After Dele Alli established himself in the Football League after making over 50 appearances for MK Dons, the supremely talented young midfielder made the gap between the Premier League and League 1 seem seamless. Since bridging the gap between the Football League and the Premier League, he has gone on to become a crucial player for both club and country.
The path for those to follow
The 20-year-old midfielder’s astronomical rise from League 1 to the Premier League has been a path that many Football League players have hoped to replicate.
With the glitz and glamour of the Premier League, it has been a place where every young talented player has aspired to be, although sometimes, it has been the case that they have gone too early and hindered development
As well as the ambition of the players, in recent years, more and more Premier League sides have looked at the Football League as a stomping ground to unearth hidden gems and bright young talents.
As recent as the January transfer window, one of the biggest signings of the window was made by Everton who signed Charlton Athletic’s England Under 21 forward Ademola Lookman for a seven-figure fee.and a number of high profile names including John Stones, Mason Holgate, Fabian Delph and Lewis Cook have also made the transition from the lower leagues to the Premier League.
It has become a regular occurrence in recent years where a number of high profile names have made the move to the Premier League or made a name for themselves after earning promotion to the Premier League.
Lower league talents in recent years have included England internationals John Stones, Jamie Vardy and Michael Antonio who have all made the transition from the lower leagues to the Premier League seamlessly.
The next in line
Last Wednesday, another one of the gems took centre stage on the biggest stage as an extremely inexperienced and relatively young Huddersfield Town side travelled to face Manchester City in the FA Cup fifth round replay.
Although the 5-1 scoreline revealed the lopsided nature of the tie from the team selection and priorities of the two sides, one player stood out: Philip Billing.
After joining Town’s academy from Danish side Esbjerg academy in 2013, Billing has accelerated through Huddersfield’s academy system until he broke through just a year later at the age of 18.
Since breaking through, Billing has been criminally mismanaged and under-used under previous managers as well as suffering from some injury problems, however, under the management of David Wagner who has such an excellent reputation of developing bright young talent, Philip Billing has profited from the arrival of enigmatic and enthusiastic German head coach.
Despite the plaudits and admiration Billing is receiving, it is easy to forget that Billing failed to make an appearance until mid-November in the 3-2 defeat against Cardiff City. David Wagner has been the man to not only unlock his potential but manage his expectations and keep the extremely talented Danish midfielder well-grounded.
Prior to the Manchester City encounter, the 20-year-old midfielder admitted that he idolised and shaped his own game around Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure.
It was apt that on the night at the Etihad, similarities could be seen between the two midfielders as Philip Billing continued to build on his reputation as an extremely powerful technically gifted central midfielder who has poise, vision and composure in possession and the technique to score from seemingly any range.
However, in recent weeks, we have seen more than just the technically gifted midfielder. We have seen guile and determination and a dogged nature to defend and press as well as push forwards.
Since the start of the season, David Wagner has worked hard with Philip Billing to instil the work ethic and drive needed to play in his side. Significantly, Wagner has helped Billing further develop his defensive skills. Since the start of the season, there has been a drastic noticeable improvement in Billing’s positional awareness, rate of interceptions and his tackling ability as Billing has become more than just a classy luxurious midfielder.
Against Manchester City, Billing showed his ability and comfort on the ball as he ran the show for Huddersfield, a delicate touch played in Harry Bunn for a surprise lead and an excellent reverse pass almost resulted in a second goal for the West Yorkshire side. Due to such a sensational performance, despite being on the losing side, Billing was given the man of the match award.
With Philip Billing’s focus solely on Huddersfield Town until the end of the season, the soon to be Danish international could well play a part in help Town earn promotion to the Premier League against the odds.
Promotion with Town could be the perfect scenario for Philip Billing, it would allow him to play in a comfortable environment at the highest level. With Town unlikely to be able to call upon Aaron Mooy once again next season, Philip Billing could be the natural successor to the Australian midfielder.
Already a string of Premier League clubs including Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion and most recently Manchester United all have begun monitoring the Danish Under 21 international which shows there are some similarities between Dele Alli and Philip Billing.
The similarities are not on the pitch as the playing style and positions differ but the number of suitors that he already has already attracted was similar to Alli at MK Dons and the way he has plied his trade in the Football League and made a name for himself at the West Yorkshire club is also similar to the path that Dele Alli took.
If Philip Billing can continue to develop under David Wagner, he may well be the next supremely talented midfielder to follow Dele Alli’s footsteps of not only making the move to the Premier League but thriving in the Premier League and becoming an integral player for both club and inevitably country.