It’s crunch time for clubs in the Premier League who will be scrambling around throughout Thursday trying to get last-minute deals done as they frantically search for players who can bolster their bids for league glory or survival.
Of course, the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Willian, Aaron Ramsey and Wilfried Zaha will be the main men to keep an eye on, but the cream of the crop from the Championship should not be ignored.
Action in England’s second tier kicked off last weekend and there could be a few players getting a Premier League upgrade on Thursday.
Here we look at a selection of the best players the Championship has to offer and who they might be a good fit for at English football’s top table.
To keep things interesting we haven’t included players from the three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season – many of whom occupy the top spots on Transfermarkt’s top market values.
JACK GREALISH (ASTON VILLA)
Arguably the standout on this list given the fact he’s been in the spotlight for much of the summer already, with Spurs keen to bring the 22-year-old in but his club Aston Villa determined to keep hold of him, despite their issues off the field.
Disciplinary issues dogged Grealish’s early years, as well as his party boy image, but he was excellent for Villa last season after spending the first three months of the season out injured, his creative edge was the catalyst for a seven-match winning streak after Christmas that drove them all the way to fourth and the play-off final.
Savvy Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has been playing the waiting game with the Midlands man who has been at Villa his whole life, but it could backfire, with the club’s new owners reportedly backing out of a deal to sell him for £25m.
Villa’s precarious financial position a few weeks ago, when Tony Xia was under pressure to raise funds, could have been exploited.
But investment has since arrived from new majority owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, which appears to have left the White Hart Lane side with egg on their faces.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Tottenham
SHAUN HUTCHINSON (MILLWALL)
Not too many will have heard of Hutchinson, especially as the 27-year-old Englishman made his name north of the border with Motherwell.
The imposing 6ft 2in centre-back was signed by Fulham in 2014 but released after only making 11 appearances in his second season.
Ever since moving across London, however, he’s been an animal and helped the Lions roar into play-off contention last season, Neil Harris’ side finishing eighth – just three points adrift of sixth-placed Derby.
He was a virtual ever-present last term, missing just three of Millwall’s 46 Championship games.
Nine clean sheets in 15 matches provided the platform from which the Lions surged into surprise play-off contention – with Hutchinson a huge part of that.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Fulham, Southampton, Newcastle
RYAN LEDSON (PRESTON NORTH END)
Preston fans are going to love Ledson, who made his debut in the opening day’s 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers.
The Everton graduate is an energetic midfielder who loves a tackle. Alongside Ben Pearson and Alan Browne the trio could really make North End tick.
He’s only 20 yet already has a wealth of experience in the EFL having amassed 50 games as a regular for League One Oxford United in the past two seasons.
He’s represented England at every level from U16s to U20s, with only injury at Oxford robbing him of a spot in the England squad that were victorious at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
He was touted for big things at Everton and he could fulfill his promise at a Preston side that are going places.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Fulham, Everton, Huddersfield, Brighton
OLLIE WATKINS (BRENTFORD)
One of several impressive youngsters at Brentford who finished a brilliant ninth in the Championship last year and only just missed the play-offs.
Watkins’ idol is Thierry Henry and there are flashes of the flamboyant Frenchman in the 22-year-old who signed for the Bees last season and was hugely impressive in his first Championship season, notching a fine 11 goals in 46 games in all competitions.
In the league he was in the top five in terms of rankings for shots and key passes, and that form hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Crystal Palace are reportedly interested and are said to have already had an £8 million rebuffed, with his club wanting £15m for a player signed for just £1.8m from Exeter City.
He has electric pace, is a fantastic dribbler and has a bright future.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Crystal Palace
MO EISA (BRISTOL CITY)
OK, so this one is a bit of a long shot as he’s only just signed for the Robins, but Eisa has the ability to take this league by storm.
Eisa’s story is a fascinating one – the Sudan-born forward was playing for Greenwich Borough a year ago, who play in the Isthmian League, the seventh and eighth levels of the English football league system.
Last July the 24-year-old moved on a one-year deal to Cheltenham Town. Twelve months on he bagged 25 goals in 50 games and is now in England’s second tier at Bristol City.
Under manager Lee Johnson he could thrive again and reach double figures this season, he came off the bench in the 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest for his City debut.
A stick with which to measure him by could be Bobby Reid who had scored 11 goals in his whole career before last season and then he was put up front and scored 22 in the league as well as being part of the side that beat Manchester United in the League Cup quarter-finals.
