Top 10 targets
Sky Sports looks at which Championship stars could be on the move in the January transfer window.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 29/12/12 9:19am
The January transfer window is notoriously difficult to negotiate, with inflated price tags forcing clubs to dig a little deeper than they had originally intended.
The New Year has become a seller's market, with anyone casting an admiring glance in the direction of a player tied to a contract aware that they will need to give the cheque book a good pounding in order to acquire the services of said star.
For clubs in the Championship, that means they can demand sizeable fees for players who would maybe come a little cheaper six months down the line.
Some managers, though, will not make it to the summer unless they bolster their ranks, while others will hound their board until funds are made available to bring in the fresh faces they feel will help to take the club to the next level.
That means there will be plenty of Premier League interest in the cream of the second tier once the window swings open, with more managers prepared to start their search at home before looking abroad, and here Sky Sports offers up a selection of those who could be on the move during the January sales.
There is every chance that Ince could end the January transfer window back at Anfield, just 17 months after Liverpool agreed to let him link up with Blackpool on a permanent basis. Should the Seasiders agree to sell, they would make a tidy profit on a player who has developed at pace since being offered regular first-team football. Liverpool have already opened talks regarding a deal, but Blackpool have informed the Reds that that they will need to raise the stakes in order to land the England U21 international. Ince has been urged by some at Bloomfield Road to see out the season before setting his sights on the Premier League, but he has plenty of people to turn to for advice - most notably his dad Paul - and he is unlikely to rush into a hasty, and possibly costly, decision.
For a few days in mid-November, Zaha was very much the man of the moment. His face adorned the back pages of every newspaper and speculation suggesting where he could end up in January dominated the gossip columns. The reason for all the fuss? Roy Hodgson had just elected to draft Zaha into the senior England squad for a friendly date with Sweden. He did make his international bow in that contest, but was given just seven minutes. It is expected that there will be many more to come, especially if Crystal Palace can be tempted into cashing in on his potential. Arsenal are reported to be leading the chase for Zaha's signature, but they are one of a clutch to clubs in the running - with Spanish giants Real Madrid linked with a shock move at one stage.
A spectacular start to the season saw Austin generating all kinds of headlines, with his remarkable strike rate for Burnley making him the top marksman in Europe. His record was better than that of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and speculation regarding his long-term future inevitably followed. Austin's tale of rags to riches has been told many times and it would be fitting if that story provided a Premier League ending for a man who was working as a bricklayer as recently as 2009. Burnley, as you would expect, insist they have no intention of selling Austin in January, with his goals vital to their cause in what has been an inconsistent campaign. It would, however, be interesting to see how they respond if a tempting offer is pushed across the table.
Another man to have seen his reputation, and price tag, considerably enhanced on the back of earning England recognition. Butland's name will have barley registered on the radar of most football followers prior to the summer, but he is now big news after making Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2012 and later going on to represent Team GB at the Olympic Games. Butland's exploits on the international stage came before he had even made his first-team bow for Birmingham, but that did little to curb the endless rounds of transfer gossip. Southampton were among those said to be keen, while Liverpool have been linked of late, and it would come as no surprise if interest builds again in the New Year - especially as Birmingham sit a long way off the pace in the Championship and may be forced to cash in on at least one of their prized assets.
At the age of just 17, Hughes has been a virtual ever-present in the Derby starting XI this season. Rams boss Nigel Clough has been prepared to take a punt on the teenage midfielder's ability, but he may be left to rue that decision as he has also alerted others to the youngster's considerable potential. Hughes has adapted to life in the Championship with consummate ease, but questions remain as to whether it may be a little too early for him to make the step up into the top-flight. Unsurprisingly, given their history of nurturing young talent, Arsenal are said to be among those closely monitoring Hughes' development, while the Gunners' capital rivals Fulham would also welcome the opportunity to add the second youngest man in history to turn out for England's U21 side to their ranks.
Something of a forgotten man following a frustrating time with injuries, South Korea international Lee is very much back on the scene at Bolton. Unfortunately for the tricky winger, the Trotters have tumbled out of the top flight since he last graced their starting XI on a regular basis. Relegation will have knocked a few pounds of his price tag, which is good news for potential suitors but bad news for Bolton. It is worth noting that Lee is still only 24, so his best years are yet to come. He has already proven himself at a Premier League level and will be hungry for more after over a year on the sidelines with a broken leg. Liverpool were said to hold an interest in the past, but it is Stoke who are now believed to be at the front of the transfer queue.
Leeds' academy system is among the most successful around, with a steady stream of talent having emerged from the Elland Road ranks in recent times. Byram may the next graduate to tread a similar path to that of Alan Smith, Jonathan Woodgate, Aaron Lennon, James Milner and Jonny Howson by making the step up into the Premier League. The promising full-back only made his first team debut for Leeds back in August, but a number of assured displays have seen the 19-year-old catch the eye. Speculation has suggested that Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham are all ready to pounce, but the arrival of new owners at Leeds should help the Championship promotion hopefuls to fend off any unwanted advances.
Solly's talents were spotted early by Arsenal's scouting network, but it is with Charlton that he has been allowed to prosper and mature into one of the most highly-rated full-backs in the Football League. Now 21 years of age, Solly netted Charlton's Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards in 2011/12, becoming the first man to claim that particular double since Richard Rufus in 1995. His efforts last season helped the Addicks to promotion back into the Championship, and he has not looked out of place on a grander stage. Reports over the summer linked him with a move to Aston Villa, a club placing plenty of emphasis on youth right now, and rumours ahead of the winter window claim he could be offered the opportunity to remain in the capital with West Ham.
With his contract running down at Nottingham Forest, McGugan has a big decision to make in the New Year. Forest would be reluctant to let a home-grown talent head for pastures new, but must convince him that his future would be best served at the City Ground. The Reds will want an indication from McGugan in January as to what his intentions are, as they must make the most of the opportunity to demand a fee should the midfielder express a desire to move on. A number of Premier League clubs are keeping a close eye on McGugan's contract situation, with Fulham recently linked with an approach for a player who has a habit of scoring spectacular goals and is capable of turning games on his own when in the right frame of mind.
Barnsley are not blessed with the biggest of budgets, so rely heavily on their ability to unearth hidden gems or produce their own first-team stars. Stones falls into the latter of those categories, with the England U19 international another teenage full-back to be causing quite a stir in the Championship. Stepping up into the senior fold towards the end of the 2011/12 campaign, the 18-year-old has become a regular in Keith Hill's plans this term. Such potential rarely goes unnoticed, and Chelsea were among the first to be linked with a move for Stones. Everton are also believed to be in the frame and Barnsley may see their hand forced if a bid is lodged in January.
Others worth keeping an eye on
Bristol City's talented winger Albert Adomah has been linked with Swansea of late, but he will be on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Ghana in the New Year and that may force admirers to look elsewhere. Ipswich's Aaron Cresswell has attracted top-flight interest in the past, Cardiff's Ben Nugent is a teenage defender destined for a bright future, Will Buckley is one of a number of Brighton players to have impressed so far this season and Leicester pulled off quite a coup in acquiring Anthony Knockaert - but it remains to be seen whether they can keep the France U21 international midfielder out of the clutches of a rival.