When it comes to the next generation of young football stars from Northern Ireland, it’s safe to say the future looks bright.
A number of talented youngsters have moved across the water in recent times to forge a career in the full-time game.
And while many may be unknown quantities now, there’s a good chance they could become household names in the future.
We have picked out a squad-full of teenage stars from Northern Ireland who we believe are worth watching in the months and years to come.
The list is not exhaustive, so if there are any players we have missed then throw their names in the comments and we can add them in.
The only rule is that they have to be under the age of 20…
Ethan Galbraith – Manchester United
Seems an obvious one, but any list of young Northern Ireland footballers playing across the water wouldn’t be complete without Galbraith. He’s just 19 years of age but has already played for United’s first team and also made his debut for Northern Ireland.
Conor Bradley – Liverpool
Another youngster who is making a name for himself with a Premier League club. The Co Tyrone 17-year-old has already trained alongside Anfield stars such as Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson. Top prospect.
Charlie Allen – Leeds United
Former Linfield youngster Allen has hit the ground running at Leeds since joining the Premier League club last August. Allen, who turned 17 in November, signed his first pro deal with Leeds in December.
Aidan Steele – Crystal Palace
Another exciting youngster from these shores who is impressing at a Premier League club. Midfielder Steele, 18, joined Palace in June 2019 from Irish League club Cliftonville. Has been starring for club’s Under 18s and captained the side.
Caolan McBride – Aston Villa
The 17-year-old midfielder joined Villa from Glentoran last year after featuring in the Glens’ first-team squad over the past 12 months.
Charlie Lindsay – Rangers
Former Glentoran Academy youngster Lindsay made a number of guest appearances for Rangers before securing a full-time move to Glasgow last summer. The 16-year-old helped Rangers win the Junior title at the 2019 SuperCupNI.
Dale Taylor – Nottingham Forest
Another former Irish League youngster who has impressed since moving across the water. Taylor had already made his senior Linfield debut when he earned a move to Nottingham Forest. The 17-year-old also has a famous fan in Carl Frampton who has long lauded the teen’s talents.
Sean Stewart – Norwich City
Stewart signed his first professional contract with Norwich last month. The 18-year-old has impressed since joining the Canaries in a scholarship deal back in 2019. Former St Oliver Plunkett defender Stewart has been a regular feature in Norwich U18s this season.
Michael Forbes – West Ham United
Former Dungannon Swifts defender Forbes earned a big move across the water in April last year, signing for the Hammers on his 16th birthday. The 6ft 2′ teen has found his feet at the Premier League club, and made his debut for West Ham’s Under 21s in the EFL Trophy.
Chris McKee – Rangers
McKee continues to impress at Rangers. The Northern Ireland youth striker signed a one-year extension to his Ibrox deal last November, which runs to 2022. McKee, 18, who joined Rangers in 2018, has been a standout performer for the club’s B team this season.
Ben Wylie – Celtic
On the other side of the Glasgow football divide is brilliant young midfielder Wylie. The 18-year-old – who recently penned a new deal with the Old Firm giants – completed a loan move to Ballymena United during January to earn regular game time. Wylie has played for Northern Ireland at U19 level and joined Celtic in 2018.
Ross McCausland – Rangers
Another Northern Ireland teen making a name for himself at Rangers. The 17-year-old midfielder is another top prospect for club and country.
Sean McAllister – Everton
McAllister joined Everton from Dungannon Swifts in July 2019. The right-footed midfielder likes to operate in the centre of the park.
Chris Conn-Clarke – Fleetwood
The 18-year-old from West Belfast is another name to keep an eye out for. Conn-Clarke joined Burnley from Glentoran Academy in the summer of 2018 in a two-year scholarship with the Clarets. The tricky winger made a quick impression, scoring a handful of goals in his debut season. He signed a deal with Fleetwood Town this month.
Ben Wilson – Brighton
Former Coleraine Academy striker Wilson, who hails from Derry, signed a three-year contract (two-year scholarship, one-year pro) with Brighton & Hove Albion back in 2018.
Luke McKendry – Swansea City
Northern Ireland underage defender McKendry joined Swansea in the summer of 2018 after impressing with Coleraine. The 19-year-old featured for Swansea’s Under 18s.
Jack Scott – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Northern Ireland Under 21 defender Jack Scott signed a four-year professional contract with Wolves back in 2019. The 18-year-old earned the deal after impressing for the Premier League club’s Under 18s.
Wolves U18 manager Steve Davis said at the time: “We’re really pleased to offer the contract to Jack as he’s had a really good start to his time as a scholar and now as a pro. Jack left Northern Ireland to live here, and his family came over to see him sign his first professional contract, which is always a special time in a young footballer’s career.”
Matthew Carson – Southampton
Liam Hughes – Liverpool
Northern Ireland U21 goalkeeper Hughes sealed a big move to Liverpool from Celtic last week. The 19-year-old will be part of Liverpool’s U23 squad. Former coach Rodney McAree says Hughes has the “perfect mentality” to thrive at the home of the English champions.
Lewis MacKinnon – Rangers
Co Down defender MacKinnon signed a three-year professional contract with Rangers back in 2019. He joined the Ibrox club at the same time as Northern Ireland compatriot Ross McCausland. Speaking at the time MacKinnon said: “I grew up supporting Rangers, so to one day line out for the first team would be unbelievable. But that is a long-term aim, and I have a lot of work to do before I even get anywhere near that.”
Jamie McDonnell – Nottingham Forest
Former Glentoran youngster McDonnell joined EFL Championship side Nottingham Forest last summer.The Northern Ireland 16-year-old had been on the radar of a number of clubs including Rangers, Celtic and West Bromwich Albion.
Gerard Storey – Portsmouth
Former Portadown midfielder Storey joined Portsmouth in the summer of 2019. The teen – the grandson of legendary boxing trainer Gerry Storey Snr – put pen-to-paper on a two-year scholarship deal with the League One club and is currently back on home on loan with Carrick Rangers.
Conor Falls – Huddersfield Town
Former Glentoran starlat Falls joined Huddersfield Town in November. The 16-year-old was one of nine new arrivals at Huddersfield’s Academy and immediately joined the club’s Under 17 ranks.
Eoin Teggart – Portsmouth
Teenager Teggart has already featured for Portsmouth’s first team, and spent part of this season on-loan with Southern League side Gosport Borough along with former Portadown midfielder Gerard Storey. Teggart is currently on loan with Cliftonville in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Brodie Spencer – Huddersfield
Former Cliftonville youngster Spencer joined Huddersfield last November alongside Conor Falls. The 16-year-old defender has been earning encouraging reviews since moving across the water, playing for Huddersfield’s Under 17s and also featuring for the club’s U19s.
Jake Wallace – Fleetwood Town
Wallace, 16, was on the radar of Italian Serie A club Parma before joining Fleetwood last October in a two-year deal. Another graduate from Glentoran’s Academy.
Speaking of Fleetwood Town…
…we should give mention to a number of other Northern Ireland players at the club, including Barry Baggley, Dylan Boyle, Carl Johnston, Scott Pengelly and Lewis Patterson.
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk