Leeds United youngster handed golden international opportunity as Championship rival suffers injury blow
The Saints’ defender has withdrawn from Lee Carsley’s Under-21 camp this month due to a hamstring problem, according to talkSPORT, opening the door for Young Lions understudy Cresswell to feature in his place.
Leeds’ highly-rated central defender has found regular minutes hard to come by this season, despite signing a new deal at Elland Road over the summer. Cresswell had interest from several clubs at Championship level and further afield following a 2022/23 campaign in which he aided loan club Millwall’s play-offs push, before clinching the Under-21 European Championships title in Georgia with England.
Carsley has opted not to call up a replacement in light of Harwood-Bellis’ withdrawal, meaning Cresswell is a prime candidate to feature from the start in Under-21 Euro qualifiers against Serbia and Ukraine over the next week.
“This is a really tough camp for us, against two teams that are very well respected, and we’ve had to do our homework on them. We’re expecting two really tough games,” Carsley said of the threat posed by England’s next two opponents.
Cresswell will be considered to start alongside Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite and breakthrough Liverpool talent Jarell Quansah. The Leeds defender has made just one league start this season and was left out of Daniel Farke’s squad entirely for the trip to Hull City last month. The majority of his time on the pitch has come in the Carabao Cup, a competition which Leeds were eliminated from in the Second Round. He is currently behind Pascal Struijk and Joe Rodon in the pecking order at Elland Road, while Farke says skipper and positional rival Liam Cooper still has a considerable role to play this season.
This month’s international camp, and the injury to Under-21s captain Harwood-Bellis, will provide Cresswell with an opportunity to gain match fitness which could give Farke a decision to make in weeks to come.
The severity of Harwood-Bellis’ hamstring injury is yet to be communicated, but his withdrawal from the camp indicates he is likely to be absent for club and country for at least a couple of weeks. Southampton are currently two points adrift of Leeds in the Championship table, separated by five places in the division’s standings. Russell Martin’s side recently reminded Leeds they remain competition rivals this term with the 3-1 victory over Farke’s men on the south coast.