Leagues ahead

Picking the sports stars of tomorrow is an inexact science, but Big Issue North is prepared to make some predictions about youngsters for whom 2017 might mean a big breakthrough

Hero image

GEORGIA STANWAY (17),
MANCHESTER CITY WOMEN, FOOTBALL

Stanway (main image), from Barrow-in-Furness, looks to have a big future in the flourishing women’s game. As with the men’s side, it’s tough to break through in a set-up as start-studded as City’s, but she’s already made headway, helping the Blues to two trophies last season, including the league title. Captain of the England under-17 team that made the quarter finals of its age group World Cup, she was nominated for BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2016.

GEORGIA COATES (18),
LEEDS, SWIMMING

georgia coates

Coates is already an Olympian. But it looks like there will be much more to come from the City of Leeds swimmer who, in 2017 will look to build on the experience gained in reaching the final of the women’s 200m freestyle relay in Rio. Coates is one of 16 swimmers picked in a squad that will train at altitude in a series of 10 camps between now and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the first camp already having taken place in Flagstaff, Arizona.

ZELFA BARRETT (23),
MANCHESTER, BOXING

zelfa-barrett

Barrett’s a young man dedicated to one thing – going one better than his uncle, Pat Barrett, who fought gallantly for the world welterweight title at GMex in 1992. Pat, now head of the famous Collyhurst & Moston Boxing Club created by the legendary Brian Hughes, is his guiding light, plotting a course that has thus far seen the young man rack up 14 wins unbeaten, with eight knockouts.

Zelfa says: “My uncle sorts everything out. I just concentrate on boxing. The fighters I admire? Terence Crawford’s the best out there now, in my view. And when I was young, Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather, who wasn’t that well known then. Jones always put on a show and knocked a lot of people out – he was a crowd pleaser. I like that – people pay a lot of money to watch boxing and they want to be entertained.”

A world title by age 27 is the plan. For this year, the goal is to “just keep winning – and get a belt of some sort”.

LIAM MARSHALL (20),
WIGAN, RUGBY LEAGUE

A winger described as having an eye for the try-line, Marshall impressed in a 2016 season spent on loan at Swinton Lions, and is one of an exciting crop of youngsters emerging from the legendary Wigan academy set-up. With disappointing performances from the national side in the Four Nations championship, the top level of English rugby league looks in need of an injection of new blood – Marshall, along with the likes of England Academy internationals Callum Filed and Josh Ganson, might just be the future.

EMMA LAMB (19),
LANCASHIRE THUNDER, CRICKET

emma lamb

How did you find stepping up to being with the full England side for the Sri Lanka tour? 

“The standard of cricket was a big step up and every player seemed to go about training and games very professionally. The experience was amazing and I’ve learnt so much. I have trained frequently with the full England team so I felt very comfortable with the coaches and players and I wasn’t scared to ask questions. I just need to keep working hard and keep improving.”

What are your goals for 2017 and beyond? 

“My goals would be to keep pushing into the full England team and to make my debut. For the upcoming year I hope to impress in the Kia Super League playing for Lancashire Thunder. I learnt so much in last year’s competition and hopefully I can carry on improving going into this summer.”

Women’s cricket seems to be growing in profile. How big can it get? What would help it grow?

“It’s getting much more of a profile now, especially on TV and in social media, which I think is fantastic. That’s what we need. I think it is important to keep inspiring the younger generation to get involved and to keep more girls coming through the system. If we can get young girls playing cricket in schools and clubs across England, there are no boundaries to what women’s cricket can achieve.”

Who are the cricketers you admire most and why?

“I’ve always admired Andrew Flintoff. He was just an incredible all-rounder and I absolutely loved watching him play for England and Lancashire when I was growing up. More recently, since being involved with England, I admire Heather Knight because of the hard work and determination she has towards the game. She is a great role model for any young girls aspiring to play for England.”

MATT FISHER (19),
YORKSHIRE, CRICKET

Last year was a cruel year for Fisher, with injury robbing him of the chance to try to help Yorkshire to the Championship title they so narrowly
lost. In December, he was named as captain of the England under-19 side, a rare honour for a fast bowler in the modern era. He’s been threatening a breakthrough for a few years – in 2013
he appeared for the under-19s aged just 15 and became the youngest ever Yorkshire player picked for a 40-over match. Two years later he took five wickets on his Twenty20 debut.

RONALDO VIEIRA (18),
LEEDS UNITED, FOOTBALL

Born in Guinea-Bissau in 1998, raised in Portugal until 2011, Viera’s English football education was built in junior leagues. Vieira doesn’t turn 19 until this summer but has already become a key midfielder in the most promising Leeds team in a decade. Having moved as his father sought job opportunities – he’s internationally eligible for all three countries above – he started out with Whitley Bay juniors, before playing for Batley Phoenix in the Huddersfield Junior League. Joining the Leeds academy in 2015, he signed a two-year pro deal in May and hasn’t stopped progressing.

ZOE ALDCROFT (20),
ENGLAND WOMEN’S RUGBY

Photo: RFU Collection

It’s been a big year for Scarborough-born Aldcroft, a winger who plays her club rugby for Darlington Mowden Park. Having graduated through the age group teams, including eight caps for England under-20s, she won her first full international cap in July, coming off the bench to score the winning try in a 17-13 win over France. She also appeared for the Northumbria University team that lost the final of the BUCS at Twickenham.  Now looking to nail down a starting place in the successful England side in 2017.