Reid will play in the Premier League with Cardiff this season.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Huddersfield, Watford
BEN BRERETON (NOTTINGHAM FOREST)
The teenage striker has missed a fair bit of Forest’s pre-season but that shouldn’t put suitors off in the slightest as he was given time off by his club to represent England at the Under-19 European Championships in Finland.
Brereton, 19, scored in the opening 3-2 win over Turkey and said playing for his country meant his fitness would have got him to the required level upon his return to the City Ground.
The frontman has played mainly out wide during his early days but should blossom into an out-and-out striker as he is used at international level – he has five goals in 18 caps at U19 level.
He was excellent as Forest stunned Arsenal in the FA Cup last season – netting a penalty in the 4-2 triumph – and possesses tremendous pace, and power.
Hasn’t featured in either of the matchday squads so far this term under Aitor Karanka – who has lavished £25m on 11 new players this summer in what is a new era for the club – so could face a wait before he’s able to force his way in.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Tottenham, Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester
BRITT ASSOMBALONGA (MIDDLESBROUGH)
Assombalonga has slowly but surely climbed through the rungs of lower league football’s ladders, and impressively so.
The Zaire-born 25-year-old was Middlesbrough’s record signing last summer, fetching a princely £15 million fee.
However, Assombalonga’s time on Teeside hasn’t been as smooth as his recent rise where he scored 30 goals in 69 during three seasons for Nottingham Forest – essentially two seasons as he only played four games due to injury in 2015/16.
Assombalonga was dropped by manager Tony Pulis last season with the striker apparently keen on a move, although he did still grab 13 goals in 38 games. A number of other Championship teams are reportedly interested, including Leeds United, Swansea City and Birmingham City.
He made his Democratic Republic of Congo debut in March this year
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Brighton, Huddersfield
KAMIL GROSICKI (HULL CITY)
Hull winger Grosicki set up the goal for Grzegorz Krychowiak as Poland lost their World Cup 2018 opener to Senegal a little over a month ago.
Poland’s woeful run in Russia probably didn’t do much to raise interest in the 30-year-old who has been angling for a departure from the Tigers since the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2017.
The Tigers are open to the prospect of off-loading the club’s highest earner after he was only used sparingly by Nigel Adkins last term but there has so far been little interest.
Any sale would also need to see Hull recoup a sizable chunk of their original £7m outlay on a player signed from Rennes in January 2017.
An explosive winger nicknamed Turbo, Grosicki has huge ability but Hull fans have certainly not seen the best of him. It probably hasn’t done much to entice suitors but he is a player capable of shining at the highest level.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Crystal Palace, Watford, Leicester, Burnley
TOM LAWRENCE (DERBY COUNTY)
Last season was the first campaign the 24-year-old Manchester United academy graduate didn’t start on loan following a nomadic beginning to his career.
The Wrexham-born forward was at Carlisle United and Yeovil Town before signing for Leicester City in 2014, where he spent the next four terms out at Rotherham United, Blackburn Rovers, Cardiff City and Ipswich Town.
He seemed to have finally ploughed through into professional football with the Tractor Boys two years ago as he scored 11 goals – often spectacular – in 36 outings, picking up the club’s Players’ Player of the Year as well as Goal of the season awards.
That led to interest from the Rams who raided Portman Road.
Lawrence bagged six goals in 42 appearances last term and got off the mark for the new season with a last-minute winner as Derby beat Reading on opening night last Friday.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Cardiff, Huddersfield, Brighton, Burnley
CHRIS MEPHAM (BRENTFORD)
Chris Mepham had resigned himself to a career in Sunday league after being released by Chelsea as a 14-year-old and was then rejected by boyhood club QPR.
Now 20-year-old, he was spotted by a Brentford scout playing Sunday league football for North Greenford Reserves aged just 16, is attracting Premier League interest.
In a very promising Brentford squad, the Bees will refuse to sell Mepham to Bournemouth or Leicester City for less than £15million.
The Premier League clubs have both had bids below that rejected and could return with increased offers for the defender before Thursday’s deadline.
Brentford will fight to keep a player given his Wales debut by manager Ryan Giggs in March and may even demand as much as £20m as they eye promotion.
The Cherries have a long-standing interest in him and the Foxes are looking to sign a central defender with Man United preparing a bid for Harry Maguire.
Teams interested/where he would fit in: Bournemouth, Leicester City
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