Brewster is one of a number of youngsters who could break through in the Premier League this season | Visionhaus/Getty Images
Few things in football bring out the same mix of emotions as watching as a young, fresh faced academy product take their first tentative steps into the first team.
There’s the inflated sense of pride at seeing a homegrown talent representing your club – he’s one of our own and all that – but there’s also the dawning sense of inadequacy and the startling realisation of how old you are.
He’s how young? He was born when? What had I achieved by the time I was 17?
While last season it was Mason Greenwood, Mason Mount and Bukayo Saka, let’s take a look at who could breakthrough in the Premier League during the 2020/21 campaign.
Cirjan first played senior football aged 13 | James Chance/Getty Images
The 17-year-old joined Arsenal in the summer of 2019 from Viitorul Domnesti in his native Romania.
Blessed with stunning skill and balance that enables him to glide past players with ease, Cirjan can operate in a deep lying midfield role or as a number 10.
He has been tipped to be promoted to the Under-23 setup ahead of the 2020/21 season. His slight frame could be considered an issue in his bid to make the jump into senior football next season – but given he was playing in the Viitorul Domnesti first team in Romania’s third tier at the age of 13, we reckon he can handle himself.
Good to get 60 minutes in the tank with the first team ? @AVFCOfficial #AVFC pic.twitter.com/W9L90KMw8v
— Kaine Kesler (@KaineKeslerHayd) August 26, 2020
Kesler was one of a handful of youngsters training and travelling with Villa’s first team towards the back end of the 2019/20 season, and having caught the eye of Dean Smith and John Terry, could make the step up next season.
The 17-year-old has a real versatility about him: he can operate as a right-sided full-back or winger, and even dabbled as a striker during his youth career.
Despite not yet celebrating his 18th birthday, Kesler has already been a regular fixture in the Villa Under-23 side. Quick, fearless and a decent crosser of the ball, the youngster is the ideal modern day full-back.
? Another England call up for Burnley! Young striker Lewis Richardson has been called up to the u17 side.#twitterclarets #UTC pic.twitter.com/5ReqAAKY8J
— ???????? ??????? (@TurfCastPodcast) August 30, 2019
Burnley boast an ever-improving youth system and reached the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup during the 2019/20 campaign. The pick of the bunch from their youth team is 17-year-old forward Lewis Richardson.
Richardson shot to fame (in Burnley, sort of) when he found the net five times during his debut for the Clarets’ youth team aged just 15. He signed his first professional contract with the club in February, having already represented England at various youth levels and been involved with the Burnley first team.
The striker has trained with the senior side and was named among the substitutes for their Carabao Cup clash with Sunderland in August 2019. A natural goalscorer, he is regarded as the next big thing at Turf Moore.
White is awaiting his top flight debut | Lewis Storey/Getty Images
The defender needs very little introduction following his hugely impressive season on loan at Leeds. White was instrumental in Leeds’ promotion winning campaign, and Marcelo Bielsa’s side had a selection of big money bids turned down for the 22-year-old before he penned a bumper four-year deal with Brighton.
Cool, composed, good on the ball but also a lover of a crunching tackle, White is a highly accomplished centre-back.
He will face stiff competition for a starting berth at Brighton from the more experienced Adam Webster, Lewis Dunk and Dan Burn, but given the intense interest from Leeds, White would likely not have committed his future to Brighton to then warm the bench.
Anjorin faces a tough task to break into the Chelsea team this season | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images
A selection of youngsters broke into Frank Lampard’s young Chelsea side during the 2019/20 season, but the lifting of their transfer ban and the consequent lavish spending could stunt the first team progress of other academy products.
If any new teenagers do manage to squeeze their way past Chelsea’s new mega-money recruits and into the first team fold, Tino Anjorin will be the one to do it.
The midfielder made his Premier League debut against Everton in March, and has since signed a five-year deal, demonstrating the faith the club have in the 18-year-old.
