Southgate 'excited' by England U21s squad for Toulon

Friday 13 May 2016
England U21s head coach Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate is looking forward to working with Jack Grealish and Kasey Palmer, after handing the duo their first England Under-21 call-ups.

Aston Villa playmaker Grealish and Chelsea forward Palmer will both join the Three Lions squad for this month’s Toulon Tournament in France.

And head coach Southgate says both players are an exciting addition to his group as they prepare for an initial four games at Toulon against Portugal, Guinea, Paraguay and Japan. 

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish received his first England call-up for the Toulon Tournament

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has been called up to the England U21s squad for the first time

"I’m pleased with the squad, because when you think of how many players we are without due to being involved in play-offs and cup finals, there’s still a really experienced feel and some real quality.

"It’s very exciting and we’re really looking forward to working again with the lads that have been with us and a bit more with the likes of Jack and Kasey, who haven’t been with us, and a couple of others who haven’t had as much game time."

Grealish joins up with an England squad for the first time, after declaring his allegiance to the Three Lions last year following caps for Republic of Ireland’s U17s and U21s prior to that.

With a minimum of four games at the annual competition, Southgate knows this will give him and his staff a chance to see the 20-year-old in action.

"It’s a really good opportunity for us to work with Jack and for him to see how we work," explained Southgate.

The Squad

Goalkeepers: Angus Gunn (Manchester City), Jordan Pickford (Sunderland)

Defenders: Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Brendan Galloway (Everton), Kortney Hause (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Dominic Iorfa (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jack Stephens (Southampton), Matt Targett (Southampton)

Midfielders: Lewis Baker (Vitesse Arnhem, loan from Chelsea), Matt Grimes (Swansea City), Nathaniel Chalobah (Napoli, loan from Chelsea), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), John Swift (Chelsea), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

Forwards: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Kasey Palmer (Chelsea) Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), Duncan Watmore (Sunderland), Cauley Woodrow (Fulham)

"It’s been a frustrating season for him, but he’s made a big commitment to us in transferring across and I think it’s important that we acknowledge that.

"Everything now is up to Jack, he recognises that there’s a good challenge because of the quality of players that we’ve got so we’re looking forward to working with him.

"I’ve been to see him, we had a good chat and he understands how we want to work and he’s really looking forward to it, so it was nice to see that glint in his eye after what has been a difficult season for Villa.

"Like many others, it’s an opportunity for him to play some games."

Palmer has previously been capped by England at U17, U18 and U20 level, most recently in March when he impressed for Keith Downing’s side in their two games with Canada.

And with the 19-year-old also breaking into the Chelsea first team squad over the last few weeks, Southgate believes this latest step up is fully deserved.

"There’s two things with Kasey really, as he was really impressive for our U20s in March and he’s also had a super season with Chelsea," said Southgate.

"He’s a goalscorer and an athlete, who we find in a really good moment, and that has been reflected in him being involved with Chelsea’s first team squad over the last few months.

"So we’re looking forward to working with him."

With the rest of the squad having been in and around the U21s group this campaign, Southgate also sees the trip as a real chance for all of them to get more international minutes and experience under their wing.

The opposition offer a variety of different tests for the Three Lions and Southgate wants to see his charges make the most of the opportunity it offers.

Chelsea

Kasey Palmer has played for England at U17 and U20 level previously

"We’ve got a group of lads who will have been frustrated at times with how much football they’ve had, so it’s an opportunity in that respect," he added.

"It’s a chance to play against different styles, it’s not often in this age group that you get to play against teams from Africa, Asia and South America.

"We’re two years away from a World Cup and some of these players have aspirations to be involved in those games.

"If you take a squad of 20 away to a tournament, if you’re to be successful, everyone has to play so we have to share that load.

"It’s also really good from a team bonding point of view."

Southgate and his squad will meet up at St. George’s Park on Monday before heading out to Toulon for Thursday’s opening game against Portugal.

They will then face Guinea on 23 May, Paraguay on 25 May and Japan on 27 May, with the chance of another game in the final or third-place play-off on Sunday 29 May.

By Nicholas Veevers