5 key men who could lead England Under-21s to Euro 2017 glory
England’s Under-21s kick off their bid to win the 2017 European Championship on Friday, as they face Sweden in the group stage.
So, after the Under-20 side lifted the World Cup trophy on Sunday, can Aidy Boothroyd’s men deliver bring home another major honour?
If England are to make good on the 9/1 for tournament glory, here are the five top talents we think will be at the heart of it. Starting with a highly-regarded man between the posts…
Jordan Pickford (GK, Sunderland)
While current talk surrounding the Black Cats stopper has mostly circled around an impending move to Everton, his focus in the coming weeks will be on keeping Europe’s brightest young striking talents at bay. And there’s reason to believe he’ll do just that.
Sunderland may have endured a dismal campaign, but Pickford was a rare bright spark, producing a slew of outstanding saves, and commanding his area. And he’s done it on the international stage too, with five clean sheets in 10 outings for the Young Lions.
Rob Holding (CB, Arsenal)
Few expected the former Bolton Wanderers prodigy to look this assured during his first campaign in Premier League football, but the 21-year-old proved himself at the top level with a string of superb displays, including a masterful man-marking job on Anthony Martial during the Gunners’ 2-0 defeat of Manchester United.
With that in mind, he’s likely to keep a fair few opposition forwards in his pocket in Poland this summer – especially with Arsenal teammate Calum Chambers alongside him.
Nathaniel Chalobah (DM/CM, Chelsea)
The Blues youngster picked up a Premier League winners’ medal last season, following 10 league displays – mostly off the bench – in which he looked lively and proved too solid for tired opposition defences to get much joy out of.
With Italy among the tournament favourites, the youngster’s loan stint at Napoli in 2015-16 could also prove very handy if the pair face one another in the knock-out stints. And with the guile and reliability of players like Chalobah, you’d fancy England to reach that stage…
John Swift (CM, Reading)
Initially one of Chelsea’s 5,000-strong army of loanees (okay, we’re exaggerating a bit), the 21-year-old took the gamble of a permanent move to Reading last summer, and so far at least, it’s paid off in droves.
He played 42 times for Jaap Stam’s men in 2016-17, chalking up nine goals and eight assists from midfield. And despite a slight build, he’s shown himself a surprisingly tough and combative opponent in the heart of the Royals midfield. If the going gets tough for England, expect Swift to step things up a gear.
Tammy Abraham (CF, Chelsea)
The crown jewel in a squad of hugely promising youngsters, the 19-year-old was truly lethal on loan at Bristol City last season, scoring 23 times in the Championship, en route to winning the club’s Player of the Year award. Not bad for a player who doesn’t turn 20 until October.
With an intelligent reading of the game, boundless energy and a ruthless streak in front of goal, he’s got all the attributes to star at this tournament.
The Camberwell-born hitman netted a brace in England’s last competitive game – against Bosnia & Herzegovina – and you wouldn’t bet against him grabbing another double or two at the Euros.
Do that, and the odds of 9/1 to lift the trophy will tumble drastically, as the nation’s hopes rise.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing