England u21s are celebrating after being crowned European champions this summer, with Lee Carsley’s Young Lions winning the u21 European Championship for the first time since 1984.
It was a tournament to remember for England’s emerging group, who were crowned champions without conceding a single goal. While several of the squad are first-team regulars at top-flight sides, there are a number still awaiting regular minutes at Premier League level.
We look at five England u21 stars ready for regular Premier League football.
James Trafford was the hero of England’s final win over Spain as the goalkeeper saved Abel Ruiz’s 96th-minute penalty to earn his side a 1-0 win and the European Championship.
Trafford made his England u21 debut last year and has spent the past three seasons on loan from Manchester City in League One in a bid to aid his development.
There are no words to describe this moment.
— England (@England) July 8, 2023
The 20-year-old was named as Bolton’s Young Player of the Season in 2022/23, before becoming the first goalkeeper in u21 European Championship history to not concede a single goal at the tournament.
Goalkeepers tend to mature later than their outfield counterparts, but Burnley are prepared to take a chance on the 6ft 6in shot-stopper and are closing in on a deal. The newly-promoted Clarets have agreed a deal to sign Trafford from Manchester City in a deal which could reach a club-record £19m and the youngster looks set to be given a chance to prove himself at Premier League level this season.
Another graduate of the Manchester City academy system, Harwood-Bellis captained the u21 side to their success in Romania and Georgia this summer.
The 21-year-old has made eight senior appearances for Manchester City, but is yet to make his Premier League debut for the club and has spent the last three seasons on various loan spells.
Harwood-Bellis thrived under the management of former City captain Vincent Kompany last season, as the centre-back made 32 league appearances during Burnley’s promotion from the Championship.
— England (@England) July 9, 2023
He was a pivotal part of England’s impregnable defence this summer, where he won 86% of his ground duels and recorded a pass accuracy of 90%. That comfortability on the ball was also evidenced during his league form last season. Harwood-Bellis ranked in the top 4% of his positional peers for attempted passes and progressive passes among those in the men’s next eight competitions, the division’s ranked next after Europe’s big five leagues.
Levi Colwill had a breakthrough season in the top division last term after an impressive loan spell at Brighton. Despite the plaudits for his performances however, Colwill made just 13 league starts for the Seagulls and will hope to increase those minutes this time around.
The 20-year-old is one of English football’s brightest talents and was excellent during the u21 European Championship, impressing with his positioning, passing and calm authority in central defence.
— England (@England) July 8, 2023
Colwill’s future remains unclear heading into the new season, with the defender set to return to Chelsea for pre-season. Brighton have already seen two bids to sign him on a permanent basis turned down, while Liverpool are monitoring developments should he not be guaranteed a regular role at Stamford Bridge.
First-team football will be the decisive factor in Colwill’s future, with the centre-back already on the radar of Gareth Southgate and the senior set-up. Left-footed, athletic and progressive with the ball, he has all the attributes required to break into Southgate’s squad in the coming months. After success at the u21 European Championship this summer, a strong campaign could secure his place in the senior side for Euro 2024.
Cameron Archer will feel he is ready for a run at Premier League level after impressive form for club and country last season.
Archer’s arrival was a catalyst behind Middlesbrough’s surge into the Championship play-offs last season, as the on-loan Aston Villa forward scored 11 goals and laid on six assists in 20 second-tier appearances.
The 21-year-old has produced a fine record for England at u21 level with six goals in 12 caps and was the Young Lions’ joint-leading scorer at this summer’s European Championship with two goals.
— #U21EURO (@UEFAUnder21) July 7, 2023
Archer will be keen to kick on and continue his development after an encouraging campaign, but faces a fight to secure regular football at Aston Villa given the presence of Ollie Watkins.
Villa’s qualification for the Europa Conference League could lead to additional minutes for the academy graduate, but Archer faces a decision on whether to compete at Villa Park or search for a guaranteed role elsewhere.
Cole Palmer had endured a frustrating individual campaign at club level despite Manchester City’s treble success, with the winger failing to kick on from his emergence in 2021/22 and restricted to short cameos from the bench.
The 21-year-old scored just once in 25 appearances in all competitions and did not start a Premier League game until the title had been won, but provided a reminder of his class during England’s success this summer.
After beginning the tournament on the bench, he made his first appearance in the third group game with progress already assured, before starring after coming into the side following Jacob Ramsey’s injury.
— #U21EURO (@UEFAUnder21) July 5, 2023
Palmer was the difference-maker during the 3-0 semi-final win over Israel, scoring one and creating two others to secure England’s passage to the final. He impressed again in the decider, with his free-kick deflecting in off team-mate Curtis Jones for the winner against Spain.
A creative threat off both wings and impressive in a deeper role against Germany, Palmer has provided a timely reminder of his adaptability and talent. Too good for u-23 level but on the fringes of Europe’s best side, a loan move could suit all parties with Palmer appearing ready for a regular run of minutes in the top flight.
There is unlikely to be a shortage of suitors for the forward, who is highly-regarded at the Etihad.
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