Gareth Southgate has a squad full of young talent, but England’s U21 European Championship success is a reminder that there is a group of highly rated players waiting for their time to shine for the senior team.
The first England team to win the tournament in 39 years did so without conceding thanks to a dramatic penalty save by James Trafford that secured a 1–0 victory over Spain in the final in Georgia. Lee Carsley scored a total of 11 goals without reply.
It has long been said that England underestimate the psychological value of winning age-group tournaments, but having found success at U17, U19 and U20 level in recent years, the set is complete – and Perhaps glory for the senior team seems more attainable.
A number of key people from Carsley in Georgia could have a role in the England shirt for many years to come. And some of them may even get a call-up from Southgate ahead of next season’s European Championships in Germany…
What an extraordinary tournament this has been for James Trafford. With no goals conceded, that record was threatened in stoppage-time, but his heroics kept a clean sheet and secured the trophy for his team. No wonder they ran towards him as soon as the whistle was blown.
Trafford has been linked with a £15 million move from Manchester City to Burnley which would see him play Premier League football. There is competition for the No.1 spot in England, but at 20, he is ahead of the game. Can get a place in the team soon.
Perhaps England’s standout player throughout the final, it would have been harsh on Levi Colville if the penalty he conceded had allowed Spain to equalize and deny England victory. The defender cleared everything else, his passing and positioning were exceptional.
The Chelsea defender should already be close to the senior team after his strong performances on loan at Brighton. The left-footed centre-back has all the qualities to be a regular for a top Premier League team and win numerous international caps.
Colville’s centre-back partner and captain Taylor Harwood-Bellis was also impressive and looked ready for the next step in his development. He was a fine man in England’s unbroken defense in front of Southgate.
The Manchester City centre-back, who won the title with Burnley last season, has spent three seasons on loan in the Championship but it is the Premier League next for him. With a potential opening in England’s defence, he may be the closest to call.
It was Anthony Gordon who scored the winning goal in the quarter-finals against Portugal and his driving runs were a feature of England’s play in the final, winning free-kicks and stretching the Spanish defence. He’s not a natural centre-forward but he got the job done.
The 22-year-old winger has already made a move to Newcastle for £40million and will be hoping for a taste of Champions League action before the year is out. If he can take advantage of that opportunity, it certainly won’t be his last appearance in an England shirt.
The final would not bow to his will and he was even shown a red card after being substituted, but the creativity of Morgan Gibbs-White was crucial to Carsley’s England. His ability to make things happen, just the imagination of trying to do much, is a rare gift.
The Nottingham Forest player scored the first goal of the semi-final and added the trophy to his World Cup triumph at U17 level. Now 23, there have already been calls for him to be included in Southgate’s squad. Gibbs-White’s time may come before the end of 2023.
Another player to score in the 3–0 semi-final win over Israel was Cole Palmer and thought he had scored the only goal of the final, until it was handed to Curtis Jones, the Liverpool midfielder who headed home his free-kick. was put in the net. No matter. Palmer was excellent.
He hasn’t had the first team action that many of his teammates have enjoyed – that’s the challenge at Manchester City. But Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking 25 appearances for the team last season shows just how important he is there. Palmer will be worth watching.
And a word for Aston Villa midfielder Jacob Ramsey, who was outstanding in England’s run to the final. He missed the game against Spain due to injury but will not forget the man whose goal against the Czech Republic gave England victory.
Ramsey is 22 years old and has already played 91 matches in the Premier League. This coming season will see him play European football for the first time in his career and his continued development under Unai Emery will make senior recognition inevitable.