Youth Teams
Youth Teams

Young Lions boss Keith Downing happy to delve into depth of U20s talent pool

Sunday 01 Oct 2017

Keith Downing is looking forward to seeing some new faces in his England squad as the Young Lions prepare to face Italy and Czech Republic.

The U20s boss has added three new players to his roster in the shape of MK Dons defender Callum Brittain, AFC Bournemouth midfielder Connor Mahoney and Swindon Town goalkeeper Will Henry.

U20 Internationals
  • Italy v England
  • 4.50pm, Thursday 5 October
  • England v Czech Republic
  • 2pm, Monday 9 October

Only Mahoney has been previously capped by England before, when he featured for the U17s and U18s back in 2014 whilst Henry took part in a pre-Euro training camp with the U19s last term.

And Downing admits that is the beauty of picking his squad, with the chance to delve deeper into the talent pool in his age group.

“It gives us an opportunity to look at one or two who haven’t been in the system, some late developers,” he said, ahead of his squad’s meet up at St. George’s Park on Sunday.

“Because of the nature of the U20s, it’s an open age group if you like and it’s a chance to look around and a good age group to be involved in.

“There was an opportunity for other players last month, Lloyd Kelly came in for the last camp and Kaylen Hinds was another one after being in and out of the system over the years.

“We’re all aware that this is very much a development group, it’s certainly a stepping stone for Aidy’s U21 group and an opportunity to get noticed and for some, to start their career in an England shirt.”

After beating the Netherlands in Telford last month before being held to a draw in Switzerland, October’s double-header sees the Young Lions head to Gorgonzola first where they will play Italy on Thursday.

The U20s beat the Dutch by 3-0 at AFC Telford United last month

It’s then back to St. George’s, where Downing’s men will take on the Czechs, a familiar team for many of the squad after meeting them in the U19 Euro semi-final earlier this year.

And Downing admits he’s impressed by the U20s’ planned schedule of games this term, with each fixture set to be a firm test of the players.

“We have a very strong games programme this season, there’s no easy games and we’re going to be fully tested,” he explained.

“We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a real test but that’s what it’s about, to give these boys an opportunity but also an examination at the highest level so to go over to Italy will be a real test for us all.

“And I have a lot of admiration for the Czechs, they were really good in the U19 Euros and gave us a real examination and were unlucky to come out of that as losers.

“A lot of their players are playing regular senior football so they’re very much an experienced set of youngsters who know how to play the real game.

“They drew against Germany last month and beat Portugal, who were in the Euro Final against us, it goes to show that it will be a really tough game.”

Meanwhile, Downing has added striker Ike Ugbo to his squad for the games. The Chelsea striker, currently on loan at Barnsley, replaces the injured Keinan Davis in the squad whilst Leeds United's Ronaldo Vieira has also withdrawn through injury.

By Nicholas Veevers