Five England U21 kids hoping to make the step up to the senior side
From the Manchester City maestro to the Manchester United target: The five England Under-21 kids hoping to make the step up to the senior side by starring at European Championship
- Aidy Boothroyd’s squad have the potential to do great things at the Euros
- There are a number of players in the side on the fringes of the senior side
- Sportsmail has taken a look at the five players on the cusp of breaking through
It has been a difficult 12 months for England’s junior teams, with some disappointing results, but the Under-21s are ready to restore pride.
While the Under-17s floundered at the European Championship in May and the Under-20s fell way short in their quest to win the Toulon Tournament for the fourth consecutive year, Aidy Boothroyd’s squad have the potential to do great things.
The Under-21 Euros is a competition that has proven to be a rich breeding ground for future stars and in the last decade players such as Jordan Henderson, Danny Rose, John Stones, Jesse Lingard, Jordan Pickford and Ben Chilwell have used it as a platform to play for England’s senior team.
Aidy Boothroyd’s squad have the potential to do great things at the European Championship
Gareth Southgate – who was Under-21s head coach for the 2015 tournament in the Czech Republic – and Technical Director Les Reed will be in Italy to see how England fare in their Group C fixtures against France, who they face in Cesena on Tuesday, Croatia and Romania.
‘With the pathway set out by the FA – and thanks to Gareth – there is now a pathway into the senior team for our young footballers if they play regularly and do well,’ said Boothroyd. ‘That hasn’t always been the case in previous years but it is now, and we are reaping the rewards.’
With that in mind, Sportsmail identifies five young men with the potential to be the next distinguished graduates.
PHL FODEN (MANCHESTER CITY)
The special ones always stand out and this 19-year-old – who captained the Under-17s when they went to India and won the World Cup in 2017 – has long been held in the highest regard and this could be the moment when he really blossoms.
Boothroyd had been rubbing his hands in anticipation for more than 12 months about the prospect of working with Foden and gave him his debut in a 7-0 at home to Andorra last October; England have been careful not to overexpose him but his quality will be needed here.
Foden has an ability to see special passes, and one memory of this Under-21 campaign was the ball he slid through against Poland at Ashton Gate in a friendly in March. It was delivered with the kind of weight, class and precision that his mentor – the great David Silva – has done through his career.
It is not difficult to envisage Foden being in England’s Euro 2020 squad and this will be a beneficial step in his development.
Phil Foden has long been held in the highest regard and this could be when he truly blossoms
MASON MOUNT (CHELSEA)
Southgate is not a man known for making bold statements or predictions but he made a point of calling Mount ‘a super young player’ last summer at the World Cup and he proved it during a tremendously successful season on loan at Derby.
Mount has been in and around the senior team at St George’s Park and he was included in the 23 for the Nations League qualifiers against Spain and Croatia last October; that call-up came after he had made his debut for Under-21s in Latvia last September when he stood out like a beacon.
Dan Ashworth, the former FA Technical Director, went to the small town of Jelgava to watch Mount and saw him produce an assist then score the goal that gave England a 2-1 win that effectively secured their qualification for this tournament.
The way he played that afternoon marked him out as being different. It remains to be seen whether he will start against France but there is no doubt the 19-year-old has the ability to make an impact.
Gareth Southgate made a point of calling Mason Mount ‘a super young player’ at the World Cup
AARON WAN-BISSAKA (CRYSTAL PALACE)
He was elevated into the first Under-21 squad of the season following his blistering start to the campaign for Crystal Palace and he has ensured that Trent Alexander-Arnold – who was eligible to come to Italy – has not been missed.
It will be intriguing to see how Wan-Bissaka deals with expectation in this tournament. Manchester United’s very public pursuit of the right-back has given him plenty to think about but to flourish at the top, such distractions need to be put to one side.
There is no doubting his talent and given how Kyle Walker played at the Nations League finals, you can see Southgate having Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka as his two right-backs next summer. Boothroyd wants England to play adventurously and Wan-Bissaka can give them so much.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was elevated into the first Under-21 squad of the season and will feature
HAMZA CHOUDHURY (LEICESTER)
It is all very well having skill and flair but England need steel in their midfield and Choudhury can provide it. He made 13 appearances for his club last season but played in all the big wins against Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.
His performance at the Etihad Stadium in May was outstanding and his belligerence in the middle will be crucial to stopping opposition teams in their tracks.
The 21-year-old will be adding to his six caps at this level during the coming month and his progress will be closely followed.
England need steel in their midfield and Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury can provide it
DOMINIC CALVERT-LEWIN (EVERTON)
Part of the reason Everton are not aggressively pursuing a striker is because they want Calvert-Lewin to flourish. His goal against Venezuela in South Korea won England the Under-20 World Cup two summers ago and he is ambitious to add a gold medal from this tournament.
Critics will say he doesn’t score enough in the Premier League but he is clinical at this level – a big, strong, powerful presence who can link play – and if England reach the final stages, he will have an input. Southgate has been watching him develop for a long, long time. Now is his moment to shine.
Gareth Southgate has been watching striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin develop for a long time
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