Aidy Boothroyd admits he’s excited to be working with both some new and returning faces in the England men’s under-21 squad this month.
The Young Lions boss named his group for the UEFA U21 EURO group stage on Monday morning, picking a 23-strong squad for the games in Slovenia.
Among the group are Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe and PSV Eindhoven’s Noni Madueke, who will join up with the MU21s for the first time.
And there’s also an international return for Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood, who was initially with Boothroyd’s squad during the 2019-20 campaign before he stepped into the senior set-up last September.
Greenwood subsequently missed out in both October and November’s camps for both the seniors and MU21s, but now returns as England bid to reach this summer’s EURO knockout round.
"Mason's a massive talent, an outstanding player. It’s an opportunity for him to get some games with us,” said Boothroyd.
“[He’s] a player we believe needs some time in terms of a tournament so he can, hopefully in years to come, play in the senior team and be a bit more aware of what playing in a tournament is.
“He’s got some great experiences already with his club, playing in the Champions League and the Europa League. He’s getting plenty of opportunities, but we felt it was the right thing for him to come with us.
“He can play in multiple positions, which is what this squad is really.”
Boothroyd is enthused by the addition of Smith Rowe to the ranks too, after seeing his emergence with the Gunners this term.
“His form for Arsenal has been outstanding and both him and Bukayo [Saka] could consider themselves Arsenal's best two players over the last couple of months,” he added.
"Emile has also been in the pathway, he hasn't played for the under-21s yet but we're delighted to have Emile and I’m looking forward to working with him.
"We can talk about his technical qualities, but he's so honest in what he does. He's so desperate to do well and you can see his willingness to get involved.
"He sees things happening before they occur and we're only seeing the start of it now – we could have a very good player on our hands.
"When I speak to the coaches who've worked with him in the other age groups, what also comes out is what a good character he is.”
For most fans on home soil, the name of Madueke won’t be as instantly recognisable as his new squad mates.
The 19 year old is a former academy player at Tottenham Hotspur, who joined Dutch outfit PSV in the summer of 2018 before breaking into their first team squad this season.
London-born Madueke has also been a regular for the Young Lions in recent seasons, having represented the MU16s through to MU18s and also at training camps with the MU19s earlier this season.
"Noni's had an excellent season at PSV, we've been keeping a close eye on him, he's scoring goals and making goals,” revealed Boothroyd.
"I spoke to their coach Roger Schmidt about him coming into our fold, he's been in the pathway and we're really excited to have him.
"He's going to be a good player and we felt this was the right place for him to be.
"We always look for character and he's got a lovely, infectious personality even over the phone. He's delighted to be with England and is a great example of a player who's joined the pathway and been fast-tracked because of the qualities that he's got.
"He's got a brilliant brain, is quick, very athletic, he's willing to play in a number of positions, he can score a goal and he can assist.
"He's a talented young man and is really excited about playing for the U21s.”
Boothroyd’s squad will meet up on Sunday before heading to Slovenia to play their group stage games against Switzerland, Portugal and Croatia.
Only the group winners and runners-up will progress to the knockout stage, which will be held in Hungary and Slovenia between 31 May and 6 June.
All England matches will be televised by Sky Sports as follows, with kick-off times not clashing with the senior team fixtures on the same days.
• Thursday 25 March, 2pm (UK time) – England v Switzerland, Koper
• Sunday 28 March, 8pm (UK time) – Portugal v England, Ljubljana
• Wednesday 31 March, 5pm (UK time) – Croatia v England, Koper