England’s young class of 2014 look to follow in Barkley’s step

Connor Wickham, pictured while on loan with Leeds United.
Connor Wickham, pictured while on loan with Leeds United.
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YOU might be able to name your own odds on the unlikely event of England lifting the World Cup in Brazil, but reality beckons for one Three Lions side who stand tantalisingly placed for glory tonight.

That team is the Under-17s, who will lift the UEFA European Championship trophy for the second time in four years if they beat Holland in this evening’s final in Malta, with a Yorkshireman in John Peacock busy orchestrating proceedings from the dug-out.

An evening at the Ta’Qali National Stadium may bring immediate kudos, but greater riches, in every sense of the word, await the class of 2014 if they follow the lead of their contempories of 2010.

Leeds-born Peacock is likely to include at least one Yorkshire-born-player in Leeds United midfielder Lewis Cook in his starting line-up against the Dutch, with Middlesbrough duo Callum Cooke and Dael Fry also pressing for involvement.

Two born in the Broad Acres took the field from the start in the 2-1 victory over Spain in Leichtenstein four years ago in Harrogate-born left-back Luke Garbutt, who moved from Leeds to Everton for £800,000 in the summer of 2009, and Andre Wisdom, who hails from Leeds.

The White Rose contingent may not have been plentiful on that night in Vaduz, but a number have endeared themselves to supporters across the county since, from captain Conor Coady to final hero Connor Wickham – who netted a virtuoso winner.

The nation’s jewel in the crown at Under-17 level back in 2010 is now the poster boy seemingly entrusted with England’s hopes in the tournaments ahead.

Prodigiously-talented Scouser Ross Barkley, who cut his competitive teeth in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday, was a key member of the 2010 winning England side.

The Hillsborough faithful will also reflect fondly on two golden loan spells at S6 from Wickham, who recently proved the catalyst for Sunderland’s remarkable escape from relegation.

Barkley remains the sole member of the 2010 squad to make the progression to the senior ranks for this summer’s jamboree in Brazil.

That honour may have eluded another star of four years ago in Jack Butland, but the smart money is on the goalkeeper making the step up in the years to come.

The loan player had spells at Barnsley and Leeds last season and while his stint at the latter coincided with all manner of turmoil at Elland Road, his stock remains unsullied.

His selection as England’s third-choice goalkeeper in Euro 2012 and his donning of the gloves for Team GB at the London Olympics is serious testament to that.

Two starters in Nathaniel Chalobah and Josh McEachran won friends during loan spells at Middlesbrough in 2013-14 and 2012-13 respectively, as did Benik Afobe during Huddersfield Town’s ‘nearly’ promotion season of 2010-11 – ahead of a short spell at Hillsborough earlier this season. Meanwhile, Wisdom, who moved from Bradford City to Liverpool at the age of 14 for a considerable fee plus add-ons, is expected to line up for Derby in their £50m Championship promotion final against QPR at Wembley on Saturday.

Several names to look out for will take the field tonight, with young Newcastle United striker Adam Armstrong and Fulham’s Patrick Roberts having both tasted Premier League action for Toon and the Cottagers respectively and tipped as top-flight stars in waiting.

Captaining the side is Everton’s Ryan Ledson, with another mainstay of the side being Chelsea centre-forward Dominic Solanke, who netted in the semi-final win over Portugal and was a hero of the Blues’ 
recent FA Youth Cup final success over Fulham.

England expects, so over to you, boys.

IMMEDIATE IMPRESSION: Leeds United's Samu Saiz, centre, charges at the Derby County defence. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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