Can these three England Under-21s break into Gareth Southgate's senior squad?
Playing for your country at any level should be a great honour for every football player. England’s senior squad are under pressure after their dismal defeat to Iceland at the Euros earlier this year but the under-21 side are aiming to do well at Euro 2017 in Poland after securing qualification against Kazakhstan. Here are three players that have the potential to progress to the senior England squad.
Demarai Gray scored his first goal for Leicester City at Old Trafford in September. His stunning strike from 25 yards was only a consolation as his side lost the match 4-1. Despite the defeat, the winger showed his fantastic ability as he cut inside from the left and sent an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Gray made 12 promising appearances for Leicester last season as they won the Premier League but he only started one of those matches. He has made four appearances so far this season, three substitute, and will be looking to build on his breakthrough season and contribute even more during Leicester’s title defence.
The winger has played for England at under-19 and under-20 level, working under interim boss Aidy Boothroyd, and he made his third start for the England under-21 side in their Euro under-21 qualifier against Kazakhstan. Demarari Gray put in a confident performance against Kazakhstan, scoring the only goal of the game and ensuring England’s under-21 side qualified for the Euro under-21 tournament next year.
The England and Southampton midfielder is yet to earn a call up to the senior squad despite being part of the Under 21 set up since the 2013/14 season. He has been capped for the England under-17s, under-19s, under-20s and under-21s. Ward-Prowse, the England under-21s captain, also playing a crucial role for Southampton last season when they achieved their best ever Premier League finish, scoring twice and providing four assists.
James has made over 100 Premier League appearances and recently signed a new six-year contract with the Saints. Now that he is a regular first-team player for Southampton, he can turn his attention to his international career. Gareth Southgate is currently the temporary manager of the senior England squad, for their next four matches, so now would be as good a time as any for James Ward-Prowse to finally get his first senior call up. His set piece delivery is one of his best attributes and that could come in handy for an England side who had last season’s top scorer Harry Kane on corners at Euro 2016.
Isaac Hayden moved to Newcastle from Arsenal in the summer in search of regular football. He spent last season on loan at Hull City as the Tigers earned promotion back to the Premier League. Hayden made his senior debut for Arsenal in September 2013 and only made one other appearance for the Gunners besides that.
Wenger told Arsenal Player that he allowed Hayden to leave because “He couldn’t get the chance here and I decided to let him go and have an opportunity. At 21 years of age, you need to play or you stand still – and if you stand still you waste your career.”
The versatile midfielder and England under-21 international has got his Newcastle career off to a good start, scoring once and starting eight times. He was on the bench for the England under-21 match against Kazakhstan but if he continues starting for Newcastle, he can start for the England under-21s and hopefully progress to the senior squad.
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