, fruitless spell as his club search for supremacy.
The 26-year-old is one of the most potent threats in Leonid Slutsky’s squad and is without a doubt one of the more explosive strikers in the Championship – form being a major determiner, however.
6. Chris Wood – Leeds United
Chris Wood finished as the Championship’s highest scorer last term after beating the keeper 27 times domestically, a record which speaks volumes of the class to which he exemplifies in-front of the target week in, week out.
Leeds are certainly blessed to have the New Zealand international striker in their ranks, and will rely on his services next year if they’re to also reach the hallowed ground of the Premier League.
The 25-year-old is typically a strapping target-man, with the prowess to effortlessly hold the ball up for his teammates and dictate the run of play for his own benefit – a man who has perfected the formula for endless goals, it seems.
7. Jack Grealish – Aston Villa
Tipped for big things in the early stages of his career, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish hasn’t necessarily lived up to expectation in recent times – with his personal life dominating the headlines for all the wrong reasons so far.
However, with Villa seeking a route back into the Premier League, a healthy dose of redemption is in store for the England Under-21 international next term as the 21-year-old certainly has what it takes to steal the headlines for all the right reasons.
Grealish is an attacking midfielder who shepherds the ball across the turf with artistry and finesse, qualities which should flourish alongside his knowledge of the game and his position – experience which will bloom under Steve Bruce at Villa Park next year.