Gareth Southgate believes there is more to come from his England Under-21 squad as he watches two of his fledglings to stake claims for World Cup places.
Both Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw have progressed from the Under-21s to Roy Hodgson’s senior squad this year, whilst Ross Barkley has not even featured under Southgate after playing his last game for the Under-21s in August.
And Southgate believes even more of his players could be challenging for senior spots before too long, after an impressive qualifying campaign so far this season and more involvement with their clubs.
Southgate said: "I think we’re fortunate that so many of these lads at some stage – if they keep the right mentality, which they seem to have – can go on to play for the senior team and be successful with it.
"There are so many players who could stake a claim.
"Lots of people have focused on the attacking talent that we have and understandably so – but when you look at Cark Jenkinson, John Stones, Michael Keane, Luke Shaw – with Jack Butland in goal – our defenders are equally due the merit that their performances have warranted.
"The names we’re talking about, there are four or five lads that could go to the World Cup, with really only one or two caps maximum.
"But we just have to be a bit careful because these lads have done tremendously well for their clubs and the Under-21s, but none of them have big game experience."
With the end of the domestic season drawing closer, competition for places in Hodgson’s squad for Brazil is heating up.
The England boss is likely to name a longer squad to face Peru at Wembley, the Three Lions’ final home game on Friday 30 May, before it is cut down to 23 players for the trip to Brazil.
And former England defender Southgate, who experienced two World Cup campaigns in 1998 and 2002, believes there could be a few spots up for grabs for the younger players.
"We know that the teams who are successful have players with huge numbers of caps in terms of experience – with a lot of experience in the latter stages of the Champions League," he admitted.
"So I think there might be a place for one or two – but Roy will want to balance that off with players who have experience, like Adam Lallana who has had a fantastic season.
"Even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is the same sort of age as the lads in the Under-21s, has had that Champions League experience as well.
"But the great thing is that there’s depth coming through – not only in the Under-21s, but in the U19s and U17s – who have just qualified for the European Championships as well."
Southgate's Under-21s face Wales at Swansea's Liberty Stadium in their next Euro qualifier on Monday 19 May, before heading to southern France for the Toulon Tournament.