Luca Connell (Barnsley)
The Reds signed midfielder Luca Connell on a free transfer from Scottish giants Celtic this
summer and the 21-year-old has appeared in every Barnsley game so far this season.
Kicking off his career at Bolton, Connell made his professional debut for the Trotters at the
age of just 17 given his first start in an FA Cup fourth round defeat to Bristol City, in which he
set up his side’s goal in a 2-1 loss. That performance earned the Wanderers youngster a
chance for the remainder of the 2018/19 Championship season, where he made a further 10
appearances for Bolton before impressing the look full eyes of Celtic who would sign the teen that summer for a £350,000 fee.
In a three year stint in Glasgow, the defensive midfielder failed to make a senior appearance
for the Hoops, before being released this year, despite further 12 months remaining on his
contract. During his time North of the border, Connell enjoyed two productive loan spells with Queen’s Park, with whom he helped secure back-to-back promotions from the Scottish
League Two to League One and then into the Scottish Championship. The Celtic loanee
played a key role in the Queen’s Park rise, bagging 10 goals and providing 11 assists in his
42 games for the club.
Connell has fast become a mainstay at his new home having played over 700 minutes of
Barnley’s football so far this campaign. Settling in quickly, his stock was elevated greatly
amongst Tykes supporters following a dominant midfield display in Barnsley’s 2-0 win away
at South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday. Setting up a goal in the derby, Connell has
shown his class with three assists already for the Reds, adding numbers to his all-round
impressive game. Barnsley are well-known for their ability to find gems for pennies, and
Luca Connell could well be another to add to that list.
Dane Scarlett (Portsmouth)
England under 19s star, Dane Scarlett, joined Pompey on loan from Tottenham Hotspur this
summer and comes to Fratton Park with some serious pedigree. On the 26th November
2020, at the age of 16 years and 247 days, the striker became Spurs’ youngest ever player
to appear in a competitive game when he came on as a substitute in the Europa League
against Ludogorets Razgrad. At the time, Scarlett beat the record previously held by John
Bostock, but has since been bettered by Alfie Devine.
In February 2021, Jose Mourinho handed the teen his Premier League debut coming on as a
substitute against West Brom, with the legendary Portuguese gaffer saying “I wanted to be
the one to put him on in a Premier League match. Because I know that he will be somebody
in a few years. Quite the seal of approval, and an admission which was legitimised later that month when Scarlett became the youngest player to provide a Europa League assist since Kylian Mbappe, as he set up Spurs forward Carlos Vinicius in a 4-0 victory over Austrian side Wolfsberger AC.
At 17, Scarlett made his first professional start in a 1-0 Europa Conference League defeat to
Pacos De Ferreira and has since been bound to youth football at Tottenham. Away from club
football, the Englishman has also impressed at youth level for his country, scoring 12 goals
in 14 England under 19s caps. Now it’s time for the youngster to prove himself in senior
football. So often players come through the ranks having lit up academy football only to
extinguish excitement when they get to the first team. And so far so good for Tottenham’s
Scarlett made his first contribution, producing an assist from the bench in Portsmouth’s 3-1
win over Bristol Rovers. The 18-year-old then struck his first senior goal in Pompey’s 1-0 win
at Port Vale before bagging a brace the following week as Danny Cowley’s side edged
promotion rivals Peterborough 2-1 at Fratton Park. In between those games, Scarlett also
opened his account in the EFL Trophy, striking in a 2-2 draw with Crawley, leaving the
forward with four goals in nine appearances. At such a young age, Pompey’s loan star is
certainly an exciting prospect, with evidence to back up the hype thanks to two goals against
one of the better sides in this division in Peterborough. If he carries on his early trajectory,
don’t be surprised to see Scarlett pushing to be in that Spurs team in the not too distant
Connor Bradley (Bolton Wanderers)
The Trotters signed 19-year-old right-back, Conor Bradley, on loan from Liverpool this
summer and the teen has already made an excellent start to his time in League One.
Starting his youth career with hometown team St Patricks FC in Northern Ireland, Bradley
was snapped up by Liverpool at the age of 16 and became the first Northern Irishman to
feature for the Merseyside club since Sammy Smyth in 1954, making his debut in a Carabao
Cup tie with Norwich last season.
On the international stage, Bradley impressed at youth level captaining the Northern Ireland
under 16s to in 2018 as they won the ‘Victory Shield’ tournament. The full-back has since
gone on to make eight caps for his country’s senior national team, making his debut at just
17 years old against Malta in May 2021.
