The 10 Best Players in England Not in the Premier League
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the three teams promoted to the Premiership were always the favourites to go straight back down.
But every year the gap between the quality of Premiership and Championship teams closes just a little bit.
The Championship is no longer a division that acts as a retirement home for once-great players—it's a league packed with international players and acts as a breeding ground for some of the best young talent in the country.
Here we count down the top 10 players in England whom you won't see in the Premier League. At least not until the next transfer window anyway.
At just 18 years old, Will Hughes is already an integral part of the Derby County team and has drawn interest from a number of Premiership clubs including Liverpool and Arsenal.
Now a regular in the England Under 21s' set-up having made his first international appearance aged just 17, Derby seem reluctant to part with a player who made 38 appearances for them last season and have put a £12 million price tag on his head.
Hughes is an attack-minded midfielder who is still finding his best position. He relies on excellent technical ability and vision to make up for a lack of pace and strength. Think the Andreas Iniesta of Championship football.
Whilst still just a teenager, Hughes is arguably one of the best players in the Championship on his day. A career in the top flight beckons.
A Scottish international of Romanian and Nigerian descent, Ikechi Anya started his career in non-league football before moving to a string of clubs in the Spanish second division.
From 2009-2012, Anya spent difficult periods at Sevilla Atletico, Celta and Granada before finally nailing down a first-team place while on loan to Cadiz.
Anya was loaned to Watford at the start of the 2012/13 season and was one of the best players in a side that almost won promotion.
This prompted the Hornets to sign him permanently at the beginning of this season on a three-year deal. Anya's biggest assets are his stamina, his crossing ability and his versatility—he can play in pretty much any position on the right.
In September 2013, Anya scored his first goal as a permanent Watford player against Barnsley following an incredible 80-yard run.
A product of the Arsenal youth academy, Henri Lansbury was a regular for the Under-18 and reserve sides but struggled to break into the Gunners' first team.
Lansbury was sent on loan to numerous Championship sides and achieved promotion with both Norwich and West Ham United.
A central midfielder by trade, Lansbury combines the finesse gained from his Arsenal schooling with a tough, robust presence acquired from honing his craft in the more physical Championship.
Still just 23, Lansbury moved to Nottingham Forest on a permanent basis in 2012 to further his development. Since his switch to the Midlands last season, he's enjoyed much more regular football—playing almost 50 league games and scoring 10 league goals in the process. Much more to be seen from this talented player.
Matt Phillips is one of the most exciting young players in the Championship.
Aged just 22, Phillips is a very quick winger who loves taking people on. He's a throwback to the old-fashioned winger—hugging the touchline and playing most of his game high and wide up the pitch.
Despite still being a teenager at the time, Phillips played a vital role in helping Blackpool secure a memorable promotion under Ian Holloway in his first season at the club. Holloway heaped praise on the youngster, calling him "at times unmarkable."
But while Blackpool were in the Premier League, he found opportunities limited and spent time on loan to further his progression.
In the 2012/13 season, Phillips found himself subject of a £5 million bid from Southampton which was rejected. Phillips handed in a transfer request and eventually moved to QPR at the beginning of this season for an undisclosed fee.
He's been a regular feature for QPR so far and Harry Redknapp will be hoping Phillips can secure the second promotion of his career.
He's currently the Championship's second top scorer and forms a formidable strike partnership with Sam Vokes that has seen the pair score 19 goals already between them—that's more than newly-relegated QPR and Wigan have scored as a team.
Ings won Championship player of the month in October, and he and Vokes are perhaps the two biggest reasons why Burnley are currently running away with the Championship. Defences simply can't handle them.
Ings has been at Burnley since 2011 but found his game time limited by the more established Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin.
Since their departures to Southampton and QPR respectively, Ings has flourished under the pressure of being his club's talisman. And perhaps most impressive of all, he's only 21.
Few players can unlock a tight Championship defence as well as Fernando Forestieri.
His nickname "Fessi" is a nod not just to his small stature and Argentine origin, but also his ability to tear apart teams with clever runs and a keen eye for goal.
