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Player Focus: Five Championship Stars Hoping to Make the Premier League Grade

The transition between the Championship and Premier League is a tricky one, and one that Leicester, Burnley and QPR will be looking to cope with this season following their promotion into England's top-flight... Here we look at five that impressed in England's second tier last season hoping to prove that they can make the grade at the very top.

The transition between the Championship and Premier League is a tricky one, and one that Leicester, Burnley and QPR will be looking to cope with this season following their promotion into England's top-flight. It's a tough ask for players, particularly of a young age, to make the step up seamlessly and many struggle.

A look at the PFA Championship Team of the Year from 2012/13 included bright young things Wilfried Zaha, Tom Ince and Matej Vydra, all of whom looked more than capable of taking on the Premier League the following year. All three had a crack at the English top-flight but found playing time hard to come by, despite finding themselves on loan at clubs in the bottom half of the table.

Another man in that team was Peter Whittingham, who made the XI for the third time in four years. The Cardiff man failed to set the Premier League alight at the second attempt, having begun his career with Aston Villa, and eventually dropped out of the team and out of the league. For some the Championship represents their optimum level.

That's not to say there's no hope though. Rewind a year further and you'll see the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Curtis Davies, James Tomkins, Adam Lallana, Mark Noble, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. Each of those have managed to establish themselves in the Premier League, and there are a number of promising young players looking to do the same this time around. Here we look at five that impressed in England's second tier last season hoping to prove that they can make the grade at the very top.

Kieran Tripper (Burnley)

Earning a place in the PFA's Championship team of the year for the second year running at right-back, Kieran Trippier will no doubt have caught the eye of a number of clubs in the top-flight. The 23-year-old former Man City graduate looks set to stay at Turf Moor though, which could be vital to Sean Dyche's side's chances of survival.

Trippier is an accomplished modern day full-back, able to couple impressive defensive stats - including 2.3 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game - with a fantastic attacking output. His excellent delivery into the box (32.4% cross accuracy) helped to herald a remarkable league high of 14 assists and it's little wonder the defender is deemed 'very strong' when it comes to both crossing and key passes according to's characteristics.

Aaron Cresswell (West Ham)

A new signing from Ipswich, Aaron Cresswell has made the step up into the Premier League with West Ham having reportedly been Aston Villa's number one left-back target last summer. For a cut price fee in the region of £2 million, Sam Allardyce has acted fast and this should prove to be an astute piece of business for a side that was lacking in the 24-year-old's position last season, fielding four different left-backs over the course of the campaign.

Like Trippier, Cresswell is particularly effective at getting balls into the box and is also impressive over a set piece. Perhaps not quite as adept from a defensive sense as the Burnley man, the new Hammer did come close to matching his assist tally, with 12 - enough to rank third in the Championship - and only four players completed more accurate crosses in the league (69).

Danny Drinkwater (Leicester)

Having run away with the title and ended the campaign with a huge 102 points it may seem odd to consider that no Leicester player ranked among WhoScored's top 10 in the Championship last season. However, the fact that the Foxes earned the highest team rating in the league (6.98) goes to prove that their success was down to a collective rather than a select few. If one were to pick one player key to Nigel Pearson's men last season though, it would likely be Danny Drinkwater.

The central midfielder was at the heart of every Leicester move, pulling the strings and dictating the pace from the middle of the park. Despite coming through the ranks at Manchester United, at 24 Drinkwater is yet to play in the Premier League but if last season is anything to go by he is certainly ready. No player averaged more passes per game in the Championship last season - with 66.4 over eleven more than any teammate - while he also contributed 7 goals, as well as 2.2 tackles per game.

Diego Poyet (West Ham)

Another new man at Upton Park this summer is 19-year-old Diego Poyet, with West Ham reportedly stealing a march on a long and illustrious list of touted suitors for the former Charlton man. Son of Sunderland manager Gus, Diego has followed in his father's footsteps in central midfield but does his best work in the defensive phase of play, of which there were many for the struggling Addicks last season.

It speaks volumes that despite not breaking into the first team side until the beginning of February, Poyet was awarded the club's player of the year award, featuring in 20 league matches thereafter. The defensive midfielder, who only turned 19 in April, averaged the most passes per game (48.8) and best pass accuracy (83.2%) at Charlton, along with another team high of 2.5 interceptions per game and league high of 4.3 tackles per game. If a teenager with no top-level experience can be considered a coup, this may well prove to be one.

Charlie Austin (QPR)

It seems only right to feature a QPR player having done so for each of the other newly promoted sides and Austin was crucial to Rangers' eventual promotion through the play-offs, netting both goals as Harry Redknapp's side came from behind against Wigan to book a place in the final. The double took the 25-year-old's tally to 19 for the league season and though that's marginally less than the likes of Ings, Vokes and Nugent it came from significantly less playing time due to injury.

The former Burnley front man netted consistently throughout his debut campaign at Loftus Road, never making more than four appearances without finding the net, and QPR missed him dearly when ruled out through injury early in the year. Austin's goal-haul represented over 30% of QPR's total tally for the season, whose next top scorer - Ravel Morrison - notched 6 and has returned to West Ham following a loan spell. Of all players with at least 10 goals to their name in the Championship only one scored more often (every 147 minutes) and while a repeat of such figures is unlikely, Austin will hope to be QPR's main man once again.

Which players do you feel are best equipped to make the step up from the Championship this season?

Let us know in the comments below.

All statistics courtesy of where you can find yet more stats and player ratings.