The future of League Two – strikers

League Two, predictable, boring and a poor standard of football are only some of the descriptions I’ve heard about it since I’ve been a football fan, and sometimes, people do have a point.

But my job this season will be to prove that the 2011/12 season will be a new chapter in the league’s 53-year history.

My name is Dan Johnson (@danjohnson6) I’m a Swindon Town fan and have been writing about Swindon’s fortunes over the last four seasons. Despite being relegated to League Two this upcoming season is one I can’t wait to finally get started.

Over the next 10 months of League Two football I will be bringing you a short and simple overview of how things are shaping up in the league and a supporters eye view of life in the League.

Today we look at the best young strikers League Two has to offer, just like the previous three posts I will be focusing on the rising stars in this country and the players you need to look out for when teams visit your ground or you watch a game on television.

Like the previous weeks it’s been very difficult to only talk in detail about five of the best young stars in League Two.

Players like Danny Hylton, Ricky Holmes, Mark Stewart, Stefan Payne, Jake Robinson, Deane Smalley, James Collins and Raffaele De Vita are all players that should make an impact at their clubs this season. Adam Le Fondre isn’t included in this list because I don’t think he’ll be at Rotherham or in League Two past the end of August, but at the moment he’s not just one of the best strikers in League Two but I think in the Football League.

These five players will be the players to keep an eye on this season in League Two:

5. James Hanson started his career at Huddersfield Town as a youth team player but after failing to sign a professional deal was released in 2003 at the age of 15.

But carried on chasing his dream of professional football and played non-league football for Eccleshill Utd and Guiseley scoring an impressive 63 goals in 88 games over his time with those clubs.

Subsequently he attracted interest from a few league clubs and in 2009 James signed his first professional deal with Bradford City.

His debut season at Valley Parade was a huge success scoring 13 goals and winning the clubs Player of the Year award.

Last season was a less successful one for James scoring just 6 league goals but with Bradford having a awful season in League Two its no surprise that players don’t lift there game as much and under-perform.

No one doubts that James can’t repeat his first season heroics for Bradford and again show he’s one of League Two’s top strikers.

4. Max Clayton is another product of the famous Crewe youth system and like his England colleague Nick Powell he has made a big impression across the country.

Max, just like his brother Harry, joined Crewe at the age of 7 and has been tipped for a huge future in the game. He made his debut in April this year and at only 16 years old he signed his first professional deal this summer.

As I mentioned, he’s well known across the country for being a player with huge potential and last summer was linked to a move to Liverpool but no official bid was made and Max still remains at Crewe for the time being.

Max has played 25 games for England scoring 6 goals across all age levels and recently played at the Under-17s World Cup were he played every game in the competition scoring one goal.

3. Tom Craddock came through the youth ranks at Middlesborough and was given his first team chance in 2006 vs Fulham after an impressive season in the reserves where he scored 20 goals.

During the 2006/07 season Tom was unable to break his way into the first team and was sent out on loan to Wrexham. It was the same situation the next season and he joined Hartlepool on loan.

Again, for a third season, first team football at Middleborough looked very unlikely and after an impressive loan spell at Luton he joined them permanently in January 2009.

Despite Tom having a great season and scoring 12 goals in 30 games, Luton’s off the field problems caught up with them and after a 30-point deduction they were relegated to the Conference National.

In the following season he had another successful season scoring 24 goals and helping Luton reach the playoffs, but after the Hatters failed to get promoted they were going to struggle to keep Tom at the club and in August 2010 he moved to Oxford.

Even though Oxford had a mediocre season in League Two last season, Tom had an impressive campaign scoring 15 goals. He was also one of the stand out players in the division.

With Oxford being one of the favourites for a playoff place this season, Tom will be a key figure again.

2. Tom Bradshaw began his career at Welsh Premier League side Aberystwyth Town, after scoring a couple of goals and showing lots of potential Shrewsbury Town moved quickly to sign Tom in 2009.

After a season mostly in the youth team and reserves Tom was given his first team chance in April 2010 at Crewe and made an immediate impact scoring two goals on his debut.

Since his successful debut Tom has mostly been used from the bench due to his brilliant pace and predatory instincts and in his first full season he scored 6 goals in 13 starts and 15 substitute appearances.

Since his impressive debut season there’s been a lot of interest in Tom from the media to other clubs across the country. Even before last season started West Ham were reportedly interested in bringing him to the Boleyn Ground.

After tasting some first team football last season I’m sure Tom’s ambition will be to start more games and show people he’s more than just a super sub.

1. Shaun Miller is the fifth Crewe player to be included in this list, again shows you Crewe’s, and in particular, Dario Gradi’s ability to produce excellent players.

Dean Ashton, Seth Johnson, Danny Murphy, Neil Lennon and David Platt are some of the names that Gradi has managed and have moved up the football ladder.

Like all are other Crewe players Shaun has been at the club his entire professional career.

Shaun signed his first professional contract in June 2006, his debut came in November the same year and in March 2007 he was given his first start. He repaid his managers faith with his first league goal.

For a couple of seasons at the club he was used more from the bench, in the 2008/09 season he started to become an important first team player but it was last season he started to find the net consistently.

Shaun scored 19 goals and also notched up 11 assists. Many Crewe fans thought he’d be snapped up during the summer but he’s still at the club ready to help Crewe achieve promotion. Keep an eye out!

By Dan the fan – Swindon Town fan – @danjohnson6 


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