Ben Woodburn among five Premier League youngsters to watch in 2017
By Adam Bate and Nick Wright
Last Updated: 28/12/16 9:56am
We pick out five talented youngsters who could be set for a big year ahead in the Premier League.
It's a competition full of big-money signings but that has not stopped the very best young players from making an impact.
Here we pick five who could do big things in 2017…
Academy product Ben Woodburn became the youngest goalscorer in Liverpool's history when he turned the ball home in Liverpool's EFL Cup win over Leeds United in November. At just 17 years and 45 days old, he eclipsed Michael Owen's record and sparked wild celebrations at Anfield.
It was a spine-tingling moment for the teenager, who had made his Premier League debut as a substitute against Sunderland only three days earlier. Woodburn can play in attack or midfield, and Jurgen Klopp has fast-tracked him into the first team after an eye-catching rise through the youth ranks.
The Liverpool manager has vowed to "protect" Woodburn from the media spotlight, but that might prove difficult in the year ahead. The youngster is already at the centre of an international tug of war between Wales and England. His burgeoning reputation is growing all the time.
West Ham's youngest-ever player Reece Oxford made the headlines in August 2015 after playing a key role in the Hammer's opening-day win at Arsenal last season. The defender, who featured as a holding midfielder in that game, was only 16 at the time and tipped for lots more first-team action.
Oxford called it a "dream debut", academy boss Terry Westley identified him as someone who wanted to be challenged at "the very highest level" while Slaven Bilic suggested he would not even be fazed by Lionel Messi. Defender Winston Reid said Oxford was probably better than him.
But almost 18 months on, the player has made only two further Premier League starts - and was taken off at half-time on both occasions. Contract talks have complicated his future too. Even so, the talent remains and, now 18, it is surely a matter of time before he gets an extended run in the side.
Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks has had to be patient for his first-team opportunities with coach Mauricio Pochettino unwilling to allow the player to go out on loan, preferring instead to develop his game by training with the senior squad. Winks now seems to be seeing the benefit.
After featuring in Europa League games over the previous two seasons, the 20-year-old has graduated to Premier League action this term, scoring on his full debut in the competition against West Ham in November. Winks also started in the win over Burnley just before Christmas.
A composed midfielder able to win the ball back, distribute it effectively and also show the sort of energy levels that Pochettino demands from his players, Winks also made his England U21 debut earlier this season and seems ideally placed to enjoy a breakthrough year in 2017.
Just the latest young talent from Southampton's prodigious production line, Josh Sims looks to be of the calibre supporters have come to expect from their academy graduates. It certainly didn't take him long to make an impact - assisting a Charlie Austin goal within a minute of his debut.
Although his man-of-the-match display in that win over Everton wasn't enough to retain his place in the side, the 19-year-old has since appeared for the first time in the EFL Cup and the Europa League from the bench and has shown himself to be comfortable enough at this level.
A diminutive but combative winger, Sims was part of the England squad that won the European U17 Championships in Malta in 2014 and the signs are that there's a lot more to come from the youngster. With Claude Puel happy to trust in youth, 2017 could be an exciting year for Sims.
Pep Guardiola quickly identified Aleix Garcia as a Manchester City youngster capable of making the breakthrough. He has come off the bench three times in the Premier League this season and even scored in the win over Swansea in the EFL Cup. But opportunities are hard to come by at City.
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"He is very talented," said Guardiola. "He plays really well as a defensive midfielder. The only problem he has is that there are 22, 23 players in the squad and that is the only issue and all need to play. He is a fantastic player and we are very happy with him."
So while Yaya Toure is back in the fold for now, it seems the future could still belong to the 19-year-old who completed 20 more passes than anyone else on the pitch in the EFL Cup tie against Manchester United earlier this season. Garcia's class will surely tell before long.