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Best Of The Lower Leagues

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In found this article about players who could cut it in the premiership. Is there anyone you'd like to see in Royal Blue?

 

1 Luke McCormick [Plymouth Argyle]

 

 

A 23-year-old goalkeeper tipped to follow former England stopper Nigel Martyn out of deepest Devon onto the Premier League stage.

 

 

The strapping Midlander has been in magnificent form all season and is one of the main cogs in a Pilgrim machine confounding the sceptics in the Championship.

 

 

A solid shot stopper, Coventry-born McCormick, a player who has emerged through the Home Park youth ranks to rack up 90-plus games, has excellent agility and a powerful clearance.

 

 

The custodian has put together a string of sparkling displays of late - none better than the one against Birmingham City last Saturday.

 

 

Current transfer value £2m

 

 

 

 

 

2 Curtis Davies [West Brom]

 

 

Arguably, one of ex-England skipper Bryan Robson's greatest ever Hawthorn legacies.

 

 

Manchester United legend Robson was sacked by the Baggies earlier in the campaign, of course. Yet the ex-midfield icon brought exciting central defender Davies to Albion in a £3m deal from Luton in August 2005.

 

 

That fee now appears a complete nonsense with a battery of Premier League giants all wanting a player who is being compared to England and United destroyer Rio Ferdinand, in terms of class and poise.

 

 

The heat will be on the Baggies to sell 21-year-old Davies when the January window re-opens. It's expected the youngster will be on a top flight stage in the next 12 months, with or without West Brom.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £8m

 

 

 

3 Gareth Bale [southampton]

 

 

Born in Cardiff, Bale became the youngest full Wales international when he made his Dragons bow against World Cup qualifiers Trinidad & Tobago in Austria last May.

 

 

The Welsh wonder kid is, incredibly, still nine months from an 18th birthday, but is already establishing himself as a regular with the Saints.

 

 

Bale notched his first Welsh strike in the 5-1 European Championship qualification defeat to Slovakia at the Millennium Stadium in October. That spectacular goal came from a direct free kick - and the left back cum midfielder's reputation as a set-piece specialist is growing.

 

 

Arsenal are keen to link Bale with his old Southampton room mate Theo Walcott at the Emirates Stadium - expect the Gunners to follow up their initial £4m enquiry last August with an increased New Year offer.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £6m

 

 

 

4 Greg Halford [Colchester United]

 

 

Built in the same mould as former England and Nottingham Forest right back Viv Anderson, Halford, 21, would seem to be gazing at bright frontiers.

 

 

U's boss Geraint Williams is delighted his prized asset has committed his immediate future to the Layer Road cause. But it's anticipated Halford will eventually follow Liam Chilvers and Neil Danns out of Essex.

 

 

Chilvers and Danns went to Preston and Birmingham respectively during the summer transfer merry-go-round. Yet it's believed leggy Halford, a defender with a Rolls Royce-like movement, is capable of higher plains.

 

 

Coming off the transfer list in early season, the youngster has already shown a burgeoning maturity - a feature that wouldn't have escaped the attention of Premiership managers.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £2.5m

 

 

 

 

5 Joe Ledley [Cardiff City]

 

 

Midfielder Ledley lives a dream every day - wearing the shirt of the Championship leading Bluebirds, a club his entire family have supported for generations.

 

 

Reading were rumoured to be keen on signing 19-year-old Ledley 18 months ago. The fee was in the region of £300,000 - the player's market value has, probably, increased ten fold since.

 

 

A Wales cap, Ledley will likely figure in his country's friendly against minnows Liechenstein at Wrexham next Tuesday - an 11th cap for the starlet who was a key member in the Welsh U-17 team that so nearly made history and reached the European youth finals in France almost three years back under Ian Rush.

 

 

Cardiff's talented, but small, squad has meant Ledley enjoying an extended run in City's senior set up - the left-side schemer closing in on 100 Bluebirds matches.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £3m

 

 

 

 

 

6 David Nugent [Preston]

 

 

 

 

 

This old-fashioned centre forward seems to have been around for many season. Yet, Liverpool-born England U-21 cap Nugent is still some way from a 22nd birthday.

