Aidy Boothroyd has named his squad for the upcoming Euro U21 Championships in Hungary and Slovenia. Among those selected by the England manager are uncapped PSV starlet Noni Madueke, Chelsea favourite Callum Hudson-Odoi, and the recalled Manchester United winger Mason Greenwood.
United’s Greenwood hasn’t played international football of any kind since he and Manchester City’s Phil Foden disgraced themselves by breaching COVID-19 protocols while out in Iceland with the seniors last September. But shortly after the squad announcement, Boothroyd spoke with the press and ensured the time is right for the talented wide-man to make his return.
The squad includes three goalkeepers, with Sheffield United’s No1 Aaron Ramsdale likely to be handed the jersey ahead of Stoke City’s Josef Bursik and Cheltenham Town’s Josh Griffiths who is on loan from West Bromwich Albion. 19-year-old Griffiths has impressed this season in League Two and earns his first call-up to the U21s.Embed from Getty Images
Eight defenders will travel to the finals — Hoffenheim’s Tottenham-owned loanee Ryan Sessegnon the most experienced with 15 caps at this level. His twin brother, Fulham’s Steven, also makes the cut. He has spent this season on loan at Bristol City in the Championship. Joining them are Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly, Spurs’ Japhet Tanganga, and the highly south-after full-back Max Aarons of Norwich City.
Included too are Watford’s Ben Wilmot and Swansea City’s Marc Guehi who is on loan from Chelsea and won the U17 World Cup in 2017 in a squad that also featured Hudson-Odoi and Foden. Everton’s Ben Godfrey adds Premier League experience and completes the defence.
A fellow Toffee, Tom Davies is the most experienced man to feature, having already been on 21 outings with Boothroyd’s side since his debut in 2017. Spurs loanee Oliver Skipp is shining for Championship table-toppers Norwich at the moment; he is also involved. So are West Brom’s Connor Gallagher and Crystal Palace’s playmaking livewire Eberechi Eze. The midfield six is completed by the inclusion of two of the Premier League’s most consistent youngsters — Liverpool’s Curtis Jones and Burnley’s Dwight McNeil.Embed from Getty Images
The 23-man squad includes six attackers, and this is where a great deal of this excitement naturally lies. As well as accomplished Premier League wingers and England seniors Hudson-Odoi and Greenwood, there is also a first U21 call-up for Arsenal’s latest prodigy Emile Smith Rowe. His Emirates teammate Eddie Nketiah is a shoo-in, having become the U21s’ all-time top scorer last autumn. 16 goals in 14 matches is an incredible record.
Less often among the goals in recent years but still included is Sheffield United’s Rhian Brewster. The 20-year-old striker was the tournament’s top scorer when the U17s won the 2017 World Cup in India. However, goals have dried up; he is yet to find the net in 20 appearances this term for the side that prop up the Premier League table.
The most interesting talking point, though, is the inclusion of Noni Madueke. The young creator left Tottenham’s academy in 2018 in order to join the prestigious Ajax academy. That is when their Eredivisie rivals PSV Eindhoven first spotted him. Madueke turned 19 a matter of days ago but is enjoying a considerable breakout season with PSV. He has already racked up nine goals and eight assists in all competitions this term for the Dutch outfit.Embed from Getty Images
When a journalist compared this squad to the star-studded one of two years ago which underperformed in Italy and San Marino, Boothroyd wasn’t willing to accept that the 2019 squad was necessarily better. That’s a huge compliment to the 2021 group, considering that the ill-fated squad of two years ago included Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Dean Henderson, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Maddison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham and Harvey Barnes.
Elsewhere, Germany’s squad for the finals includes Lukas Nmecha, who actually won the U19 Euros with England in 2017.
England begin their campaign when they face Switzerland in Koper on 25 March. They then meet Portugal in Ljubljana on 28 March, before an encounter with Croatia back in Koper three days later. If they make it out of the group stage, they will reach the quarter-finals, where they’ll either play in Slovenia’s second-largest city Maribor or return to its capital Ljubljana. England’s matches will be broadcast live in the UK on Sky Sports.