Sportsmail has made up an XI of the young English stars breaking through
Many of them are enjoying breakthrough seasons and have significant potential
Several young English players have featured in the Premier League this season
There has long-been a gripe from English managers over recent decades regarding the lack of homegrown stars being handed opportunities in the Premier League.
From Sven-Goran Eriksson to Fabio Capello to Gareth Southgate, Three Lions bosses have regularly bemoaned the limited exposure for the most promising English youngsters in the top flight.
This was particularly pertinent during the era where the national team seemed to plunge to new depths in every international tournament and admiring glances were taken in the direction of other nations such as Spain and Italy who saw a large proportion of their domestic leagues made up of homegrown stars.
Several young English players like Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka are shining in the Premier League
This has given a huge boost to England’s prospects of success under Gareth Southgate
However, in line with the transformation of the national team under Southgate, there has also been a rise in the amount of English players featuring in the Premier League in the past few years.
In fact, last season saw English players make up 41.2 per cent of players in the top flight, according to the Times - the highest proportion in 17 years.
This is evident in Southgate’s side, with stars such as Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice and Phil Foden huge parts of the Three Lions team in Qatar after being thrown in to the Premier League as teenagers.
Young talents such as Harvey Elliott (L) and Anthony Gordon (R) have emerged in recent years
Recent seasons have also seen young players such as Harvey Elliott, Anthony Gordon and Curtis Jones take opportunities provided to them and shine, in a huge boost to the future of English football – although all three are yet to make their debut for the senior men’s England side.
In light of that, Sportsmail brings together an XI of the best English youngsters aged 21 or under who are enjoying a breakthrough season in the Premier League this year.
GK – Matthew Cox (Brentford)
The goalkeeper position for this team was the toughest place to start – with the youngest English stopper to start a game in the Premier league being 24-year-old Aaron Ramsdale – an already established top flight No. 1 with 128 appearances to his name.
Matthew Cox is just 19, but he has already featured on Brentford’s bench on 10 occasions this season, having been the goalkeeper of the tournament in England Under-19’s Euros triumph in the summer.
The Bees tied Cox down on a new six-year deal last year, demonstrating how highly he is rated.
At the time, Thomas Frank said: ‘I think Matt has all the attributes a modern goalkeeper needs. We have a big belief we can help Matt with that and he can continue to improve.’
Bretford’s Matthew Cox is a highly-rated keeper and has played for England at youth level
RB – Rico Lewis (Man City)
No doubt the breakout star of the season, Rico Lewis is just 18 – but he has emerged to establish himself as Pep Guardiola’s current first choice right-back – keeping out two experienced internationals in Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker.
After captaining City’s Under-18 side last year, he has gone on to make 13 appearance this season and scored on his first Champions League start against Sevilla.
Lewis has shown a maturity beyond his years, stepping into midfield as an inverted full-back and he even made the shortlist for Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2022.
Man City defender Rico Lewis has emerged from nowhere to make the right-back spot his own
Lewis is 18, but Pep Guardiola has entrusted him above Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo recently
CB – Levi Colwill (Brighton – on loan from Chelsea)
After starring for Huddersfield Town on their way to the Championship play-off final last season, there was significant clamour for Levi Colwill’s signature this summer.
Brighton won the race, but could only secure a loan deal – with Chelsea keen to not let the 19-year-old centre-back leave permanently – insisting he has a future in the Blues first team.
He had to bide his time at the Amex Stadium, but Colwill has excelled since the World Cup before he picked up a quad injury that will see him miss between four to six weeks.
Levi Colwill broke into the Brighton team after the World Cup and has showed his quality
CB – Luke Thomas (Leicester City)
Leicester City have struggled to find a reliable option at left-back ever since Ben Chilwell moved to Chelsea in 2020, but Luke Thomas is starting to deliver upon his promise.
While he is more a full-back than a centre-back, the 21-year-old has filled in there at times for the Foxes and he has begun to establish himself as first choice left-back for Brendan Rodgers’s side as they struggle with significant injury problems.
Thomas has now racked up 75 appearances for the club – while he has also won 10 caps for England Under-21s – although the impending signing of Victor Kristiansen from FC Copenhagen will provide a challenge for him.
England Under-21 international Luke Thomas has made 75 appearances for Leicester City
LB – Lewis Hall (Chelsea)
Despite being a centre-midfielder by trade, Lewis Hall has impressed since being thrown into Graham Potter’s struggling side at left-back.
Testament to his performances is that he’s kept £62m summer signing Marc Cucurella out of the side, although the Spaniard was reinstated against Liverpool on Saturday, with Hall moved into a midfield role.
However, the 18-year-old impressed again with his relentless running and bundles of enthusiasm – and with a manager who is keen to entrust youth – this is surely just the start for Hall.
Youngster Lewis Hall has been preferred at left-back to Marc Cucurella in recent weeks
CM – Joe Hodge (Wolves)
Despite being a Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, Joe Hodge qualifies for England and has also represented the Three Lions at youth level.
After leaving Man City to join Wolves in 2021, Hodge has broken through this year at Molineux and the 20-year-old started his first Premier League game against Everton when Julen Lopetegui’s side secured a crucial win.
He has made 10 appearances in total for the club and was handed a new long-term deal last week.
Wolves’ 20-year-old midfielder Joe Hodge has impressed for Julen Lopetegui’s side this year
CM – Carney Chukwuemeka (Chelsea)
Another young Chelsea star, the Blues brought in Carney Chukwuemeka for £20m from Aston Villa in the summer.
He has been an almost ever-present on the bench throughout this season, and made his first league start against Crystal Palace recently – with the midfielder featuring nine times in total.
Chukwuemeka has represented from Under-17 to Under-20 level and shone at their triumphant Under-19 Euros campaign in the summer – scoring three times and adding two assists in five games.
Carney Chukwuemeka is another youngster to be entrusted by Graham Potter in recent weeks
RM – Samuel Edozie (Southampton)
After joining Southampton for a £10m fee in the summer as part of what felt like a mass exodus of young talent from Man City to St Mary’s, Samuel Edozie has become a mainstay of Nathan Jones’s side, making 16 appearances in all competitions this season.
Edozie made his debut for City in the Community Shield curtain raiser in the 2021-22 season and seemed certain to break into Pep Guardiola’s side before injury.
He was valued highly at the Etihad after they signed him from Millwall as a 16-year-old for more than £1m – and the now-19-year-old has shown glimpses of his potential so far at Southampton – impressing with his trickery and direct running.
Samuel Edozie has begun to establish himself in Southampton’s first time since his £10m move
CAM – Elliot Anderson (Newcastle)
Elliot Anderson returned to Newcastle in the summer after a superb loan spell at Bristol Rovers where he scored eight times and added five assists in just 21 games to inspire Joey Barton’s side to promotion from League Two.
Despite the significant jump in levels, Anderson has since been involved in all but four of the Magpies’ Premier League match day squads, making 11 appearances in all competitions and the 20-year-old was rewarded with a new long-term contract earlier this season after his rapid progress.
Anderson did make his debut for Scotland Under-21s last summer – but he was not in their squad in the last international break – and he also qualifies for England having been born in Whitley Bay.