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Steve Claridge's Championship magnificent seven

Ones to watch

Championship players to watch (UK web users only)

Steve Claridge
By Steve Claridge
BBC Football League pundit

Trying to pick out a few players who have the potential to light up the forthcoming Championship season is always an interesting challenge.

It was tough but here is the magnificent seven that I think could make a huge impact.


I have tried to stay away from the obvious choices - players like Paul McKenna at Nottingham Forest, Cardiff's Peter Whittingham, Darren Ambrose at Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough's David Wheater, who all shone last season.

Instead, I have gone for young players who could one day ply their trade in the Premier League and a couple of familiar faces.

Gylfi Sigurdsson, 20


Gylfi Sigurdsson
Sigurdsson scored against Liverpool in the FA Cup last season

Sigurdsson burst on the scene last season and showed his huge potential, scoring 20 goals in a side that struggled at the start of the campaign.

After playing a big part in Reading's revival, the Icelander is certainly someone to keep an eye on.

It is always difficult for a player to replicate their form from one season to the next did but Sigurdsson will be one of the most dangerous players in the Championship if he emulates last season's achievements.

Nathaniel Clyne, 19

Crystal Palace

Nathaniel Clyne
Clyne has been linked with several Premier League clubs

Clyne is a player I have seen a fair bit of. He is a good defender who has got that little bit more than your average right-back.

With Palace unable to strengthen significantly because of problems off the field, Clyne has perhaps played more than he might have done over the past two seasons, amassing 53 appearances in total.

But he has natural ability. He is quick and strong, while his positioning is not bad at all. He is very positive in what he does and the other players tend to use him even in tight areas which tells you they trust him.

Clyne has made a big impression in a short space of time. He played for the England Under-19 side at the European Championships this summer and I expect him to keep on improving.

Matthew James, 18

Preston North End (on loan from Manchester United)

Matthew James
James has been a regular performer in Manchester United's reserve team

James is very highly thought of at Old Trafford and will no doubt be eager to prove himself over the course of a full season at Deepdale.

He played 18 games on loan at Preston last season and impressed, doing enough to be named captain for the England Under-19 team at the European Championships this summer.

It is not a "gimme" that when a player comes out of Manchester United or Arsenal they are going to be a good player. Sometimes players come out of the bubble of a big club and cannot hack it. But if James can show his character again, he will be a real asset for North End.

Marc Wilson, 22


Marc Wilson
Wilson was called up to play for the Republic of Ireland in February

Wilson is a very, very good player and will be one of those I am eager to see perform as the season progresses.

He is only 22 but performed extremely well under an awful lot of pressure last year, featuring in 36 games as Pompey were relegated.

I expect him to have a good campaign this time around. He is a good defender, has good ability on the ball and looks like he could be one of the Portsmouth players that steps up to the plate.

David James, 40

Bristol City

David James
James said he has no intention of retiring from England duty

James may be 40, but what a brilliant signing for Bristol City. If you have had the pleasure of watching him regularly every week, as I have, then you know just how good he is.

Despite his age, he has got a tremendous physique and looks as fit as ever. He will also give the Bristol City defence a huge confidence boost, too.

As one of the most naturally gifted goalkeepers England have had in a long time, James could be worth 10 goals a season for Bristol City this season - vital if they want to mount a charge for the play-offs.

He might not be one of the up and coming youngsters in my magnificent seven but he is certainly one of the players I am most looking forward to seeing in the Championship this season.

Kris Boyd, 26


Kris Boyd
Boyd won the Scottish Premier League with Rangers last season

Boyd could be the signing of the century for Middlesbrough - or he could be just another lad who comes down from Scotland and does not cut it.

The form of Boyd and fellow striker Scott McDonald could make or break Middlesbrough's season. Gordon Strachan will certainly look for both of them to hit the back of the net regularly.

Boyd scored 101 goals in 143 appearances for Rangers. He looks a fantastic acquisition but can Boro create the kind of chances he was getting on a regular basis in the Scottish Premier League?

Connor Wickham, 17

Ipswich Town

Connor Wickham
Wickham could miss the start of the season with an ankle injury

Wickham may only be 17 but he has bags of potential and his reputation is growing fast.

He featured regularly for Ipswich last season, scoring six goals in 31 appearances, and also hit the headlines when he scored the winning goal for England Under-17s against Spain in the European Championship final.

There have been plenty of youngsters who have had lots of potential and not fulfilled it, so Wickham, who still has a lot to learn, has got to avoid falling into that trap. But it he continues to develop, he could be a real threat.

The pressure and expectation on him will be huge but Ipswich boss Roy Keane should know how to take most of that away.

Steve Claridge was talking to BBC Sport's Marc Vesty

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see also
Football League lowdown
03 Aug 10 |  Football
Sigurdsson extends Reading deal
27 May 10 |  Reading
James secures return to Preston
02 Jul 10 |  Preston
Bristol City capture keeper James
30 Jul 10 |  Bristol City
Boyd buoyed by Middlesbrough move
07 Jul 10 |  Middlesbrough
Wickham concentrates on Ipswich
04 Jun 10 |  Ipswich

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