manchester city star and academy graduate, phil foden

One of our own! A local lad playing a key role for each top six side

Phil Foden continues to go from strength to strength as Manchester City’s exciting home-grown hero, the midfielder outstanding as the league leaders emphatically thrashed defending champions Liverpool last weekend.

Foden’s emergence has been a source of excitement for several seasons at the Etihad with the Stockport-born star having risen through the academy ranks to emerge as one of England’s brightest footballing talents.

There is something ever so pleasing about seeing a local lad come through the youth system to shine and Foden is a boyhood blue currently living out his childhood dream in a Manchester City shirt.

Following the 20-year-old’s latest star showing we’ve looked at some of the Premier League’s best local heroes, here are six local lads playing a key role for top six sides:

Arsenal – Bukayo Saka

Arsenal’s rebuild under Mikel Arteta has some solid foundations on which to build with the brilliant Bukayo Saka headlining an emerging contingent of academy graduates, the teenager having starred since breaking into the senior side last season.

Saka has been a shining light in a testing season for the north London side, shouldering responsibility in a transitional team and producing performances on a consistent basis despite his side being in the mire during the early months of the campaign.

The 19-year-old leads Arsenal for chances created this season and plays with a commendable maturity, willing to take possession in difficult areas and drive his side forward with intelligent play.

That intelligence has seen the winger star in multiple positions including at full-back, centrally and further forward, his versatility offering options to Gareth Southgate and England after winning his first four senior caps in 2020.

Saka provides both personality and quality to the side and has scored five league goals this season, whilst no Premier League teenager can better his numbers for chances created, duels won, passes into the box and dribbles completed.

The London-born youngster has been a shining example to both his fellow youngsters and more senior colleagues throughout an impressive 2020/21 to date.

Chelsea – Tammy Abraham

Frank Lampard’s dream return to Chelsea ultimately failed to pay dividends, though the club great’s legacy as manager could yet be his introduction of several academy graduates to the Blues’ side.

Chelsea have enjoyed huge success at youth level over the past decade but had previously been unable to integrate their best prospects into the first-team fold, though Lampard’s faith in youth has been rewarded with a number of youngsters making the step up.

Tammy Abraham had enjoyed fruitful loan spells at the likes of Bristol City, Swansea and Aston Villa before being handed a chance at Stamford Bridge last season, responding with an excellent campaign that delivered 18 goals in all competitions.

The forward has long been a poacher around goal, but there has been evidence of improvement in his all-round game with an increased ability to link the play adding to his physical attributes.

Abraham’s form saw him earn senior international honours with England last year after pledging his allegiance to the Three Lions, whilst he has continued to impress this season despite fierce competition for places.

The 23-year-old has scored 11 goals in just 14 starts across all competitions so far this season, Chelsea reaping the rewards of a player developed since first joining the club’s youth ranks at the age of six.

Liverpool – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Liverpool have produced some outstanding local players throughout the Premier League era with the likes of Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard having cemented their positions as club icons, with another academy product currently writing his own history in the senior side.

Trent Alexander-Arnold grew up as a boyhood red just a stone’s throw from Liverpool’s recently departed Melwood training ground, joining the club’s youth system at the age of six and creating much excitement as he rose through the ranks.

Jurgen Klopp handed him his debut as a teenager in 2016 and he has since enjoyed a meteoric rise, playing a key part in a period of huge success for Liverpool under the German manager.

Alexander-Arnold starred as Liverpool reached successive Champions League finals in 2018 and 2019, forming part of the side which won the latter to secure the Reds’ sixth European crown.

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That season also saw the full-back break the record for most assists in a season by a Premier League defender, a landmark he would eclipse the following campaign as Liverpool were crowned as champions for the first time in 30 years in 2019/20.

Alexander-Arnold was named as the PFA Young Player of the Year and his wonderful technique and talent have seen him shine in the current side, and 22-year-old will be hoping to come through a difficult period at present to re-establish himself as one of the division’s best.

Manchester City – Phil Foden

Phil Foden’s match-winning display at Liverpool catapulted the midfielder into the headlines once more, the midfielder having been Manchester City’s brightest young talent for some time.

Foden won the Golden Ball as England’s U-17 side won the World Cup back in 2017 and his development has been closely followed ever since, Pep Guardiola having taken a patient approach with the boyhood blue despite an increasing clamour for regular minutes.

Guardiola insisted that the 20-year-old would remain at the Etihad despite suggestions of a loan and Foden has flourished amid regular exposure to some of world football’s finest talents.

Despite the seemingly constant choruses demanding more minutes for the midfielder, it is worth noting his incredible achievements already. This, after all, is a player who has already amassed 102 appearances for one of Europe’s elite before his 21st birthday and who can already count two Premier League titles amongst his honours.

Guardiola has been criticised for a reluctance to throw a player brimming with potential into the side on a permanent basis, but the patient approach looks like it may have paid dividends based on Foden’s fabulous showing at Anfield.

The multi-functional midfielder is almost balletic in his ability to glide across the pitch, twisting and turning past challenges and providing cutting moments of creative quality in addition to a goalscoring threat.

England have yearned for midfield creativity for some time and have now fell upon an embarrassment of riches, though it is Foden who shapes as the most exciting player of his generation and one the Three Lions can build around.

Manchester United – Marcus Rashford

It is well worth remembering that Marcus Rashford is still just 23-years-old, such has been the period of time in which the Manchester United forward has produced for the Red Devils.

Rashford recently made his 250th appearance in all competitions, having grown up just a few miles away from Old Trafford in Wythenshawe dreaming of pulling on the club’s red shirt.

The academy graduate burst onto the scene with a goalscoring debut as a teenager and has remained a firm fans’ favourite ever since, following in a long lineage of local lads to produce for one of world football’s biggest clubs.

Rashford’s list of accolades already includes winning the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League, with further major honours now the target with the wide-forward at the forefront of an emerging side under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Rashford is the archetypal modern forward with his ability to play across the front line, his best performances arguably coming from the left as he isolates opponents before driving forward with pace and purpose.

His current record stands at 83 goals in 250 appearances with Rashford moving past the legendary Eric Cantona for Premier League goals earlier this month, whilst he has netted 11 times in 40 caps for England and remains a major part of Gareth Southgate’s plans.

Rashford’s work off the pitch – including making a stand against social injustices and child food poverty – has only served to show the character of a man who has never forgotten his roots, rising from Manchester’s working-class background to make an impact at the city’s most famous institution.

Tottenham – Harry Kane

The most experienced footballer on this list but one who continues to star for the side where he came through the ranks, Harry Kane has established himself as one of Tottenham’s greatest ever goalscorers.

Kane was born in the east end of the capital in Walthamstow before joining the club’s youth ranks, the youngster not initially expected to reach such heights and enduring mixed fortunes during loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester.

He would seize his opportunity in the first-team during the 2014/15 campaign, however, and has failed to stop scoring since, firing home an incredible 208 goals in just 317 appearances in all competitions with only the iconic Jimmy Greaves having scored more.

Kane’s feats have seen him idolised on the terraces with the ‘He’s one of our own’ chant regularly bellowed out by the Spurs support, who will hope the England captain can inspire the north Londoners to silverware after 13 years without a major trophy.

Kane has remained loyal to Spurs so far despite admiring glances from some of Europe’s elite, winning two Premier League Golden Boots and writing himself into the club’s folklore.

The 27-year-old remains one of world football’s finest footballers and the home-grown hope of bringing a successful era to Spurs.

Read – Golden Oldies: 10 veteran forwards still performing at the highest level

Read Also – Five of the best ever Premier League assists by goalkeepers

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