Football Features

How the England U21s would line up if you could pick from all eligible players

By Harry Edwards

Published: 13:59, 12 June 2019

With the senior team having finished third in the Uefa Nations League, England’s men will now be turning their attention to the U21 European Championships.

England reached the semi-finals as recently as 2017, but the Young Lions will be hoping to go further and add to their two tournament wins so far.

With the European Championships set to kick off on June 16, Aidy Boothroyd has put together a 23-man squad capable of going far in the tournament including 13 who featured in the Premier League last season.

But it could actually be even better. Despite being an U21 tournament, players are eligible to play at the 2019 Euros if they were born on or after January 1, 1996. This opens up Boothroyd’s pool even further and would, in theory, lead to bigger names taking part if the ultimate goal was actually the trophy rather than the development of the players.

So what if these u21s tournaments were actually all about winning? Well, you might see Boothroyd field a team like…

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson

Date of birth: March 12, 1997 (22)

Senior caps: 0

The Manchester United goalkeeper spent last season on loan with Sheffield United and played a huge role in the Blades’ return to the Premier League.

His performances across the campaign, keeping 21 clean sheets in 46 matches, will probably see Henderson start for Boothroyd ahead of Angus Gunn when England kick off their campaign against France on June 18.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Date of birth: October 7, 1998 (20)

Senior caps: 6

The first eligible player from the senior squad, it’s easy to forget Trent Alexander-Arnold is still only 20.

Already a Champions League winner, the right-back is one of England’s brightest stars and was the senior team’s best performer in their Nations League third-place play-off win over Switzerland.

Centre-back: Joe Gomez

Date of birth: May 23, 1997 (22)

Senior caps: 7

It might have been better for Alexander-Arnold’s Liverpool team-mate had he actually been selected for Boothroyd’s U21 squad this summer.

Centre-back Joe Gomez enjoyed a good start to the season at Liverpool but his progress was halted by injury. A late return saw Gomez earn a place in England’s Nations League squad, with a fine performance against Switzerland, but more playing time at the U21 Euros could have helped.

Centre-back: Fikayo Tomori

Date of birth: December 19, 1997 (20)

Senior caps: 0

One centre-back who will be starting for England U21s this summer is Fikayo Tomori. The Chelsea loanee spent the last season on loan at Derby County, with his performances earning him the club’s Player of the Year award.

Tomori’s performances will be key for England going far in Italy/San Marino, and the centre-back has a promising future for this country.

Left-back: Ben Chilwell

Date of birth: December 21, 1996 (22)

Senior caps: 7

A fairly recent call-up to the England senior squad, Ben Chilwell last featured for the U21s in October 2018 and would have been eligible this summer but for his Nations League commitments.

After a good season with Leicester City, Chilwell has quickly become England’s best option at left-back, overtaking Luke Shaw and Danny Rose.

Defensive midfield: Declan Rice

Date of birth: January 14, 1999 (20)

Senior caps: 3

Despite making the move from Ireland to England to represent the senior team, Declan Rice would have been eligible for the Young Lions this summer.

The 20-year-old has enjoyed a fine breakthrough season with West Ham, overcoming a poor start to become one of the first names on the Hammers’ – and Gareth Southgate’s – team sheet.

Central midfield: James Maddison

Date of birth: November 23, 1996 (22)

Senior caps: 0

Before England squads were announced this summer, there was some talk of James Maddison representing both the senior and U21 sides.

But the Leicester man had to make do with just the U21 squad, in what will likely be his final appearances for the Young Lions ahead of a highly-anticipated senior debut.

Central midfield: Dele Alli

Date of birth: April 11, 1996 (23)

Senior caps: 37

Despite celebrating his 23rd birthday in April, Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli would still have been eligible for England’s U21 squad this summer.

Alli may not have had the best season for Spurs, suffering with injuries and poor form, but the midfielder is still one of England’s better options when on his game. How unfair would it have been for England to take on the U21 Euros with Alli in the side?

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Right winger: Marcus Rashford

Date of birth: October 31, 1997 (21)

Senior caps: 32

Although he made his senior England debut in 2016, Rashford is still eligible for the U21s squad, by some margin.

The Manchester United man had only made one U21 appearance previously but has shown his worth for the senior side as both a wide-forward and a striker.

Forward: Tammy Abraham

Date of birth: October 2, 1997 (21)

Senior caps: 2

Leading the line for this impressive side is Tammy Abraham, who will be hoping to carry his club form into the U21 Euros this summer.

The 21-year-old scored an impressive 26 goals in 40 games for Villa this season, playing a big role in the club’s promotion to the Premier League. And he is now being thought to be in with a shout of leading the line for Chelsea next season as they deal with their transfer ban.

Left winger: Jadon Sancho

Date of birth: March 25, 2000 (19)

Senior caps: 6

After his impressive season with Borussia Dortmund – with whom he assisted the second-most goals (14)  of any player across Europe’s top five leagues – Jadon Sancho shot up the England ranks, making six appearances for the senior team.

The 19-year-old skipped U21 level but would have been eligible to drop down a level for the European Championships this summer. And what a threat he could have been for the defences as England go for glory.


England’s strength at U21 level goes beyond just their starting XI. Were certain younger stars among the senior squad to drop down, some serious talent would have to miss out.

Angus Gunn: The Southampton goalkeeper is challenging Dean Henderson for England’s starting role this summer, and could just as easily replace the Man Utd man.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka: England U21’s starting right-back this summer, Wan-Bissaka’s place in this squad is only lost due to Alexander-Arnold’s ridiculous season.

Jake Clarke-Salter: Another young promising centre-back, Jake Clarke-Salter is likely to start alongside Fiyako Tomori at the U21 Euros.

Harry Winks: Born in February 1996, Harry Winks would only just be eligible for the U21s squad, but could have been a good addition this summer.

Phil Foden: Another likely starter this summer, Foden is only dropped out of our ultimate U21 squad due to the eligibility of Alli and Maddison.

Demarai Gray: The 22-year-old will expect to play a big part for England U21s this summer, causing problems in attack.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: The Everton forward may play second fiddle to Tammy Abraham at the U21 Euros, but will still be a good man to call upon from the bench.

Other players who could be included if fit:

Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek