JOnathan Howson will travel to the European Under-21 Championship with Leeds United’s blessing if he makes the final 23-man squad selected by England coach Stuart Pearce.
Howson was named in a provisional group of 40 players announced by the Football Association earlier this week and will learn before June 1 whether Pearce plans to take him to Denmark for next month’s tournament.
United’s vice-captain, who will turn 23 ahead of the European Championship, but who is eligible having been 21 when qualifying started, broke into the under-21 squad for the first time in February having caught Pearce’s eye during a full and impressive season in the Championship.
Howson completed an ever-present term at Queens Park Rangers, making his 46th league appearance and his 50th in all competitions, but the European Championship runs throughout June and Leeds manager Simon Grayson admitted to concern about Howson’s rest and recovery after a demanding domestic season.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger recently took issue with the impending call up of midfielder Jack Wilshere for the tournament, claiming that the teenager would be at risk of burn-out if he is asked to take part.
Grayson is similarly aware of the demands facing Howson and Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass, who is likely to play some role in friendlies contested by Scotland later this month.
The United boss said: “It’s something to consider. If we’d been in the play-offs or the play-off final – and there’s still that possibility for us – then the season would have been extended anyway but ideally you’d like your players to have as much rest as possible.
“It’s a difficult decision and managers have their own best interests at heart – that’s keeping players fresh and ready for pre-season.
“But when international games come calling, you can’t turn them down and I don’t think I’d have much choice in it.
“Jonny may be in that squad or he may not when it’s whittled down, but if he goes away then we’d give him a bit of extra time off before he comes back (for pre-season training).
“he’s had a fantastic season and has been called up to the England squad with some really good midfield players in there.”
Howson’s under-21 debut came against Italy in February, an opportunity which suggested that Pearce would consider him for the European Championship and the midfielder admitted at the time that he would be ready for selection if he made the 23-man squad for Denmark.
“I’ll keep playing the way I have and if I get a shout then I’ll be ready and waiting,” Howson said. “But I must admit that it’s secondary – if it comes along then it will be an added bonus. For me, it’s back to the club and playing well for Leeds.”
Pearce’s under-21s are to feature in a friendly with Norway in Southampton before beginning their European campaign against Spain on June 12.
Further group games against Ukraine and the Czech Republic will be on June 15 and June 19 respectively.
Snodgrass, meanwhile, could take part in two international matches before the end of this month, both in Dublin. Scotland meet Wales on May 25 before playing the Republic of Ireland four days later, 24 hours before the Championship play-off final takes place at Wembley.
Grayson said. “He could do with a bit of a rest after a few niggles over the last couple of weeks but he’s got a couple of Scotland games in Dublin at the back end of May.”
Pearce, meanwhile, is sceptical of predictions of burn-out amongst his players and Wilshere was included in his provisional squad this week, despite Wenger’s protestations.
Pearce said: “I have to bring my own experiences as a player to the fore.
“By the time I was 21, I’d played 250 non-league games. I then played until I was 40.
“I played a full set of internationals and probably played 1,000 matches in my career. What I can tell these players is play football – it says it in your contract. That’s your job title.”