Mitchell caught the eye towards the back end of last season | James Chance/Getty Images
From the youth system that has already spawned Victor Moses, Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bissaka comes Tyrick Mitchell, who is already drawing comparisons to the latter.
The 21-year-old left-back was in and around the fringes of the Palace first team throughout the 2019/20 campaign. He made the matchday squad for the first time in December, made his debut from the bench in July, and started the Eagles’ final two Premier League matches of the season.
Palace have already made their commitment to youth clear with their transfer policy this summer, and Mitchell could benefit from this during the 2020/21 campaign.
Gordon made a handful of first team appearances last season | Harriet Lander/Getty Images
Gordon made his senior debut for Everton as a 16-year-old in the Europa League back in 2017, but had to wait another two and a half years to make his Premier League bow.
The 19-year-old was gradually drip fed into the Everton first team by Carlo Ancelotti towards the end of the 2019/20 season, with June’s Merseyside derby his first top-flight start.
Gordon penned a five-year deal with the club at the beginning of September, demonstrating how highly rated he is at Goodison. Having made four Premier League starts last season, more are expected to follow come 2020/21.
Stanfield made one Championship appearance last season | Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images
Fulham poached Jay Stansfield from Exeter in 2019, and he has turned heads with a series of impressive displays for their Under-18s during the 2019/20 season.
In November he scored three successive hat-tricks for Fulham’s youth side – including four goals in a 5-3 victory over Norwich.
Stansfield made his first team debut in the FA Cup in January 2020, and could be knocking on Scott Parker’s door should his goal scoring feats continue this season.
? | #LUFC are delighted to announce that Academy forward Niall Huggins has signed a professional deal with the club
— Leeds United (@LUFC) May 22, 2019
Backed by both Kalvin Phillips and Paul Robinson to go onto big things at Leeds is forward Niall Huggins.
The 19-year-old Wales youth international penned his first professional contract in May 2019 and can play anywhere across the front three.
He enjoyed a particularly impressive campaign with the Under-23 side prior to the season’s curtailment.
Thomas broke into the first team at the end of the 2019/20 season | Michael Regan/Getty Images
Thomas attracted wide acclaim following his superb debut against Sheffield United in July.
The 19-year-old showed off his vision, crossing ability and passing range, somewhat relieving Foxes fans’ anxieties about losing Ben Chilwell in the summer in the process.
The inevitable did happen and Chilwell departed the King Power for Chelsea, but in Thomas the club already have a home-grown replacement. Just as Çağlar Söyüncü stepped up to fill the void left by Harry Maguire, Thomas could step into Chilwell’s shoes during the 2020/21 season.
Brewster is one of a number of exciting youngsters who could breakthrough at Liverpool this season | Michael Molzar/Getty Images
Brewster has been in and around the first-team fold since 2016, and was one of a number of youngsters to make his first team debut under Jurgen Klopp during the 2019/20 campaign.
However, the forward was limited to fewer senior appearances for Liverpool than his peers after spending the second half of the season on loan at Swansea. Playing predominantly as a loan striker in the Championship aged just 20 is a daunting task, but Brewster flourished.
He found the net 11 times in 22 appearances for the club, and he can’t half strike a ball sweetly.
Harwood-Bellis has been compared to John Terry for his defensive abilities | Visionhaus/Getty Images
Harwood-Bellis will aim to follow the path of fellow Stockport-born Manchester City academy product Phil Foden by breaking into Pep Guardiola’s first team this season.
The commanding centre-half is blessed with natural aggressive, defensive instincts, in addition to the much loved Guardiola trait of being confident at receiving the ball from the goalkeeper and dictating play from the back.
Harwood-Bellis made his senior City debut in the Carabao Cup in September 2019, and should the Citizens part ways with Eric Garcia, the 18-year-old will climb further up the defensive pecking order.
Levitt is highly rated by United legend Ryan Giggs | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images
Levitt has played as many games for his country as he has for the Manchester United first team.
