Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah have both made it into the England u21 squad for the u21 European Championship Group Stage.
The u21 European Championships kicks off later this month, with the group stage being played over the international break.
Due to the ongoing fixture issues caused by the pandemic, the tournament has been split up into two parts, with the group stage in March and the knockout stages in late May/early June.
England certainly don’t have an easy group, facing Portugal, Switzerland, and Croatia. Portugal and Switzerland both won nine of their 10 qualification games, and even Croatia racked up a goal difference of 30 and only lost twice in their 10 matches.
Willock has been playing regularly with Newcastle United, but evidently didn’t do enough to make it back into contention. He also didn’t get any call-ups in 2020 (despite playing the final two u21 breaks of 2019), so in his case, it’s slightly less surprising.
Of course, Nketiah hasn’t played at all regularly either. But in his case, as captain of the team and the record England u21 goalscorer, you can understand why he made it in anyway.
As for Smith Rowe, it’s his first call-up at this level, and very well deserved. The 20-year-old won Man of the Match against Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend and is regular in the Arsenal first team.
The squad announcement also looks like being good news for Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka. The young duo were excluded from the u21 selection, but you’d have to imagine that’s because they’re getting senior call-ups. We’ll find out for sure on Thursday.
England u21 fixtures (live on Sky Sports in the UK)
• 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