EFL Futures has been launched with the aim of helping clubs to develop more young players within the EFL.The new £2.25million initiative will help to financially reward EFL clubs who introduce young English and Welsh players into their starting line-ups.
It isn’t just about money, though, with EFL Futures giving clubs deserved recognition from the wider game, placing greater emphasis on the importance of youth development.
Here, we’ve pulled together two teams of XI - one featuring players who have made senior international appearances after coming through the ranks in the EFL, and the other comprising of promising EFL youngsters who are potential future internationals.
Current international XI
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart (EFL debut: 17, Shrewsbury Town)
Hart’s decorated career includes two Premier League titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup, as well as 68 England caps, all coming after making the breakthrough at Shrewsbury Town.
He featured on the Shrews’ bench as a 15-year-old on a number of occasions in 2003 before eventually becoming the first-choice stopper in EFL Season 2005/06.
Defender: Nathaniel Clyne (EFL debut: 17, Crystal Palace)
18th October 2008 was a significant day for Clyne - the day of his Crystal Palace debut, which was a 3-0 victory over Barnsley in the Championship.
Two years later he was named the EFL Young Player of the Year, and he has worked his way up the England ranks to the senior squad, whilst now playing club football for Liverpool.
Defender: Phil Jagielka (EFL debut: 17, Sheffield United)
Manchester-born Jagielka started out at Sheffield United, debuting in May 2000 in a Division One game against Swindon Town, before going on to make nearly 300 Blades appearances and being named the Champions Player of the Year at the EFL Awards in 2006.
His England Under-21s bow came in 2003, prior to senior honours in 2008, having transferred to Everton.
Defender: John Stones (EFL debut: 17, Barnsley)
Stones is another player to gain an education in the EFL before moving to Everton, when he swapped Barnsley for the Toffees in January 2013.
The defender graduated from the Tykes academy to make his debut for his hometown team in the Championship in March 2012. Now a Manchester City player, 22-year-old Stones looks set for a bright future on the international stage.
Defender: Ashley Williams (EFL debut: 19, Stockport County)
Ashley Williams’ story is a classic rags to riches tale. Briefly starting out in non-league, he moved to then-Division Two Stockport County in 2003.
He made his Wales senior debut two days before a switch to League One Swansea City, where his achievements saw him named in the EFL Team of the Decade in 2015. Now an established top-flight player, he captained the Dragons to the semi-finals of the 2016 European Championships earlier this year.
Defender: Kyle Walker (EFL debut: 18, Sheffield United - debut on loan at Northampton)
The loan system has often been used to give players first-team experience, and that was the case for Walker when he joined Northampton Town from parent club Sheffield United in November 2008.
A senior debut was followed by eight more appearances for the Cobblers, before returning to Sheffield United. Now a Tottenham player, Walker was given his international introduction in 2011.
Midfielder: Adam Lallana (EFL debut: 18, Southampton)
Lallana is another player to have been named in the EFL Team of the Decade at the 2015 EFL Awards, after helping Southampton to back-to-back promotions, from League One to the top flight.
One of the most accomplished midfielders to have played in the EFL in recent times, he won his first England senior cap in November 2013, after progressing through the age groups.
Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey (EFL debut: 16, Cardiff City)
The heartbeat of the Wales midfield, Ramsey became Cardiff City’s youngest ever player when he made his EFL debut at the end of Season 2006/07, aged just 16 years and 124 days.
It only took another 21 Cardiff appearances for his talents to be recognised, with Arsenal swooping for his services. He is now an integral part of the Gunners’ team, as well as on the international stage with Wales.
Midfielder: Dele Alli (EFL debut: 16, Milton Keynes Dons)
Still only 20, Dele Alli is a shining light of what a young player can achieve when given exposure to first-team football in the EFL.
Debuting for MK Dons at just 16, he has received several EFL accolades, including the 2014/15 Young Player of the Year award. His progression on the international stage has been just as impressive, and he’s now a regular fixture in the England squad.
Midfielder: Joe Ledley (EFL debut: 17, Cardiff City)
Ledley sits in the top 10 most-capped Wales players, having made his senior bow in 2005, and has captained his nation on numerous occasions.
The 29-year-old's breakthrough came at Cardiff City, where he was called into the first-team in 2004/05. He has enjoyed a fine career, which includes scoring the 2007 Goal of the Year, and he currently represents Crystal Palace in the top flight.
Forward: Gareth Bale (EFL debut: 16, Southampton)
Gareth Bale’s introduction to the EFL came in 2006, when he made his debut as a 16-year-old left-back for Southampton. A month later, he’d earned his first international cap, and the Welshman’s career has gone from strength to strength since.
After picking up a whole host of individual honours, including a place in the EFL Team of the Decade, Bale became the world’s most expensive player when he joined Real Madrid in 2013. Now a prolific goalscorer, the 27-year-old has lit up the Bernabeu and continued to shine on the international stage.
Potential future international XI
Goalkeeper: Freddie Woodman (19, Newcastle United)
Woodman is yet to appear for Newcastle United’s first team, but the highly-rated goalkeeper impressed during a loan spell in the EFL with Crawley Town at the start of 2015/16.
A 14-year-old when he first featured for the Magpies’ reserve team, he has since represented England through the age groups, most recently keeping a clean sheet against Kazakhstan on his under-21 bow.
Defender: Rico Henry (19, Brentford)
Birmingham-born Henry learned his trade with Walsall’s Academy, making his competitive debut for the Saddlers as a 17-year-old and soon becoming a permanent fixture on Dean Smith’s teamsheet.
A stunning 2015/16 season saw the full-back land an EFL Young Player of the Month award, make his debut for England under-19s, and earn a place in the Sky Bet League One Team of the Year, before sealing a transfer to Brentford, where he would link up with former boss Smith.
Defender: Declan John (21, Cardiff City)
John made his Cardiff City debut as a 17-year-old in a 2012 EFL Cup clash, but was loaned out to Barnsley later that season to gain further first-team experience.
The following campaign included another temporary stint away, this time with Chesterfield, but the left-back has since returned to stake his claim for a regular spot in the Bluebirds line-up, whilst also making his way up through the Welsh ranks to earn two full caps for his nation.
Defender: Ethan Ampadu (16, Exeter City)
One of the stories of Season 2016/17 has been the breakthrough of Ampadu, who became Exeter City’s youngest ever player when making his debut at 15, earning the Man of the Match award in a 1-0 EFL Cup win against Brentford.
He has made nine appearances for the Grecians since, represented Wales up to under-19 level, and was recently named the country’s Young Player of the Year.
Defender: Ryan Sessegnon (16, Fulham)
A little piece of history was made earlier this season when Sessegnon netted his first Fulham goal in their 2-2 draw with Cardiff City.
With that strike, the versatile 16-year-old became the first player born in the 2000s to score in the EFL. The youngster has made 10 appearances so far this campaign, and is part of the England under-17 set-up.
Midfielder: Ronaldo Vieira (18, Leeds United)
Another man having a debut season to remember is Vieira, who has starred for Leeds United as they sit in the upper echelons of the Sky Bet Championship table.
Born in Guinea-Bissau but eligible to represent England, the 18-year-old — named after the legendary Brazil striker — has been a driving force at the heart of the Whites’ midfield so far this term, but he is yet to receive international recognition.
Midfielder: Andre Dozzell (17, Ipswich Town)
Dozzell is a well-recognised name around Portman Road due to the legendary career of Jason, but his son Andre will be hoping to etch his name into the Ipswich Town history books in the years to come.
The attacking midfielder made a fine start, scoring a debut goal at the back-end of 2015/16, and has featured at under-16, under-17 and under-18 level in the early stages of his international career with England.
Midfielder: George Williams (21, Fulham)
Williams became Milton Keynes Dons’ youngest ever player when he made his debut in a 2011 FA Cup clash aged just 16, before making the move to Fulham at the conclusion of that campaign.
The winger has since returned to stadiummk on loan, where he will remain for the entirety of Season 2016/17, and he’s picked up seven caps for Wales since making his debut at the age of 18.
Forward: Ademola Lookman (19, Charlton Athletic)
Winner of the LFE Apprentice of the Year in the Sky Bet Championship last term, Lookman has continued to dazzle with Charlton, albeit in Sky Bet League One this time around.
Prolific in the Addicks’ youth ranks, the lively attacker made his first-team bow at 18, and has racked up 11 goals and almost 50 appearances since. He has also represented England at under-19 and under-20 level.
Forward: Adam Armstrong (19, Newcastle United)
Newcastle-born Armstrong has made a number of appearances for the Magpies since joining the club at the tender age of nine. However, it’s been on loan in the EFL where he has really made a name for himself, scoring 20 goals in 40 Coventry City appearances during the 2015/16 season.
With five in five for the England under-20 side, the striker is now on loan at Barnsley, where he has shown more glimpses of magic, including a stunning goal against Preston North End in September, which won the Goal of the Month award.
Forward: George Hirst (17, Sheffield Wednesday)
Similar to Andre Dozzell, Hirst is following in his father’s footsteps after making his first EFL appearance with Sheffield Wednesday in December.
Son of former Owls striker David, 17-year-old Hirst signed professional terms at Hillsborough towards the end of last season, and has impressed for his country too, by hitting four goals in five under-18 appearances for England.
Do you have any other suggestions for future internationals, who currently ply their trade in the EFL? Let us know on social media using #EFLFutures!