Forestieri was one of the first players loaned from Udinese to Watford under the ownership of the Pozzo family, and that deal was made permanent at the end of last season.
Forestieri has played for Italy at every level from Under-17 to Under-21. He's a classy and intelligent player who operates best in the "free" role just behind a striker.
Watford's promotion hopes rest heavily on Forestieri and his ability to score and create chances.
A Scotland international, Ross McCormack is one of very few players outside the top flight who can boast of a UEFA Champions League goal—for his old club Rangers against Porto in 2005.
McCormack was introduced to the Championship back in 2008 when he moved from Scotland to Cardiff City. In his first season with Cardiff, he was the club's top goalscorer and the second top scorer in the whole league.
Since 2010, McCormack has been playing for Leeds United. Last season he finished as the club's top scorer and this season he's currently the leading marksman in the Championship—in part down to scoring all four goals in Leeds' recent away win against Charlton.
Despite troubles with injuries, McCormack has shown he's a lethal striker at Championship level.
There's not a lot you can say about Tom Ince that hasn't been said already.
Son of legendary midfielder and self-styled "Guv'nor" Paul Ince, he spent all last season tearing Championship defences to ribbons with his electric pace and mesmerising footwork.
A product of the Liverpool youth academy, Ince was allowed to leave for Blackpool in August 2011. But it was last season when the winger really found his form, finding the net 18 times throughout the campaign.
Ince offers more than just goals, too—he managed an incredible 14 assists last season alone. This led to Ince almost joining Cardiff for a reported fee of £8m.
Ince's dramatic rise in form has led to a whole host of teams being linked with his signature. With the increased media coverage, fans can be forgiven for wondering if he's over-rated.
Last year, Ince was included in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, as well as scooping up the Football League Young Player of the Year award.
This season, Ince's started right where he left off having scoring six goals already this campaign.
Put simply, Tom Ince is a real talent—and at just 21, he's only going to get better.
Now the captain of promotion contenders Leicester City, Wes Morgan has spent a decade featuring in some of the meanest defences outside the Premier League.
A Jamaica international, Morgan has surprisingly spent the majority of his career at Leicester's bitter rivals Nottingham Forest, for whom he went on to make more than 400 appearances.
Morgan began his footballing career at Forest, impressing in the youth and reserve teams before making his debut aged just 19. He was a regular part of the Nottingham Forest team that achieved promotion from League One to the Championship in the 2007/08 season, racking up a record 24 clean sheets in the process.
Morgan has carved a reputation for himself as a powerhouse centre-back, known for his reliability and his "no-nonsense" style of defending.
Last season marked his second appearance in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, which shows just how crucial the uncompromising defender is to Leicester's promotion hopes.
Given that he's spent the last five years terrorising defences across the lower divisions, it's a source of some irony that Jordan Rhodes actually began his career as a goalkeeper.
Starting at Ipswich, Rhodes had a number of loan spells before joining Huddersfield Town in the summer of 2009. He wasted no time opening his goalscoring account, coming off the bench to score on his debut.
Three days later, he made his home debut against Stockport County and scored two goals. In his next game against Southampton, he scored another two. Such was the impact Rhodes made, he finished his first season as top scorer with 23 goals.
The following campaign was interrupted by injuries, but Rhodes again finished as the club's top scorer with 22 goals. Then in the season after that, Rhodes scored 13 goals in his first 13 games in all competitions. He also became the first player to score back-to-back hat-tricks for the club since the 1920s.
Rhodes finished the 2011/12 season with 36 goals, making him the top scorer across all professional English leagues. After just two-and-a-half years at the club, he had become Huddersfield's eighth top scorer of all time.
This led to Blackburn spending £8m to secure his services in August 2012—a record fee for a player outside the top flight in England. In his first season he justified this price tag with 26 goals, becoming Blackburn's player of the season in the process. This season Rhodes has started in clinical fashion, netting nine goals in his first seven games.
Rhodes boasts a phenomenal goalscoring record across League One and the Championship. Given that he's only 23, he's a player who still has his best years ahead of him.
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