The EFL Championship title is rated as one of the toughest to compete for throughout Europe. All 24 sides play tirelessly through a long, gruelling season in hope of promotion to the Premier League.
Many sides rely on star players made in England and overseas to find the fitting balance and formula for promotion into top-flight English football. Established in this formula is substantial reliance on youth and loan players over the course of 46 matches.
The use of loan players produces a great benefit for both clubs in performance, growth and finances.
Premier League sides have the aid of its lower division to grow youth and fringe first-team players in hope of strengthening their club’s future.
The Championship is indulged with players on loan from the Premier League, fellow EFL sides and international clubs, all of which seeking their players to face an experience greater than youth/reserve football.
Collectively, this list of players produces a theoretical side worthy enough to compete with its Premier League parent clubs and glance into the future of football.
Five of Chelsea’s 22 on loan players are included within the side, with many positions occupied by stars Championship sides in the hunt for promotion.
Dean Henderson (Sheffield United/Manchester United)
The Blades gloveman has had a break out season in the Championship, starting all 35 games for Chris Wilder and holding 14 clean sheets, second only to Middlesbrough’s Darren Randolph. Henderson has become a foundation for Sheffield United’s push for promotion as they currently sit third in the table and three points away from an automatic promotion position.
In a season heavily reliant on goalkeeper’s performance with weekly high scoring affairs, Henderson has stood tall to be considered one the league’s best in the company of Jack Butland, Keiren Westwood and Randolph. Henderson is currently ranked second in the league in goals allowed per 90 minutes at a rate of 0.97 goals per game while sitting in the leagues top half for shots faced.
Sheffield has become Henderson’s fourth loan club, following stints with Stockport, Grimsby Town and Shrewsbury, reaching the League One play-off final last season with the latter.
Henderson will have tough competition breaking into Manchester United’s first 11, with David De Gea, Joel Pereira, Sergio Romero and Lee Grant currently accommodating the Old Trafford dressing room. The 21-year-old has been rumoured to be on the radar of fellow European giants Bayern Munich and Juventus, with both clubs looking for a successor in goal.
With the Championship promotion race currently as tight as ever, the final stretch of the season will heavily depend on the Sheffield United keeper’s leadership in goal, in hope for Premiership football in the 2019/20 season. A campaign that many fans wish to see Henderson in a Blades outfit.
Mason Holgate (West Bromwich Albion/Everton)
Having only signed for West Brom in January, Mason Holgate has already been able to induct his Premier League pedigree into the Baggies defence. The English youth international represented the Toffees in their first five league fixtures before being dropped to the bench and eventually loaned out after a poor run of form under Marco Silva.
Since then, Holgate has showcased his defensive flexibility in nine consecutive starts, picking up three assists between right back and half-back for Darren Moore. The 22-year-old instantly caught the eye of many Baggies fans at The Hawthorns, showing his transition into the Championship to be effortless.
With West Brom deep into their promotion race for a return to the Premier League, Holgate became a catalyst for their defensive woes within the winter transfer period and has since shone with his new side. The young defender is currently ranked within the top 15 in the league for both interceptions and tackles per game with 2.1 and 2.7 respectively, the only player in the Championship to do so.
The Baggies have transformed into a fast-paced, clean attacking threat within the league under Moore, and Holgate has certainly thrived from the opportunity, adding an aggressive, front-footed release to his game, with his new manager expressing his excitement following the signing in January.
“First and foremost he is a good, good player,” Moore said. “He is quick, agile, athletic, comfortable on the ball. He’s a young, up-and-coming player with a big future. But he already has good Premier League experience including playing in a Merseyside derby and that is a real furnace to handle.”
Joining Kieran Gibbs, Ahmed Hegazi and Craig Dawson in defence, Holgate will be surrounded by different classes of experience in his short stint at West Brom, an inevitable benefit for his future career in English football.
Tomáš Kalas (Bristol City/Chelsea)
Having been at Stamford Bridge since 2010 after signing form Czech club SK Sigma Olomouc, Kalas has struggled to impress any Chelsea first-team coach after continuous loan spells throughout his career as a Blue.
Although, with the combination of his growing form for Bristol City and Chelsea’s current defensive woes and two-year transfer ban, Kalas’ luck may begin to change. A pairing with Adam Webster in central defence has led Lee Johnson’s side into a playoff spot with 12 matches to go.
A 13 game unbeaten streak including a perfect seven-game run has risen The Robins up the table at a crucial mark in the season, and their fans can have their defence to thank. Since their 2-0 home loss to Leeds in late November, Bristol City has conceded just the 17 goals in 16 matches.
Kalas averages an outstanding 0.2 times dribbled past per game to go along with 5.4 clearances and 2 interceptions. The Czech international’s game under the Ashton Gate lights has improved immensely following recent spells with fellow English sides Fulham and Middlesbrough as his ability on the ball has become as damaging as his defensive traits.
Fikayo Tomori (Derby County/Chelsea)
Derby County fans can count themselves lucky having signed this Chelsea academy graduate in August last year. Tomori’s stock under Blues legend Frank Lampard has continued to rise as the season has progressed, with the Canadian and English youth international having accumulated nearly 2,880 minutes in 33 matches for the Rams.