The 19-year-old midfielder played the full 90 for Wales during their 1-0 victory over Finland, having made his United debut in the Europa League in November.
Intelligent, comfortable in possession and with a strong passing range, Levitt looked the part for Wales. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has happily thrown youngsters in at the deep end during his tenure, and Levitt could be the next teenager to benefit from the United boss’ faith in youth.
✍? Teenage midfielder Joe White has signed his first professional contract with Newcastle United. #NUFC https://t.co/vmBGnz9p2l
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) November 4, 2019
No takeover, no problem. Having already blessed us with the Longstaff brothers, Joe White is the next talented midfielder who could break through at St James’ Park.
The 17-year-old signed his first professional contract in November, and Steve Bruce is a big admirer.
White has already been called up to train with the Newcastle first team, and the playmaker’s creativity and quick feet could earn him a spot in the senior side sooner rather than later.
We’re delighted to welcome Sheffield United and England youth international Antwoine Hackford to Base! pic.twitter.com/HdfwpyTX96
— Base Soccer Agency (@BaseSoccer) January 16, 2020
He’s just 16 years old, but Antwoine Hackford is the pick of the bunch from Sheffield United’s youth production line.
The forward has spent pre-season with the Blades first team, travelling with the senior squad for their pre-season in Scotland – the only first-year scholar to do so.
Renowned for his speed and eye for goal, his tender age should not detract from his first team chances; Hackford was playing Under-18 football at the age of 14, and Under-23 football by the time he was 15.
Maxwell broke into the Southampton side in 2020 | MIKE HEWITT/Getty Images
Southampton are famed for their esteemed youth setup, and the next hot prospect to emerge from the south coast’s answer to La Masia is midfielder Will Smallbone.
The 20-year-old made his first team debut in the FA Cup in January, and was handed his Premier League debut less than two months later, thoroughly impressing in a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa.
He went on to make nine top flight appearances during the 2019/20 season and signed a four-year deal in June, suggesting he has a big part to play at Southampton for years to come.
Cirkin is regarded highly by Mourinho | Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Jose Mourinho is said to be a big fan of Cirkin, with the 18-year-old regularly training with the first team since Mourinho took the Spurs hot seat in November.
He was named in the Tottenham 18 earlier in the year for a couple of FA Cup fixtures, and made the matchday squad in the Premier League for the first time in July.
The left back-possesses a real engine, in addition to excellent technical ability and a wicked left footed delivery.
West Brom almost didn’t hang on to Tulloch | Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Forward Rayhaan Tulloch was attracting attention from a host of Premier League sides before he eventually committed his long-term future to West Brom by signing a four-year deal in July.
The 19-year-old is a natural goal scorer, while his dribbling ability and explosive speed have drawn comparisons to Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Tulloch has been training with the Baggies first team ahead of the new Premier League season and has been dubbed an ‘exceptional talent’ by manager Slaven Bilic.
Johnson has been exciting Hammers fans for some time | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Johnson made his West Ham debut in February 2019, but a series of hamstring injuries prevented him from featuring again in the top flight until July 2020. It was worth the wait.
The 20-year-old enjoyed a strong finish to the campaign with the Hammers, starting their final three Premier League games and particularly impressing up against Marcus Rashford during West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
Johnson is a right-back by trade, but featured at left-back against Aston Villa on the final day of the season and can also operate in midfield.
Matheson is a real talent | stuartmanleyphotography/Wolves/Getty Images
The 17-year-old right back joined Wolves from Rochdale in January, before returning to his boyhood club to see out the remainded of the season.
Matheson shot to fame after scoring against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, before admitting in a post-match interview wholesome enough to rival the Longstaff brothers that he had a psychology exam coming up the following day at sixth form.
Don’t be fooled by his slight demeanour; the full-back is a real athlete. Quick, good on the ball and exceptional going forward. At just £1m, Wolves have got themselves an absolute bargain.