 

 

Many feel the raven-haired raider is the best thing to emerge from Bury since England stars Gary and Phil Neville - towering Nugent landing at Deepdale in a bargain £250,000 deal from the Shakers two years ago.

 

 

The Gigg Lane club are thought to have shrewdly inserted a sell-on clause in the transaction and there have been no shortage of admirers for Nugent with Everton leading a chasing pack.

 

 

The Toffees paid Crystal Palace a club record £8.5m for striker Andy Johnson last summer, but Goodison Park boss David Moyes would still love to be re-united with Nugent on Merseyside.

 

 

North End, though, have genuine Premiership ambition and see Nugent, a goal-scoring target man who has blasted 24 strikes in 62 starts, as playing a main role in an attacking force that includes Patrick Agyemang, Brett Ormerod and Danny Dichio.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £6m

 

 

 

 

7 Billy Sharp [scunthorpe]

 

 

Might be a target for new Sheffield Wednesday manager Brian Laws, but opinion is Sharp could emulate Iron's most famous capture Kevin Keegan and jump three sections, straight into the big time.

 

 

Former Sheffield United marksman cost Scunny £100,000 when they snatched him from Bramall Lane in August 2005. Yet the 20-year-old's emergence at Glanford Park might have shown a rare piece of misjudgement from Blades boss Neil Warnock.

 

 

The darting predator is the Football League's top marksman with 13 strikes - seven of that total has come in as many matches.

 

 

Scunthorpe, who sold former warehouseman Keegan and keeper Ray Clemence on to Liverpool and England fame in the Seventies, might well prove a similar launch pad for likeable Sharp.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £2m

 

 

 

 

 

And three other golden nuggets:

 

 

 

Michael Chopra [Cardiff City]

 

 

The Championship's leading scorer with 11 goals, the 23-year-old Geordie has finally escaped seasons of frustration at Newcastle to play a major role in Cardiff's revival under Dave Jones.

 

 

In one of the quirks of soccer, St James' Park supremo Glen Roeder allowed Chopra south a short time before a serious injury to £17m England superstar Michael Owen put him out for the entire campaign.

 

 

The Bluebirds paid Newcastle only £500,000 for free agent Chopra - a compensation amount that looks ridiculously low against the background of what the player is achieving at bubbling Ninian Park.

 

 

Chopra, an ex-England U-21 cap, has ambition to one day make a full international appearance and be a "finished product".

 

 

Current Transfer Value £3.5m

 

 

 

Caleb Folan [Chesterfield]

 

 

Raw, but very exciting, the bustling player's goal prowess saw him strike in the Spireites' Carling Cup victories over Manchester City and West Ham.

 

 

The attacker notched another in the 3-3 result against Charlton at packed Saltergate in midweek - the struggling south Londoners eventually reaching the last eight of the competition with a 4-3 penalty shootout victory.

 

 

Folan, a youngster deemed not good enough by troubled Leeds United, is finding his feet in Derbyshire. Joining League One Chesterfield 20 months back, the forward has fired 16 goals - nine of which have arrived this campaign.

 

 

Many see a touch of the Stan Collymore in his play - and the powerful player will continue to attract covetous eyes as the New Year looms.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £1.25m

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Summerfield [Plymouth]

 

 

Pilgrims manager Ian Holloway is convinced that he has a glittering jewel in 18-year-old linkman Summerfield.

 

 

The former QPR boss purred, "I see Luke doing things far beyond his tender years. The boy has a fine touch, he is typical of the talent that Plymouth need to produce for the future."

 

 

Summerfield, who relishes central midfield, is being nurtured carefully at Home Park. Seven of his 12 first-team appearances have come off the bench. But the rookie's fine touch has a Premiership look.

 

 

Current Transfer Value £1.5m

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