England men’s under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd is hoping he’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to making his next squad selection.
The Young Lions rounded off their UEFA U21 EURO qualification campaign with a flourish on Tuesday evening, beating Albania by 5-0 to finish clear at the top of their group after winning nine of their ten games.
But Boothroyd now faces a four-month wait until March before his side are back in action, and instead of the usual chance to play two preparation games as they would under normal circumstances, it’ll be straight into the group stages of the Finals which have been brought forward to split the tournament into two sections.
That means the head coach has been trying to see as many of his likely selection contenders in action over the last three months, before he has to pick his squad for the group games in Hungary and Slovenia.
"Hopefully, we'll have a strong line-up come March,” said Boothroyd, after seeing goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi, James Justin, Jamal Musiala and a brace from Eddie Nketiah at Molineux.
"Hopefully, everybody will stay fit but I’m sure there will be a couple of injuries, loss of form and new players will burst onto the scene.
"So while I'm regularly in contact with Gareth with regards players going up to the seniors, I'm equally in contact with Lee Carsley with the U20s and the rest of the development pathway coaches to see what's coming through.
"But it's the worst period for us as coaches now, as we don't see the players apart from going to watch them when we're allowed into stadiums and we still don't know what's happening with the club visits due to the situation that the world is in at the moment.
"We'll be watching, we'll be planning, we'll debrief the work we've done so far and a lot of thought will go into that squad selection come March.
"The squad might look very different in March, but what we have managed to do in the last couple of camps is get a good look at all sorts of players, the younger ones coming through and the ones like Ben Wilmot, who's been brilliant.
"He played for us last year, then dropped off, but because of his performances for Watford he's managed to get back in the team and things like that are really important for us.”
One area in which the Young Lions have excelled in during their qualifiers is in front of goal, scoring 34 goals across the ten games with captain Eddie Nketiah becoming the MU21s’ record goalscorer in the process as well as leading the charts in this term’s competition.
"It's exciting,” added Boothroyd.
“To be able to score when we're not always playing particularly well is a real plus but for me, but it's making sure we don't concede as well.
"Those players who are scoring and making goals, it's their responsibility as well to make sure they're doing that shift.
"Good strikers help you win games, but a good defence helps you win Championships.”
The draw for the group stage of the 2021 U21 EURO Finals will take place in Nyon, Switzerland on Thursday 10 December.
The group games will then be held in Hungary and Slovenia between 24 and 30 March 2021, before the knockout stage featuring the four group winners and runners-up will be held between 30 May and 6 June 2021.