There was a huge clamour for Phil Foden to be in Gareth Southgate’s senior squad. But the reality is that it was never an option for the Manchester City midfield starlet to make such a step up.
Instead, the 18-year-old will play for England’s Under-19s against their Belgian counterparts on Monday, with a very clear pathway already mapped out for one of the country’s most exciting young talents.
Incredibly, 16 of the 23-man U19s squad were involved in last year’s U17 World Cup winning success.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Chelsea whizkid Callum Hudson-Odoi are other young players who have been tipped to make the senior squad sooner rather than later.
But, as England U19s boss Keith Downing explained, it has been a very deliberate policy to keep that victorious U17s group together.
It is something Spain and Germany have done to great success in the past, keeping the players together so they build up a togetherness and camaraderie which carries them all the way through to the full national team.
The idea is that they form strong bonds within the squad, do not bypass the age groups and complete their development.
Downing said: “This is the first time I’ve worked with this group of players, and we’ve got a really strong squad ahead of two tough games. The challenge to this group is to keep winning — to win a Euros (next summer) after lifting the U17 World Cup is fantastic motivation for them.
“There is such talent across our pathway and the competition is really strong. Our players have to be playing and there is a great opportunity for them this year, in that we have a Euros next summer.
“Our aim this year is to keep developing the players to move up the pathway and take their chance whenever it comes.
“We know how valuable that these experiences are at youth level for when players break into the U21s and senior teams and it will hold them in good stead.”
Foden has only played eight minutes of Premier League football in City’s first four matches this season, Hudson-Odoi will struggle for game time and Sancho has quit Man City to move to Germany in search of more first-team action.
But England believe that keeping this “Golden Generation” together will reap long-term benefits for the senior team, even if they have to wait their turn.
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