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Who might be the crossover northern sports stars of 2018?

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Wherever you travel in the north of England, you’re never far away from a conversation about sport. From the high-rolling stars atop football’s mega-rich Premier League through county cricket’s fiercest rivals, the heartland of rugby league and British cycling’s “medal factory” to individual sports such as boxing and swimming, sport fuels the region.

Since 2015, Big Issue North has been trying to pick the next generation’s winners, speaking to insiders and observers with insight into who just might be the stars ready to break through, make it big and become known to casual observers of sport rather than just the diehard fans.

Of the 30 names we’ve profiled so far, some have made it, some have faded, most have continued to steadily improve – that’s the nature of sport. Here’s this year’s list of ten.


Golding (main photo above) is one of three Manchester Metropolitan University students who will be heading to Australia’s Gold Coast to compete in the 2018 Commonwealth Games this April. While Kadeena Cox has found no small measure of fame for her huge achievements in the Paralympics, and gymnast Joe Fox will be competing for Trinidad & Tobago, Golding could be one of Team England’s outside hopes in the swim meet.

By her own admission “pleasantly surprised” to make the team, sports science and physiology student Golding made the final selection for the squad with an unexpected victory in the December trials, where she recorded a personal best in the 200m backstroke. Golding, who swims for City of Manchester Swim Team (CoMAST), was one of 24 picks made, joining 15 nailed-on selections such as James Guy, included in this list in 2016.

She said: “I was so excited at trials when I managed to get the qualifying times in both the 100m and 200m backstroke so I knew I had a good chance.
“I was notified on the selection just before Christmas so it was really nice to be at home with my family. I want to make sure that I race well on the Gold Coast so will keep working hard in the lead-up so I can get the best results.”

Mark Rose, head coach of CoMAST, added: “The unique relationship between Manchester Metropolitan, City of Manchester Aquatics Swim Team and Manchester City Council has led to a fantastic environment focused on the athlete’s development as a person as well as a student and elite performer.

“This has helped Chloe to develop into the high-performing individual she is and make the performance improvements needed to make a major games team. Her work ethic and commitment to Manchester means she is a great ambassador for all and we look forward to helping her make her next step.”


What Manchester-born Horsfield will be doing in 2018 was decided in November 2017, when he cruised to a convincing victory in the European Tour’s Qualifying School final stage at Lumine in Spain.

The golfer carded a final round 63 to close out the gruelling six-round tournament in style, putting him at the top of the list of 33 golfers earning the right to play on the tour this year. Horsfield, who had been the world’s number three-ranked amateur, turned pro last summer upon completing his sophomore year at the University of Florida, making the cut in the John Deere Classic before turning his attentions to Europe, where he recorded a steady series of results.


Ecclestone had a huge year in 2017, making her way into an England set-up reborn under the captaincy of Heather Knight.

For left-arm spinner Ecclestone, the 2017 World Cup, held in England, couldn’t have come at a worse time – with A levels to be taken, a collective decision was made that Ecclestone would sit the tournament out, missing out on being part of England’s shock tournament win.

At 15, she played in the men’s team first eleven at her dad’s Cheshire club Alvanley, taking 3 for 15. In October 2016, she made her one-day debut for England, bagging both West Indies openers in a tight victory. And in the winter just gone, she made the cut for the Women’s Ashes, taking her maiden Ashes wicket with the prized scalp of Alyssa Healy.

The women’s game is now professional at the top level. With record viewing numbers by the year for competitions such as the Women’s Big Bash League, Ecclestone has every chance of making it big.


England’s campaign in the Under-19 World Cup ultimately petered out, but in the early stages of the tournament, captain Brook’s achievements with the bat looked like making the team serious contenders.

Brook helped himself to 239 runs at an average of 119, scoring two fifties and a century, before the Three Lions’ progress was halted abruptly by Australian leg-spinner Lloyd Pope’s eight wicket haul at the quarter final stage.

A right-handed batsman, Brook made his first class Yorkshire debut in 2016 and has chalked up six senior appearances, mixed in with big-hitting displays in the Second XI and Academy sides. Team-mate Matt Fisher – a One to Watch from 2017 – described him as the most destructive young batsman he’s seen at Headingley. Further chances will come in 2018, Brook’s second year as a junior pro with the county.


After a hugely disappointing World Cup in 2015, English rugby has rebuilt, with the national side emerging as a powerful team under the stewardship of Australian Eddie Jones. That team will be hard to break into, but before long the Currys could become the first identical twins to play for England.

They come from a rugby family, with uncle John Olver having played for England and cousin Sam currently starring for Northampton. Standing at six feet two inches, the pair, who grew up playing for Crewe & Nantwich RUFC, were selected for England in the under-20s Six Nations last year and are very much part of the international set-up. Tom, a hard-tackling flanker, was selected by Jones for England’s October training camp, although he’s since been injured.

The 2019 World Cup, to be held in Japan, is a little more than 18 months away – the Currys might well be there.


Fleet-footed winger Charles has represented England at both under-17 and under-19 levels, as well as becoming a regular starter in a star-studded Liverpool line-up in the FA Women’s Super League.

Nominated for the Women’s Rising Star award at the Northwest Football Awards in 2016, Charles has started the new season nicely, scoring three goals in the Reds’ first eight games as the team seeks to mount a challenge to their heavily-backed Chelsea and Manchester City rivals – a challenge aided by the arrival of Beth England, who featured in Big Issue North’s 2015 Ones to Watch list.


Everton may have their struggles in the Premier League but the club retains enviably strong bonds with its community, at the heart of which is a youth academy that continues to turn out serious footballing talent. Not all scale the heights of Wayne Rooney, but the platform is there.

Ormskirk-born Dowell (right), currently catching the eye in a season-long loan with Nottingham Forest in the Championship, is a midfielder with an eye for goal, starring in the FA Cup giantkilling of Arsenal.

Playing in the Everton set-up since the age of seven, he has been capped at every England age group, from under-16 to under-21, being a key part of the team that won the 2017 under-20 World Cup in South Korea. He looks certain to be part of the Toffees’ first team plans next season.


It wasn’t so long ago that even keen British sports fans were mystified by the complexities of diving, but the exploits of Tom Daley and Tonia Couch, not to mention the gold medal-winning display at the Rio Olympics from Leeds pair Jack Laugher and Chris Mears, have changed things.

Huddersfield’s Lois Toulson is a specialist in the 10-metre platform event. In 2016 she gained valuable top-level experience in competing with Couch at the 2016 Olympics, going on in 2017 to take both the individual gold medal at the 2017 senior European games and the mixed 10m platform synchro with partner Matty Lee. She’s already bagged the 2018 British title.


Lawless (left) has been catching the eye within cycling circles for some time, and having served his apprenticeship with Team Wiggins, JLT Condor and Axeon Hagens Berman, the British under-23 champion has secured a contract with the all-conquering Team Sky.

The Wigan rider has spent the first part of the year in Australia, being selected to ride for the team in events including the People’s Choice Classic and the Tour Down Under, before the European season kicks in with the spring classics.

Lawless has shown plenty of class so far, picking up a stage on the 2017 Tour de l’Avenir – the junior Tour de France, essentially – and could be part of the generation to move the story on for Sky and British cycling after a difficult 2017.

It was a very good year…

In 2017 several of the future stars picked out in the previous Ones to Watch list hit the heights in their respective fields.

This time last year, boxer Zelfa Barrett (pictured) told Big Issue North that his goal for the year was a championship belt. He proved as good as his word, stopping fellow Mancunian Chris Conwell at Leeds’ First Direct Arena in October to claim the English super-featherweight title.

The win extended the unbeaten Barrett’s pro record to 19 wins, 12 by way of knockout. He’ll be looking to emulate his famous uncle Pat Barrett in becoming a European champion this year.
Rugby league player Liam Marshall’s impact might have been even more spectacular. The academy product burst into the Wigan Warriors’ first team set-up and looked immediately at home, playing 24 games and scoring 23 tries in his first full season at the top level. A new contract was the reward, tying Marshall to the Warriors until the end of 2020.

It was also a big year for footballers Katie Zelem, who swapped Liverpool red for the black and white stripes of Juventus, while Georgia Stanway was nominated for the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year and contributed to Manchester City’s win in the FA Women’s Cup. Mason Holgate has become a regular starter for Everton.

Cycling brothers Adam and Simon Yates furthered their reputations as serious Grand Tour contenders, Adam managing a top 10 finish at the Giro d’Italia despite a heavy crash, and Simon winning the young rider classification at the Tour de France, the same jersey won by Adam in 2016.

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