Having recently dropped out of the top six, Derby will be keen not to repeat recent history with their ongoing battle to find an imposing form late into the season. The club has heavily invested into youth and loan signings with Liverpool’s Harry Wilson and fellow Chelsea loanee Mason Mount joining Tomori at Pride Park for short spells.
Tomori has been heavily relied on by Lampard with the form of Richard Keogh and reliance on Curtis Davies becoming questionable throughout the year. Tomori’s aggressive style of play off the ball has fit into Derby’s outfit fluently, building the 21-year-old into of the league’s best tackling and blocking half-backs.
Along with the further 21 Chelsea loaned players, Tomori has a great balance of opportunity and promise to potentially become a future first-team player at Stamford Bridge. Tomori is the youngest out of fellow loaned centre backs Kurt Zouma, Michael Hector, Kalas and Matt Miazga who all find themselves returning to Stamford Bridge at seasons end, proving to be an exciting problem for Maurizio Sarri.
Jack Colback (Nottingham Forest/Newcastle)
After 179 Premier League appearances for North East rivals Sunderland and Newcastle, Jack Colback has thrived in his loan spell with Nottingham Forest in midfield this season and is the Loan XI’s oldest player. Colback initially signed for Forest in January last year for a half-season loan spell, before re-joining the club in July following a fallout with manager Rafa Benitez.
In Colback’s second spell with the Nottinghamshire side, the midfielder has become a rock in central midfield and more recently flourished under newly appointed manager Martin O’Neill, including captaining the side to a 0-0 draw against Preston.
O’Neill has seen Colback become one of the first names on his team-sheet and recently expressed his hope to make his stay at West Bridgford permanent.
“I think your opinion that he has been one of the better players this season is pretty well the same thought around the dressing room as well,” O’Neill told Nottinghamshire Live.
“I have not got into the contractual details of his situation, but I will look at this situation in the near future.”
Colback is currently ranked fifth in the league for passing accuracy and third between midfielders behind Leeds’ Adam Forshaw and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish. The 29-year-old leads his side in total passes and tackles this season, along with the most clearances by non-defenders.
Kieran Dowell (Sheffield United/Everton)
What had become a disappointing start to the season for both Dowell and Everton has prospered into a potential rebirth of form for the 21-year-old and the Blades. After a promising season with Nottingham Forest last year, Dowell struggled to break into the first team line-up under Marco Silva, only managing to make the bench on three occasions.
Since moving to Sheffield on January 2nd, Dowell has been an impeccable aid for Chris Wilder in midfield, adding to their already threatening front half. With key men Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick needing time away from the pitch, winter signings Gary Madine and Dowell have flourished with the opportunity.
Dowell stepped up during a vital fixture in the club’s push for promotion, including the winning goal and a man-of-the-match performance against fellow play-off, placed side West Brom, with his manager full of praise after the match.
“We’re delighted,” Wilder said. “He has been outstanding for us.”
Sheffield has only suffered one defeat since Dowell joined the club and currently looking to break into an automatic promotion place with just eleven matches to go. The new look midfield of Oliver Norwood, John Fleck and Dowell will be sure to push their side deep into the season.
Having been at Everton since he was seven, the Toffees will find it hard to let walk from Goodison Park, but Dowell could become another strong signing for the Blades if they are to win promotion to the premiership next season.
Mason Mount (Derby County/Chelsea)
32 starts in midfield across all competitions for Derby County, a man-of-the-match performance to eliminate Manchester United from The League Cup and becoming a key component for a top Championship side at the age of 20. Mason Mount is the real deal.
Returning to England after an enormous season for Dutch side SBV Vitesse, contributing to 23 goals (13 goals, 10 assists) in 39 games, Mount picked up where he left off after his last loan spell abroad, scoring on debut away to Reading in a 2-1 victory.
The Rams have only picked up two wins in their last seven matches Mount has missed with a hamstring injury. The attacking midfielder has the highest points per game for his side from players with more than 13 appearances this season, proving to be a pivotal member of their midfield.
Playing under former Chelsea and England legend Frank Lampard looks to be the perfect fit for Mount, hoping to follow in the steps of his manager both domestically and on an international level. Mount is currently ranked within the top 10 in the league for key passes per game and will look to add his name to Chelsea’s breed of playmakers and set-piece mavens.
Mount has proven his versatility between central and attacking midfield positions for Derby this season and has thrived under a more advanced role when given the chance. With doubt surrounding Mateo Kovačić’s chance of a permanent deal and Danny Drinkwater likely to be shown the door at Stamford Bridge, there are opportune openings for Mount to join Maurizio Sarri’s midfield next season.
Harry Wilson (Derby County/Liverpool)
Having only notched up 20 professional domestic caps before this season with Crewe Alexandra (7) and Hull City (13), Wilson has exceeded expectations, becoming Derby’s best finisher with 10 goals in 29 matches. Wilson became the youngest Welshman to make his international debut at 16 years and 207 days, beating Wales superstar Gareth Bale’s record for the honour.
Wilson has proven to be a headache for defenders this season with the 21-year-old’s ability to cut through and get behind lines helping his side add to the score sheet. Matched with his tendency to cut inside and hit targets from distance, Wilson has the threat to score from a nearly limitless range, ranking at number one in the league from goals scored outside of the box with 7. Wilson is also ranked 5th in the league for drawing fouls with an average of 2.4 fouls drawn per match.
Wilson’s season to date has left fans electrified and opponents devastated, with no highlight this season better than his 30-yard curling free-kick against Manchester United in the third round of the League Cup. Derby went on to win in penalties, including Wilson converting from 12 yards and giving both Derby and Liverpool fans a day to remember.
Wilson adds to the growing list of promising players for Wales’ future, with Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks, Chelsea and Brentford centre-backs Ethan Ampadu and Chris Mepham and Swansea’s Daniel James all having picked up caps for the Dragons at a young age.
The Liverpool prodigy will be heavily relied on under Frank Lampard as the season is steered into its final stretch, with fellow loan players Mount and Tomori all hosting fundamental roles for the Rams promotion hopes.
Reece James (Wigan Athletic/Chelsea)
The Chelsea Academy graduate features as the youngest player in the Loan XI at just 19 years of age. James has proven to be one of the more versatile full-backs in the Championship this season with his development to attack with a ball at his feet transitioning him into a damaging two-way player.
James has completed 53 key passes in his 30 games at right-back for the Latics this year, more than any other defender, with Queens Park Rangers’ Jake Bidwell second with 36. James is also ranked as the sixth best defender for successful dribbles with a total of 33.
After being named Chelsea’s Academy Player of the Season and signing a new four-year contract at Stamford Bridge last year, James signed for Wigan in June and has flourished under his side’s to the Championship.
Paul Cook’s side haven’t managed to sit above 19th in the league table since mid-December, falling into the relegation battle after picking up two wins in their last 16 fixtures. The poor run in form has seen James step up in a time of dire need, including an assist for Joe Garner’s 91st-minute equaliser against Ipswich Town.
The right-back will be destined to shine in Chelsea’s future, with first-team football at Stamford Bridge potentially coming early as next season if Chelsea’s transfer is upheld.
Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa/Chelsea)
Abraham’s first season away from Stamford Bridge in 2016-17 for Bristol City was rated as one of most clinical in English football for the year. 26 goals and 4 assists in 48 appearances for the Robins saw the now 21-year-old to be the answer to Chelsea’s striker woes. With Alvaro Morata’s future at Chelsea up in smoke, Abraham has rejuvenated his chance to become the Blues’ next star No.9 with a strong season at Villa Park.
Abraham sits equal third in the race for the Championship Golden Boot behind Finnish forward Teemu Pukki (24) and Blades striker Billy Sharp (22), with 21 goals in 29 games, including four against Nottingham Forest in a 5-5 thriller.
The London born forward will be sure to flourish for Aston Villa in the last third of the season as star midfielder Jack Grealish returns to the pitch, ensuring Abraham’s chances on goal will rise under Dean Smith.
Abraham’s season could have ended inversely with a loan deal to Wolverhampton almost signed to secure Abraham at the Molineux in January before the deal was called off by Abrahams’s party.
With Villa’s chances of promotion slipping away by the week, Abraham will be sure to look for top-flight football in the 2019-20 season, with rumours surrounding German outfit RB Leipzig potentially rivalling Wolves for the Englishman’s signature. Chelsea’s transfer ban may just be the opening for Abraham to remain at Stamford Bridge next season in hope of finding form in the Premier League.
Dwight Gayle (West Bromwich Albion/Newcastle)
Gayle has proven again this season that his quality as a forward is above the standard of the league. Since joining newly relegated outfit West Brom in a swap-loan deal for Venezuelan striker Salomón Rondón, Gayle has scored 16 goals and assisted seven in 28 matches this season.
Gayle’s pairing up front with Jay Rodriguez under Darren Moore has seen both players complement one another with a combined tally of 33 goals and 12 assists. Both forwards sit in the race for the golden boot with Gayle having featured in fewer matches than any other player in the top 10.
Following Harvey Barnes’ return to Leicester, Gayle’s toll of reliance as a forward has increased since January, with Moore recently playing the 28-year-old in a wider position. Gayle’s manager praised the striker’s flexibility up front, heading into the Championship’s final run.
“He’s got the 16 goals, that’s a fact,” Moore said. “The biggest thing is his contribution with the goals, we hope he contributes more for the rest of the season.”
“It’s a fluid front three, they do interchange. If one’s in the middle or on the right, or the left, it’s water off a duck’s back.”
Baggies fans have been blessed with Gayle’s arrival this season as he has become a facilitator in their sides hopes to return to the Premier League. Questions will be raised at seasons end if Gayle is to make his stay at the Hawthorns permanent if Newcastle is willing to offload the marksman.
Jack Harrison (Leeds/Manchester City)
Anwar El Ghazi (Aston Villa/Lille)
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea/Tottenham)
Harrison Reed (Blackburn Rovers/Southampton)
Michael Hector (Sheffield Wednesday/Chelsea)