The new Bolton boy has shown all the swagger of a teenage international footballer since his
move, scoring twice and contributing three assists in his opening eight league games whilst
also chipping in with a goal in the Carabao Cup. The youngster loves to burst forwards,
making him the perfect candidate for Ian Evatt’s right wing-back spot and could be
somewhat of a secret weapon in the Bolton barracks. After an explosive start to third tier
football, Bradley is sure to be one to keep an eye out for not only this season but in years to
Lewis Dobbin (Derby County)
Another young Premier League loanee, Lewis Dobbin also made his name at youth level for
England. The Everton forward penned a deal to bring him to Pride Park for the season,
bringing versatility to the Rams attacking options, with Dobbin able to play from the left or the right as well as down the middle as the central striker and even in the ‘number 10’ role.
Five goals in ten games for England under 17s made the Toffees realise they have a talent
amongst their ranks. The 19-year-old joined Everton aged 11, and made his senior debut on
25th September 2021, coming on as a substitute in a 2-0 Premier League home win over
Norwich City. With just three league appearances, Dobbin is yet to really break into the first
team at Goodison Park and will be hoping a good year on loan will help him force his way
into the reckoning on Merseyside. All three of his appearances came last season, a year in
which he also featured 18 times in the ‘Premier League 2’ scoring six goals for Everton’s
Most commonly played on the left, Dobbin is yet to net for the Rams after 10 appearances,
but has played a part with two assists for Liam Rosenior’s side. It may well be a case of
needing time to adapt to the men’s game for Derby’s loanee, though it would be foolish to
write the youngster off already. By all accounts Dobbin is a talented young man and
surrounded by the likes of Conor Hourihane, David McGoldrick and Tom Barkhuizen it’s
surely only a matter of time before the forward breaks his duck and starts to show what he
can really do.
Ronnie Edwards (Peterborough United)
In contrast to a lot of Premier League academy stars on this list, Ronnie Edwards began his
career with Barnet, making his full debut for the first team in 2019 at the age of just 16 after
captaining the under 18s team. The young defender made five appearances for the Bees in
2019/20 before joining Peterborough United following a successful trial with the club.
Edwards made his Posh debut in the EFL Trophy against Burton Albion in 2020, but it wasn’t
until last season where he really broke into the side, making 34 appearances in the
Championship winning the Peterborough player of the year award as the club faced
relegation in 2021/22.
One of the few shining lights in a disappointing season at London Road, Edwards was called
up for the England 2022 European under 19s Championship squad this summer. The
Peterborough centre back made four appearances through the tournament, including the
semi-final and final as the England under 19s won the competition beating Israel 3-1 after
extra-time to lift the trophy.
After an impressive breakthrough year in the division above, Edwards will now look to be
one of the more dominant defenders in League One this term and help his Posh side bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking. At just 19 years old with plenty of second flight minutes under his belt, don’t be surprised to see Edwards shooting up the
divisions in the next couple of years as he’s a young man tipped for a very bright future.
Miles Leaburn (Charlton Athletic)
Young forward Miles Leaburn came through the Chelsea academy before making a move to
The Valley in 2019, where he was welcomed with open arms after his father Carl Leaburn
had previously played for Charlton. 344 League games with 53 goals for Leaburn senior with
the Addicks, meaning there’s quite the sense of optimism around Charlton’s latest starlet.
That optimism must have sky-rocketed when the second coming of Leaburn scored from the
bench on his Charlton debut in their opening 2-2 draw at Accrington Stanley, what would
have been a 94th minute winner for junior, had it not been for a party-pooping 96th minute
equaliser for the hosts. But, the young man wouldn’t let it dampen the start to his senior
career, scoring in front of the adoring Addicks fans a few weeks later as Ben Garner’s side
thumped Plymouth 5-1. And another goal came for Leaburn at The Valley in a 3-0 EFL
Trophy victory over Gillingham.
With three goals and an assist from his first 11 games, the 18-year-old has shown he’s a
chip off the old block with that golden goal-scoring touch. Miles is only the third second-
generation Addick to represent the London club’s first team with his old man proving popular at The Valley for over a decade between 1987 and 1998. But, Miles has shown more than just the name and if he can continue that early scoring form, he’s sure to go down in
Charlton Athletic folklore for a very long time.