Kane Smith - Boreham Wood
22-year old attacking wing-back Kane Smith is not a name that is well-known to supporters of Football League clubs, but is someone that is almost sure to go on and play in the professional game for years to come.
His form this season for National League side Boreham Wood FC has been so spectacular that he’s earned himself a call up to the England C squad just this past week - a reward for some fine displays over the course of this season for the play-off hopefuls.
Sunderland have been credited with an interest in Smith in the past and he’s likely to receive considerable attention in the summer, with a large number of football league clubs vying to tie him down once his deal with Boreham Wood expires.
For an idea of what he’s like, Smith has been compared in the past to (an albeit lower standard) Kyle Walker - an energetic right back who thrives on assisting his team mates and creating issues with his pace and athleticism.
Reise Allassani - Dulwich Hamlet
Perhaps one of the most notable names in the current non-league scene is former England U17 international Reise Allassani, a young man who is rapidly rebuilding his career following an awful spell in which he suffered from some detrimental injury problems.
Marked as the natural successor to Victor Moses and Wilfried Zaha in the Crystal Palace academy, Allassani found himself released by the Eagles, but with a contract lined up at Sheffield Wednesday he ruptured his knee ligaments in the summer of 2016 and spent over a year on the treatment table recovering.
Isthmian League Premier Division caused something of a shock when they managed to secure Allassani’s signature last summer, and his form was so incredible that the London-based minnows tied the attacker down to a contract which protected them in the event that they’d receive offers for his services in January - something which warded off his suitors who instead have opted to wait until the summer, when his deal expires, to try and snap him up.
“We’ve had about seven or eight Championship clubs, one Premier League club show interest and a League Two club,” said Hamlet manager Gavin Rose back in November. “He has scored so many goals in a short period of time. He has got a good CV and so it is not rocket science that people are going to be interested in him.”
Allassani is certain to go on to play at a far higher level, and with clubs battling it out to sign him in the summer it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up. He’s athletic, quick and more than capable on producing displays of the highest quality - whether Sunderland would be prepared to take a gamble on him is another thing altogether.
For Sunderland fans in the capital this coming weekend you can head along to Dulwich and check Allassani out yourself for free - provided you have a match ticket for the Fulham game the night before, of course. Click here to find out more information on that front - a nice gesture, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Karol Wengrzik - Dereham Town
Former Norwich City player and Poland U17 international Karol Wengrzik is earning his stripes in non-league football following his release by the Canaries, and at the age of 17 he’ll be hoping to earn himself a move to a club further up the pyramid in the summer.
Many onlookers were surprised when the attacking midfielder was released by Norwich and in his spell with Dereham Town he’s caught the eye of many suitors in the professional game who are impressed by his progress since leaving Carrow Road last year.
Our insider from down South speaks highly of the young Pole, and here offers a more in-depth explanation of what he’s capable of:
Karol Wengrzik can play in any of the attacking midfield positions in a 4-2-3-1 as well as being able to operate as a false nine or inside forward. His ability to switch between positions with ease allows him to drift into threatening areas in the final third.
In the past, English clubs have raised questions about his height and strength; however, these concerns were quashed when he joined Dereham Town and started playing first team football. Rather than entering into physical duels, Karol plays to his strengths and uses his acceleration, elusiveness and agility to beat defenders.
He then added:
Technically, Karol is a confident, creative and exciting player who combines speed, ball control and flair. At his best, Karol has freedom to roam into spaces out wide and a license to take on defenders. He is a quick-thinker and tries to keep the ball moving with short, fast passes.
In his last season for Norwich, he had the fourth highest goals and assists tally in the team despite playing out of position at left back.
Tactically, Karol recognises adaptions to the state of the game and has the intelligence to alter his playing style. Having played top-level academy football, youth international football and Non-League football in the last ten months he has proved he can perform against a variety of playing styles, formations and conditions.
Karol’s commitment to his team are the foundations for his strong relationships with his teammates and coaches. He is seen as a leader on the field and takes responsibility for his actions and works hard to bring the best out of the players around him.
Sounds great, eh?
At such a young age it’d be daft to expect Sunderland to sign players like Wengrzik to play for the first team, but with a lack of funds and a higher dependence on youth meaning there’ll be holes to fill in our U23s squad, it’ll be interesting to see if we raid non-league football for their best untapped gems in an attempt to potentially bolster our academy side.
Eddie Clarke - Tranmere
Left wing-back Eddie Clarke has emerged in the second half of this season as perhaps the most talented youngster to come through the Tranmere system since Aaron Cresswell in 2008, and his form has been so good that he’s courted interest from League One title hopefuls Wigan Athletic since January.
The Latics were actually expected to sign the 19-year old during the winter transfer window and then loan him back for the remainder of the season but it never came off, and instead he’s remained on Merseyside with Rovers where he’s continued to impress and show just why good Football League sides are interested in signing him.
Sunderland are sure to sell Bryan Oviedo in the summer following the culmination of the World Cup and, him aside, we have no other viable options in that position.
21-year old Sunderland academy product Denver Hume will be hoping that he’ll get a chance to impress now that the club have dropped another division, but we’ll still need to recruit in that position. Could a cut-price move for a youngster like Clarke be in the offing, or would we instead prefer to focus our time and effort on securing players with League One experience? I suppose only time will tell.