League Two always boasts some of the best young talent in the Football League. Smaller squads and tighter budgets mean that lower league clubs have to introduce academy graduates in their first-team set-ups quicker than Premier League clubs do. In some cases this can be detrimental to a player’s development, but in the majority of cases the early involvement in the senior squads cause players to mature quickly and therefore begin to fulfil their potential quicker.
In recent years players such as Elliott Hewitt, Nick Powell and Kane Ferdinand have come through the ranks at lower league teams and earned transfers to teams in higher divisions whilst Marlon Pack and Britt Assombalonga have spent successful loan spells (in Pack’s case his loan led to a permanent contract at Cheltenham) in League Two before going onto sign for League One clubs Bristol City and Peterborough United who are up there with the favourites to gain promotion to The Championship this season. The current crop of young players gracing the basement division of English football include Portsmouth’s 19-year-old midfielder Jed Wallace, Bury’s 21-year-old defender Nathan Cameron and Bristol Rovers 20-year-old midfielder Oliver Norburn all of which are very exciting youngsters who have the potential to play in the top tiers of English football within the next five years.
So how much do Northampton Town contribute to the exciting array of youth in the fourth tier of English football? Well, in recent seasons, the club have produced some fantastic young stars who have gone onto grace the top two leagues in England. Luke Chambers, a defender, made over 100 appearances for The Cobblers between 2003 and 2007 before going onto make more than 200 appearances for Championship side Nottingham Forest. Mark Bunn, a goalkeeper, made the best part of 100 appearances for Northampton before going onto play in the Premier League for Blackburn Rovers and Norwich City (for whom he now plays). Michael Jacobs, who could play on either side of the midfield, was the star of the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 seasons before joining Championship side Derby County where he has impressed.
The current crop of youngsters forcing their way into the first team set up look set to emulate their predecessors and forge successful careers in higher divisions for themselves. Here are my top four players at the club to look out for…
- Lewis Hornby – the 18-year-old central midfielder was one the best players for The Cobblers last season and, despite having Ben Harding, Luke Guttridge and Ben Tozer blocking his path to the first-team for much of the season, he really showed his class in the battlefield of League Two football. Mature beyond his years, Hornby has an eye for a pass and has all the potential to make it at the top level.
- Dean Snedker – Snedker made his debut against Cardiff City in the Capital One Cup early last season and quickly followed up this assured display with another solid performance against Wolves in the same competition. His good shot stopping and calmness when collecting crosses has impressed Cobblers fans and, with experience, the 18-year-old ‘keeper will surely develop into a first-teamer in the Championship at least.
- David Moyo – With a play-off place hanging in the balance, Northampton Town manager Aidy Boothroyd blooded the young winger/striker in a crunch match away to Port Vale at the end of last season. He passed the test with flying colours and the timing of which Boothroyd used the youngster shows the high esteem in which Moyo is held. He is currently on loan at Corby and this should help his development considerably.
- Ivan Toney – Toney became the youngest ever Cobblers player at the age 16 when he came on as a substitute in an away FA Cup replay against Bradford City in November 2012. With blistering pace and an eye for goal, the young striker has been the most impressive of all the youngsters so far this season having made successful cameo appearances versus MK Dons, Newport County and Southend United.
Along with other young players coming through the ranks, such as Claudio Dias and Connor Roberts, Hornby, Snedker, Moyo and Toney are set to become an integral part of the Cobblers first-team over the next few season and, with funds at the club not exactly plentiful, this can only be a healthy thing.