Over the three years since our title winning season, the Leicester City squad has received a clear boost from the Academy. Ben Chiwell, Hamza Choudhury and Harvey Barnes have all broken through into the regular first team squad.
The Foxes are already one of the league’s youngest teams, but you can’t have too many young stars. Here we’ll look at some other players who could take the next step.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, 20, CM
The last four winners of the Leicester City Development Squad Player of the Year Award: Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes, Hamza Choudhury, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. It certainly looks like a good omen.
The downside though is that all of the others were involved around the first team before getting their chance. Dewsbury-Hall did not travel with the squad to France, or feature in any preseason games, so he has a lot of ground to make up.
Callum Elder, 24, LB
The Australian has spent most of his time at club on loan through League Two, League One and then a brief stint in the Championship last year. The progression is promising, as were his appearances in the early preseason games. He can certainly get forward and fits the current fullback expectations.
He seems to have been pretty firmly established as the number three LB on the team for a few years, to the extent that we haven’t seen many signings there like we have on the right.
The problem is the two ahead of him. Ben Chiwell is one of the best young LBs around, while Christian Fuchs may well be the best backup at the position in the league. Elder will probably head back out on loan. Any first team chances would require something to happen to one of those ahead of him.
George Thomas, 22, RW
The former Coventry City player signed for Leicester in 2017 after his breakout season for the Sky Blues. He spent the past season on loan at Scunthorpe, providing 10 combined goals and assists in League One, after earning his first cap for Wales last summer.
Obviously the step up from League One to the Premier League is a large one. His best bet is to follow in the footsteps of Harvey Barnes; if he can secure a loan to the Championship, and impress there, he could make a push for the first team in early 2020.
Thomas is a talented player, and Ryan Giggs thinks he can play on the wing. His ability to play all across the front line could also help him to fit in here, but his path into the squad is not a direct one.
Khanya Leshabela, AM, 19
If I had to pick one player likely to make their debut this season, it would be Leshabela. He has been a little closer than the others recently, featuring in the squad for a Carabao Cup game last season and travelling to the Evian camp this summer.
The South African will be familiar to any fans who have followed the Foxes through preseason. He played 65 impressive minutes in the opening fixture at Scunthorpe and also came off the bench to play with the first XI at Stoke.
South African football fans should be genuinely excited by Khanya Leshabela's progress at #LCFC Real potential to follow the likes of Chilwell, Choudhury & Barnes into the first team in the next few seasons.— Bruce Nadin (@brucenadin) July 29, 2019
He also seems to have a direct path into the squad, future transfers aside. Behind James Maddison the Foxes currently have...Ayoze Perez? Andy King? Demarai Gray? Hard to know exactly what the plan is, but certainly no one with the same skillset.
Leshabela’s ability to carry the ball forward and to pick out a pass would certainly help him to fill that role more closely than anyone else in the squad can right now.
The truth is, the Development Squad has been somewhat thinned out over the last couple of years through promotions of the best players.
The club has also made a lot of effort lately to sign promising young talent. Just this summer they’ve added four players capped at the youth level in defenders Mitch Clarke and Vontae Daley-Campbell, and Forwards George Hirst and Ali Reghba.
Any academy players trying to break through will have to move past these guys first, and then into a first team that already has a strong, deep squad. It’s a daunting prospect, but not an impossible task.