For the purpose of this article, a ‘youngster’ is a player aged 21 or under as of August 1st 2021.
Harry Darling (Milton Keynes Dons)
Touted as a future England International and the darling of many neutral EFL fans, Harry will be looking to build on an impressive 2020/21 campaign. After joining MK Dons from Cambridge in January, Darling established himself at the heart of the MK defence and fought off some serious competition to win the club’s Young Player of the Season award. His performances last season and his ability to play out from the back (with a passing accuracy of 90.6%) will have alerted plenty of clubs higher up the English football pyramid.
Nathanael Ogbeta (Shrewsbury Town)
Sometimes you have to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. After leaving Manchester City in January, Nathanael Ogbeta made an excellent impression at Montgomery Waters Meadow in the second half of last season. Ogbeta is an attacking left back/left wing back who scored two goals, provided one assist and completed 71.4% of his attempted dribbles in League One last season.
Jack Tucker (Gillingham)
Despite only being 21, Jack Tucker has already played 87 games at the heart of Gillingham’s defence. Last season, the right-footed centre half, who is equally comfortable in the left centre back position, amassed an impressive amount of interceptions (307) and clearances (197), in addition to winning his fair share of aerial duels. Steve Evans wouldn’t have it any other way.
Matt O’Riley (Milton Keynes Dons)
After spending the first half of the season training with the club, it was no surprise when Matt O’Riley signed for MK Dons in January 2021. The former Fulham man, who rejected a new deal with the Cottagers in July 2020, can play in a number of positions and fulfil a variety of roles in and around the midfield area. MK Dons fans will be hoping that O’Riley’s three goals and three assists in the second half of last season are a sign of things to come.
Ayoub Assal (AFC Wimbledon)
When Mark Robinson was handed the managerial reins at AFC Wimbledon, he put his faith in what he knew – the club’s young players. Under the guidance of Robinson, the likes of Jack Rudoni, Nesta Guinness-Walker and Ayoub Assal helped to steer the club away from danger in the latter months of the season. Versatile forward Assal was pivotal to a run of four wins in ten days (contributing three goals and one assist in that time) which ultimately helped the Dons keep their heads above water.
(Photo Creds – Ran Berkovich)