Calum Chambers will be a mainstay of the England Under-21s side come September, says head coach Gareth Southgate.
The Arsenal defender was part of Southgate’s squad for the Euro Finals in Czech Republic, but did not feature in any of the three group games before England’s exit.
That was mainly down to the form of Carl Jenkinson in the right-back position.
Head coach Southgate acknowledges that it was a difficult situation given Chambers’ first U21 cap only came in March, after previously jumping from the U19s straight into Roy Hodgson’s senior squad.
But Southgate believes Chambers, who was one of nine members in his 23-man squad that can feature in the next U21 Euro campaign, will be one of the leaders as the Three Lions target Poland 2017.
“It’s been a difficult situation for him to have gone up into the seniors,” admitted Southgate, following the disappointment of the 3-1 defeat to Italy which meant they were eliminated at the group stage.
“Jenkinson was one of the pluses for us in the tournament and, at the minute, we haven’t had much opportunity to work with Calum.
“I think next year, he becomes one of the leaders of the group and if I look at him and his age, his progression has been really good.”
It’s been a whirlwind year for Chambers, who first broke into Southampton’s team in the second half of the 2013-14 campaign.
He was also captain of England U19s, as they narrowly missed out on the Euro Finals last year courtesy of a costly last-gasp winner in their Elite Round game with Ukraine.
A summer switch to the Emirates Stadium followed and Chambers caught the eye with his early-season performances and made his England debut against Norway last September and has since won a further two caps.
Southgate is more than happy with his career progress so far, and feels the 20-year-old will be best gaining more experience as a regular for the U21s, who ironically start their new campaign in September against Norway.
“If you look at his age and what he’s achieved, he’s on the right path”
Gareth Southgate on Calum Chambers
“He’s played a fair amount of Premier League football with Southampton and then Premier League and Champions League with Arsenal,” added Southgate.
“He’s found himself out of their team in the second half of last season but if you look at his age and what he’s achieved, he’s on the right path.
“I know he wanted to play more and we see him as a potential senior in the future, but there’s no rush for him to get where he wants to get to.
“But I see Eric [Dier] and Calum as controlling the centre back positions next season.”