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.
Following last month’s edition on Manchester United starlet Tahith Chong, this time our attention turns back to the Championship as we take a look at Bristol City defender Lloyd Kelly.
The 20-year-old Bristol native joined the club’s academy system aged 12, before being handed his debut in an EFL Cup victory over Plymouth Argyle in August 2017.
A strong start to the season merited a call-up to the England Under-20 squad, where Kelly would go on to earn his first cap just weeks after making his first senior appearance.
Then 19, Kelly was an unused substitute as Bristol City defeated Manchester United to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup last season.
Whilst Kelly is a left-back by trade, he has also been deployed as a centre-back by Robins boss Lee Johnson this term.
Standing at 6ft 3in, the youngster has received plenty of praise for his performances at the centre of defence and has been commended for being able to stand up to the cut and thrust nature of the Championship.
Kelly has been a key member of a side challenging for a place in the play-offs, with the young man appearing 30 times and earning rave reviews as his performances helped the promotion chasers on their nine-match winning streak during January and February.
After excelling for his club, Kelly was once again called up to play for his country during the March international break, but this time to Aidy Boothroyd’s England Under-21 side.
His debut – coincidentally played at Bristol’s home stadium, Ashton Gate – saw the starlet play 90 minutes in the centre of defence in a 1-1 draw with Poland as his assured performance helped the Young Lions extend their unbeaten run to 16 matches.
Commenting on the experience of playing in his unnatural position, Kelly said after the game: “when I come away on international duty I do play centre-half the majority of the time so I was quite comfortable with the adaption”.
As is often the case with young Championship talent, Kelly is reportedly on the radar of several Premier League clubs including top-six giants Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.
Reports suggest that Anfield would be the most likely destination for the defender, as the club search for a second-choice left-back behind Andy Robertson.
But at such a tender age and with only 41 senior appearances to his name, a move to the Premier League at this stage in Kelly’s career is likely to be a little premature and to play second fiddle would do his progression no good whatsoever.
Instead, the focus for the Bristol born full-back should be consistency. And, with that, a switch to the top-flight should be a natural transition.
When commenting on the rumours surrounding Kelly in the January transfer window, his manager urged him to “keep his feet on the ground” and “keep working hard”. If he does that the Robins could have a job on their hands in keeping their prized asset.