England women's NXGN Nine: The football wonderkids set for Lionesses careers
Today, England's women's national team is the reigning European champion and will be one of the frontrunners going into the 2023 Women's World Cup. But who are the young stars that could one day follow in the footsteps of players like Leah Williamson, Keira Walsh and Alessia Russo?
Many teenagers are making their mark in the Women's Super League at the moment, such as Aston Villa midfielder Laura Blindkilde Brown and Chelsea prospect Jorja Fox.
There are players from previous NXGN lists in the England set-up right now, too. Lauren James was among 2020's best wonderkids while Maya Le Tissier made the list the following year.
So, who will be next to break through? NXGN highlights nine of the Lionesses' most exciting prospects, born in 2004 or later...
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Alyssa Aherne (Manchester United)
Named Player of the Match when Manchester United won the 2022 WSL Academy Cup final, Aherne made her first team debut for the Red Devils in December in the Continental Cup.
A skilful winger with a good delivery, the teenager links up well with the full-back behind her and can finish, too. It's no wonder she's highly-rated within the club.
Aherne is currently dual registered with Burnley, in England's third-tier, in order to add valuable senior experience to her CV, and the England U19 international will hope that can help her take the next steps forward in her development.
- Getty Images
Keira Barry (Manchester United)
Another stand-out in United's WSL Academy Cup triumph last year, and a top performer for the team this season as well, Barry made her senior debut for the club alongside Aherne in December.
A year younger than her team-mate, the forward is the youngest player on this list but is already making a serious impression in the Red Devils' set-up and has been called-up by England's U19s, too.
Barry has absolutely incredible pace and is a good finisher. She's currently dual registered with third-tier side Derby County as she looks to polish her skillset further with exposure to regular senior football.
- Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Mia Enderby (Sheffield United)
The second-youngest player on this list, Enderby's importance for Sheffield United has only grown this season - especially after another gifted teenager, Lucy Watson, left the club to join Chelsea in the summer of 2022.
While Watson's departure was a blow, the Blades are excellent at developing young talent, and Enderby was next off the conveyor to make an impact in the forward line, having been slowly introduced to the senior game the year before. She's already one of her team's most regular goalscorers at 17 years old.
Already involved with England's U19s, the winger is thriving at a club with an excellent first-team environment and has admitted the exposure to senior football is helping her improve massively. Her ability hasn't gone unnoticed by WSL clubs, either.
Teyah Goldie (Arsenal)
In Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall's first pre-season, ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, fans got a good look at some of the best young players coming through the Gunners' set-up, with Goldie among those to really catch the eye.
"She's excellent in her defending," her coach told the press. "I think it's pretty rare to see a player being that young and being so good at following the attackers in the penalty area.
"She's very good at taking small steps to know when to commit, and when to not, so I think she has a real, real talent there and I think she's one of those players from our academy that has a really bright future."
Goldie earned her Champions League debut off the back of that strong summer, aged 17, and was a regular in the first-team squads before joining Watford on loan in January 2022.
Sadly, the defender would rupture her ACL only a couple of months into that spell with the Hornets, but she signed her first professional contract with Arsenal in June and appears to be close to a return to action.
Lucia Kendall (Southampton)
A midfielder who thrives in the attacking elements of the game especially, Kendall has seamlessly adapted to each step forward she has taken in her journey to date.
One of her stand-out attributes is the sheer number of goals she can contribute from the middle of the park, netting 22 in the season which saw Southampton promoted to the second tier. Perhaps that's no surprise since she cites Frank Lampard as her idol.
She's translating that goal-scoring form onto the international stage, too, with England's U19s, and has been an impressive performer for her club this season, with the Saints flying high in their first season in the Championship.
Naomi Layzell (Bristol City)
Since making her debut for Bristol City back in November 2020 aged just 16, Layzell has only grown in importance for her team. Today, she's a regular starter in the heart of defence as the club bids to win promotion back to the WSL.
A versatile player who can also operate in a deeper midfield role or at left-back if needed, the teenager has great understanding of the game and is excellent in a tackle.
An important player for England's U19s as well, the amount she's developed from playing such regular football is evident, and she continues to show exciting signs of growth.
Olivia McLoughlin (Aston Villa)
A debutante for Aston Villa at just 16 years old, McLoughlin is another top talent coming through at a club with a great track record of developing young players. A midfielder, she's excellent at breaking up play and has real quality on that defensive side in particular.
The teenager joined Villa three years ago from city rivals Birmingham, but is currently back on loan at Blues, getting regular game time for the second half of the season.
That doesn't change the fact that her parent club see her as an important part of its future, with McLoughlin having signed her first professional contract back in October and won big praise from manager Carla Ward upon doing so.
"Liv is a popular figure in the changing room, a positive character and a willing learner," she said. "She is a player that can compete at this level now while also having the potential to further her development."
Tia Primmer (Reading)
A regular starter in Reading's midfield, Primmer is the name on this list who is getting the most top-level exposure at the moment, which will certainly do wonders for her development.
She made a real name for herself early last year when she scored back-to-back match-winning goals, both late on in games as well, and has gone from strength to strength in the time since.
Primmer has been with Reading since she was just a little girl and is now really making an impact on its first team. Manager Kelly Chambers has praised her for her determination in the middle of the park and, given her track record of developing youngsters and giving them opportunities, looks to be a perfect coach for the midfielder to continue to progress under.
- Liverpool FC
Hannah Silcock (Liverpool)
At the club since the age of eight, Silcock is incredibly highly-rated at Liverpool and has been granted more opportunities in the first team this season after signing her first professional contract in October.
A classy centre-back who is good on the ball as well as in her defending, the teenager started all four of the Reds' Continental Cup fixtures this campaign and is a regular with England's U19s.
“She’s an exceptionally talented player and we’re really excited about her future in the game," manager Matt Beard said. “She’s a very good one-on-one defender, with great physical presence and she’s great on the ball - she can drive out with it, she can beat players. She’s got all the attributes to be a top, top player."
The next step for Silcock is to force her way into Beard's plans in the WSL.