For the second time ever, England men’s U19s are European champions.
The European Under-19 Championship has a long and confusing history, spanning age groups that have covered “Junior” and Under-18″ ranges, and cross all of those competition’s England have a joint-high 11 crowns. But since the shift to Under-19, England have two glories with the first coming in 2017.
Led by Keith Downing, that particular England side had the likes of Reece James, Aaron Rasmdale, Trevoh Chalobah, Lukas Nmecha, Ben Brereton and Golden Player Mason Mount starring en route to their win – all of whom have grown to have good careers so far.
But what of the current batch of U19 heroes? The players who helped Ian Foster’s side beat Israel U19s 3-1 in the final, having also beaten the likes of Austria, Serbia and Italy along the way (as well as Portugal in qualifying).
We’ve picked out five of the most exciting players from the squad below.
We’ll start with captain Harvey Vale, a key member of Chelsea’s academy, having been named Academy Player of the Year for 2021/22 while also making his first-team debut, playing a total of five times including one start.
A versatile midfielder who can play across the middle of the pitch and even at wing-back, Vale was the playmaker of the England side both in terms of final passes and starting attacks. Much of England’s play ran through the Chelsea man, who recently revealed that he grew up idolising Cristiano Ronaldo so much he asked his parents to change his name as a kid.
“My mum told me this story recently that I kept begging her and my dad to change my name to [Cristiano] Ronaldo,” Vale told Chelsea’s official website in May.
“Thankfully, they didn’t let me! It would be a bit embarrassing now, but I was in love with him as a kid.”
It was Vale who set up Carney Chukwuemeka’s goal in extra time against Israel, beating the defence with a beautiful ball into the box to give himself the honour of lifting the trophy.
A sublime cross from Harvey Vale leaves Carney Chukwuemeka the simple job of walking the ball home ⚽
They have 11 minutes to hang on to secure the trophy ⌚
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) July 1, 2022
Talking of Chukwuemeka, the Aston Villa man was many people’s star of the tournament for England and finished as the joint-second top scorer with three goals; only France’s Loum Tcaouna (four) managed more.
Chukwuemeka made the step up to the U19s in September 2021, captaining the side from midfield in their 2-0 friendly win over Italy and became a real key member of the team in qualifying for the U19 Euros a couple of months later.
The 19-year-old played every game in qualifying, scoring three times, and was an ever-present in the tournament, too, captaining once more in the 1-0 group stage win over Israel.
Eligible to play for Austria and Nigeria, England will hope they can keep the Aston Villa star, who made 12 Premier League appearances last season and recorded one assist.
One of just three players registered to a club outside the top tier of their nation, Alex Scott made three Bristol City appearances in 2020/21 but was thrown straight in last season to become a key member of the Robins’ midfield.
The 18-year-old played 38 times in the Championship, starting 35 of those appearances, spending most of this time in the centre or on the right. But wherever he plays, Scott can certainly be described as combative, picking up 12 yellow cards in the Championship last season.
His performances haven’t gone unnoticed, with the likes of Leeds and West Ham linked to a summer move for Scott, and the interest will only grow after his showing at the Euros (even though England did struggle in midfield in the first half of the final).
— Bristol City FC (@BristolCity) July 2, 2022
Having someone like Harry Kane at your club can be a blessing and a curse for a young striker. A blessing, because you get to learn from one of the best strikers in Europe. And a curse as it practically cuts off any route to consistent first team action.
However, Dane Scarlett is definitely benefitting more than he is suffering, thriving at youth level and it has carried over to England. The Tottenham striker was key to England qualifying for the U19 Euros, netting six goals across the two rounds including both goals in a 2-0 win over Portugal.
Another brace for Scarlett followed in England’s 4-0 win over Serbia in the group stage and although he did not find the net again in the tournament, his mere presence high up the pitch was enough to cause panic for defences.
Another player outside of the top flight (Sheffield United’s Daniel Jebbison being the third) Ronnie Edwards was a regular for Peterborough United in the Championship last season, playing 34 games at centre-back.
Although Peterborough were relegated, Edwards had positives that have brought reported interest from Premier League sides Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, a far cry from being scouted while playing grassroots football in Harlow growing up.
— Peterborough United (@theposh) July 1, 2022