Martin Thomas says England's young group of goalkeepers is the best for ten years
England Under-21s Goalkeeping Coach Martin Thomas believes the current crop of Young Lions stoppers is the best for a decade.
In 15 years at The FA, Thomas has worked with some of the finest goalkeepers this country has produced, including England's current no.1 Joe Hart
Birmingham City's Jack Butland
is seen as Stuart Pearce
's first choice for the Under-21s, while Hull City's Ben Amos
and Middlesbrough's Jason Steele
have featured in recent games and Norwich City's Declan Rudd
has also figured regularly in squads this campaign.
And with the Under-21s next match against Northern Ireland in Blackpool
only a week away, Thomas says the keeper's jersey is in safe hands.
"Jack is a bit younger than Jason, Ben and Dec, but with them all being part of the international scene then there’s been good continuity," said former Welsh international Thomas.
"Jack is three years young for this group, but he’s had a lot of experience over the last 18 months. It’s been a meteoric rise, unbelievable for him, but every challenge that’s come his way he’s coped with exceptionally well.
"He’s become the youngest goalkeeper to play for the senior team and yet is still eligible for the next campaign for the Under-21s."
Having kept five clean sheets in succession as they secured qualification to next summer's European Championship Finals, Stuart Pearce has an abundance of talent to choose from for his Under-21s side.
"It’s not only those four, there’s also other lads like Alex Smithies of Huddersfield and Wes Foderingham who’s at Swindon," explained Thomas, a former player with Newcastle United, Birmingham City and Bristol Rovers.
"It is a good crop of goalkeepers in terms of both quality and quantity.
"Prior to this, the best group for goalkeepers who have all gone on to play to a good level is in the 1981 birth group, which was Chris Kirkland, Stephen Bywater, Matt Murray and Paul Rachubka.
"All four were involved with the U16s and went on to have long careers."
He added: "All the goalkeepers that are currently involved with the Under-21s have been involved in international football since they were 15 years old.
"We were only having a discussion when we were in Serbia about the Victory Shield and the lads were saying how much they enjoyed playing in it.
"There’s obviously competition between them, but there is also the support as they have all come through the system together.
"This group now have all played a lot of games at club level and international level."
And Thomas insists that the pool of young English goalkeeping talent goes even deeper.
"The Football League is littered with young goalkeepers getting experience of first team football," he continued.
"The best part of around 65 goalkeepers, a majority who are English and under the age of 26, are playing in the Football League every week.
"All you hope is they can do well enough to take the next step and eventually work up to the Premier League."
Fans can get tickets to watch England’s young stars for the terrific price of just £10 for adults, £5 for children and a family ticket (two adults and two children) is only £25.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 0844 847 1953 or online at www.eticketing.co.uk/blackpoolfc
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