Here at Shoot! we endeavour to keep a watchful eye over the emerging talents in world football and keep you in the know in terms of who you should be watching out for in the years to come.
Having already looked at Chelsea starlet George McEachran, today we switch our attention to the third-tier of English football, at League One outfit Oxford United.
In particular a certain Ryan Ledson, who was originally tipped as ‘Everton’s next big thing’.
The 19-year-old, who is currently on international duty with the England Under-20s squad at the Four Nations Tournament, was recently named EFL Young Player of the Month for February following his impressive displays for The U’s.
Ledson, who joined Premier League side Everton’s youth academy when he was just five-years-old, has scored one goal and provided one assist in 29 appearances in all competitions for Michael Appleton’s side so far this term.
But, with Oxford still hopeful of making a late push for the League One play-offs this campaign, the above statistics do not serve justice and give Ledson the credit he deserves.
— Sky Bet League One (@SkyBetLeagueOne) January 23, 2017
Nonetheless, his sole strike in a Yellows shirt was certainly one to savour! The teenager wrapped up Oxford’s convincing 4-0 win at Rochdale by scoring from 40 yards out, after goalkeeper Conrad Logan’s poor clearance.
The central midfielder relished a breakthrough month at the Kassam Stadium in February, some would say he finally displayed his true potential, in which kept him on the books at Goodison Park until last summer.
Ledson has been influential in The U’s’ rise up the league standings following their automatic promotion from League Two last season.
The youngster has formed a solid partnership with former Toffees team-mate and Oxford captain, John Lundstram, and has become one of the first names on manager Appleton’s teamsheet, whilst also earning international recognition.
Speaking to the EFL, the midfielder commented on his development at the League One club, “I’m gaining experience every single week here.
“I’m learning to adapt my game to different styles that different teams play and it can only be beneficial to me playing these sorts of games.
“There’s only a certain amount of Under-23 games you can play before you need to go out there and experience real team football in front of the crowds.
“I’d recommend any young player to go and find first team football and play as many games as they can.”
Ledson was earmarked as Everton’s hottest prospects after putting pen to paper on his first professional contract on his 17th birthday, before making his first-team debut by starting against FC Krasnodar in the UEFA Europa League back in December 2014.
However, that outing turned out to be his only first-team appearance for The Toffees, before being loaned out to Cambridge United the following year, playing 28 times for the League Two side, without finding the back of the net.
But since arriving at the Kassam Stadium last August; Ledson has enjoyed Oxford’s encouraging run to the fifth round of the FA Cup, beating Championship opponents Newcastle United and Rotherham United en route, to only be knocked out by Premier League side Middlesbrough.
However, the Liverpool-born starlet has an exciting cup final to look forward to, as Oxford United visit Wembley Stadium next Sunday (April 2) to face Coventry City in the 2017 Checkatrade Trophy Final.
Ledson was part of the Young Lions squad that won the UEFA European Under-17 Championships back in 2014, but next weekend’s finale offers the midfielder the chance to lift his first club honour, and who knows, promotion into the Championship isn’t to be written off, just yet.
With plenty to fight for at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, Ledson has justified his decision to drop two divisions and show what he is made of in Oxfordshire.
But, after an award-winning month with The U’s, don’t rule out a return to the top-flight, or Championship, in the future, with speculation sure to emerge if he maintains his good form, whilst Everton will be surely hoping they didn’t make a mistake by letting the midfielder depart last summer.
Ledson is certainly one youngster to keep an eye on!