Five lower league players ready to step up in January

For clubs in the Premier League the summer is a time to re-evaluate and take stock of the season just gone and start planning the next campaign. While many transfers are either between top flight sides or from other top European clubs there is much to be said for finding a bargain – of sorts – from the lower leagues.

Many Premier League coaches have complained in the past that some of the top players from the Championship are overpriced compared to players from elsewhere in the world but local knowledge of English football cannot be underestimated. And there are some real gems to be found in the lower leagues who could make an early step up when the transfer window opens next month.


One Championship player that really stands out is QPR’s Charlie Austin. Already proven in the top flight – he scored 18 of the club’s total of 42 when they were last there – Austin already has plenty of admirers and it would be a massive surprise if he is not playing for a Premier League side next season. Only his injury problems would stop the powerful striker’s chances.


Another player who could make the step up to the big league is Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes. The Scottish international really came to prominence in 2012 when his 36 goals for Huddersfield Town earnt him an £8 million move to Ewood Park. Rhodes has continued to shine in Lancashire but was disappointed when a move to Middlesbrough was turned down in the summer, so that could play a part if someone else comes in for him at the end of the season.


Derby County midfielder Will Hughes burst on to the scene a couple of years ago and has been impressing ever since. His attacking style and ability to find the perfect through ball are just as impressive as his defensive qualities and he has attracted interest from Premier League sides since Nigel Clough first gave him a chance in the 2011/12 season. A really bad cruciate ligament injury sustained on the opening day of this season has kept him on the side-lines but by all accounts Hughes is recovering well and looks likely to return around February. January will be too early to make the switch but if he can reclaim the form from before the injury there will no doubt be a few clubs taking a great deal of notice.


Much was expected of Henri Lansbury when he was at Arsenal but after a number of loan spells around the Championship the midfielder moved permanently to Nottingham Forest in 2012. He was made captain when Chris Cohen was ruled out for the season and his traditional attacking displays have taken a more defensive play-making quality recently. An on-off move to Burnley (when they were in the Premier League) seems to be behind him now but an impressive start to the season with Forest might create a bit of interest once again.


Daniel Ayala may not need to move to join a Premier League club if Middlesbrough continue the kind of form they have been showing so far this season. Under the management of compatriot Aitor Karanka, the Teesside club have been a permanent fixture around the top of the table and were unlucky not to be promoted last season. Ayala’s physical presence is felt at the back but also in attacking positions and has arguably become one of the best defenders in the league. Although he has played the majority of his career in the Championship he also has some top flight experience and it is very likely that he will be sampling some more soon – with or without Boro.


It is more likely that the teams promoted from the Championship will be the ones to look at some of the players they are more familiar with, while the big boys of the Premier League tend to recruit from elsewhere. But, even with the huge gulf between the leagues, there are a few talented players that could make the step up. It just needs a Premier League club to take that chance.

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