MATT WALLS (18),
OLDHAM, TRACK CYCLING

Everyone knows the story by now about the medal factory at the Manchester Velodrome that’s built up a reputation for peaking at the Olympics. But with Bradley Wiggins retired and Owain Doull taking his talent to the road, there are gaps opening ahead of Tokyo 2020 and Oldhamer Walls looks a decent bet. After excelling in the European – golds in the Madison and team pursuit – and World Championships – silver in the points race, bronze in team pursuit – at junior level in 2016 he was selected as one of a seven-strong endurance team to join the senior GB academy for a six-week Manchester camp, ahead of a six-month programme in Italy.

JONA EFOLOKO (17),
MANCHESTER, ATHLETICS

Efoloko is Manchester’s most exciting sprint prospect since Darren Campbell, the relay Olympic gold medallist and now a popular pundit. Sale Harrier Efoloko, coached by John Smith, looks
a bright prospect. At the 2015 Manchester Sports Awards, the then-15 year old won the Achievement in Sport gong, having won the Northern Indoor under-17 titles at both 60m and 200m. A string of 2016 wins has been followed by a strong start to the winter indoor season – in the first weeks of which, in 2017, he’s racked up five wins in six races.


BIG ISSUE NORTH CLASS OF 2016 – PROGRESS REPORT

Mason Holgate, football: made first team debut for Everton in August 2016, exactly a year after signing, and is now featuring regularly for the Toffees. Also made first England under-21 appearance.

James Guy, swimming: the Bury swimmer overcame disappointment in two individual finals to anchor Team GB to silver in the 200m relay at the Rio Olympics.

Bronte Law, golf: turned pro late in the year after helping Great Britain & Ireland win the
Curtis Cup.

Qais Ashfaq, boxing: the 23-year old Leeds bantamweight made the Olympic team, but was eliminated in the second round.

Mark Percival, rugby league: made England debut in the Four Nations tournament. Voted members’ young player of the year as St Helens reached the play-off semis.

Gabriella Shaw, cycling: 2016 saw Shaw pick up several top three finishes with her Podium Ambition team in the Tour Series. In October she joined Team WNT.

Jack Leaning, cricket: averaged 33 in nine first class Yorkshire games, a surprise hit in the Natwest Twenty20 Blast, only being outscored by the county’s international stars.

Paul Jubb, tennis: the Hull player, still only 17, reached his highest world ranking and won the Qatar Junior Open in Doha.

Katie Zelem, football: second top scorer for a Liverpool Ladies team that finished mid-table in the Women’s Super League.

Matt Shirling, athletics: a quiet year.

Mason Holgate, football: made first team debut for Everton in August 2016, exactly a year after signing, and is now featuring regularly for the Toffees. Also made first England under-21 appearance.

James Guy, swimming: the Bury swimmer overcame disappointment in two individual finals to anchor Team GB to silver in the 200m relay at the Rio Olympics.

Bronte Law, golf: turned pro late in the year after helping Great Britain & Ireland win the
Curtis Cup.

Qais Ashfaq, boxing: the 23-year old Leeds bantamweight made the Olympic team, but was eliminated in the second round.

Mark Percival, rugby league: made England debut in the Four Nations tournament. Voted members’ young player of the year as St Helens reached the play-off semis.

Gabriella Shaw, cycling: 2016 saw Shaw pick up several top three finishes with her Podium Ambition team in the Tour Series. In October she joined Team WNT.

Jack Leaning, cricket: averaged 33 in nine first class Yorkshire games, a surprise hit in the Natwest Twenty20 Blast, only being outscored by the county’s international stars.

Paul Jubb, tennis: the Hull player, still only 17, reached his highest world ranking and won the Qatar Junior Open in Doha.

Katie Zelem, football: second top scorer for a Liverpool Ladies team that finished mid-table in the Women’s Super League.


THE CLASS OF 2015 – PROGRESS REPORT

Haseeb Hameed, cricket: the star of England’s otherwise miserable Indian tour of late 2016 after a year that saw him claim all manner of “youngest to…” records.

Adam and Simon Yates, cycling: Adam finished fourth in the 2017 Tour de France, becoming the first ever British winner of the white jersey for best young rider. Simon, after a four-month ban (his team took full responsibility) bounced back to win a stage of the Vuelta a Espana.

Beth England, football: the midfielder left Doncaster Rovers Belles in a glamour move to Chelsea early in 2016. Scored her first goal for England under-23s in the summer.

Aimee Willmott: selected for her second Olympic games in Rio 2016.

Tom Farrell, athletics: the Cumbrian qualified for the Rio Olympics after finishing second in the UK 5,000 metres, but struggled with oppressive heat and didn’t reach the final.

Ash Golding, rugby league: The Rhinos struggled in 2016, but Golding took the number one jersey for the new campaign and says he’s relishing the responsibility.

Ashley Smith-Brown, football: Now 20, the Man City man is spending the season on loan at NAC Breda.

Sally Hurst, paracyclist: now a reporter with BBC Look North.

John Newell, boxer: fell short of making the Olympic squad.

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Leagues ahead

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.