england teenage hopefuls euro 2016 alli ibe loftus-cheek roberts gomez

England’s teenage EURO 2016 hopefuls

Roy Hodgson likes teenagers.

He has included two in each of the England squads he has picked for major tournaments.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Jack Butland went to EURO 2012 at 18 and 19. Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw were 19 and 18 when Hodgson took them to the 2014 World Cup.

Who from England’s current generation of teenage talent might force their way into his EURO 2016 squad?

Here we take a look at some of the young hopefuls trying to catch Hodgson’s eye this season.

Dele Alli – Tottenham Hotspur (11 April, 1996)

Dele Alli’s rise has been remarkable but not remarkably rapid.

Big things have long been predicted for a player who made his MK Dons debut at 16 in League One in November 2012.

In hindsight it is surprising more Premier League clubs weren’t trying to recruit him before Spurs concluded a deal hours before the transfer window closed in January.

Even then they allowed him to complete the season with his first club.

He appears more than ready to test himself at a higher level now.

Alli has all the technical and physical attributes to suggest he is a future international. The speed at which he establishes himself in the Tottenham team will determine how quickly he makes that big leap.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino appears to trust him already and has never been scared to pick young players during his managerial career. The hype surrounding Alli is growing and he looks to be well ahead of schedule at the moment.

Hodgson has selected plenty of Spurs players in his time in charge of England. It would not be hard to imagine Alli joining the list once he is a first team regular.

How soon that becomes a reality will determine much about Alli’s future.

Hodgson will be watching his development closely.

Jordon Ibe – Liverpool (8 December, 1995)

Few at Liverpool will miss Raheem Sterling more or less than Jordon Ibe.

Ibe and Sterling are great friends and share a birthday, December 8 (Sterling is one year older).

But Ibe could be the principal beneficiary of Sterling’s Manchester City move.

A position in the Liverpool attack has been freed and Ibe is in pole position to fill it.

Similar in stature but stronger and more dynamic than his former teammate Ibe showed his outstanding ability in glimpses last season.

If he can turn this promise into sustained performances of quality for Liverpool then a senior England call would not be inconceivable before the end of the season.

Hodgson will surely explore his wide attacking options before deciding his squad next summer – England are not overly strong on the wings at present.

He may have to move fast however as Nigeria, the country of Ibe’s parents, are making serious moves to recruit him.

If Ibe is playing well, in a Liverpool side that is also playing well, he would surely not be far from the England team.

Reuben Loftus-Cheek – Chelsea (23 January, 1996)

It is premature in the extreme to talk about a player who has made just three appearances for his club as a full international but Reuben Loftus-Cheek is an exceptional prospect.

The long wait to succeed John Terry as Chelsea’s most recent homegrown first team player goes on but if Loftus-Cheek can achieve that honour then he will surely be deserving of an England call.

It is a big ask but Loftus-Cheek is not far away.

If he does break through at Chelsea then Hodgson will find very few English alternatives playing at such an elite Premier League club.

Which other top four side has an Englishman in their engine room? Jack Wilshire is a Hodgson mainstay but struggles, whether through form or fitness, to make the Arsenal first XI regularly while it remains to be seen whether Fabian Delph will be a starter for Manchester City.

It is a big if certainly, but if Loftus-Cheek can get a smattering of first team opportunity, say 20 games, at Chelsea then that might elevate him in Hodgson’s thinking above an ever present at a club lower down the league.

As England boss Hodgson has placed considerable trust in youth but he does not reward it blindly.

Loftus-Cheek will have to perform prodigiously before Hodgson begins to consider his name. He has the talent but needs the opportunity to fulfil it. Without that he can remains nothing more than potential.

The manner in which he rewarded Gareth Southgate’s surprise decision to take him to the Under 21 European Championship in June demonstrated his maturity.

Indeed he was one of the few England players to return from the Czech Republic with their reputation enhanced.

Southgate has praised him lavishly and Jose Mourinho has also offered praise and stinging criticism to the 19-year-old – a sure sign that he rates him highly.

It will probably take injuries in the Chelsea side for Loftus-cheek to see much game time this season.

A couple of impressive Champions League appearances or high-profile cup games would boost his profile and his performances for the England Under 21s will be closely watched.

Were England to suffer injuries to a couple of central midfielders then Loftus-Cheek’s brand of contemporary centre field play could become suddenly quite appealing,

But at this stage it would take a huge number of variables to align for him to come close to making EURO 2016.

Patrick Roberts – Manchester City (5 February, 1997)

A year ago Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Patrick Roberts were the stars of the 2014 FA Youth Cup final as a talented and physical Chelsea side beat Fulham 7-6 on aggregate.

He had already made his Premier League debut and last season made 17 Championship appearances.

Manchester City paid £11 million for him this summer but despite this it feels that Loftus-Cheek has progressed further since the two prospects faced each other in the Youth Cup final.

City’s investment is considerable for such an inexperienced player. But there is little doubt surrounding Roberts’ technical quality. He is a phenomenally gifted ball player.

England has not seen a more exciting dribbler in a generation or more.

The thought of Roberts and Raheem Sterling in tandem is a turbo-charged nightmare for Premier League defenders but despite City’s outlay it is unlikely they will unleash the younger of their speedsters just yet.

Roberts will likely begin his City career slowly. Cup games and the odd substitute appearance will not likely be enough for Hodgson to consider Roberts just yet.

He is being fast tracked through the England youth sides, he is one of the youngest players in the Under 19 squad, but it will be some time before he is mentioned as a senior international although the talent is undoubtedly there.

A Premier League loan spell with substantial appearances would undoubtedly help his cause.

But, for the current season at least, it appears Roberts will remain a one for the future for both City and England – which is a shame because he is excellent.

Roberts is lightning but he might not strike quickly enough to make it to EURO 2016.

He will 21 by the time the World Cup reaches Russia in 2018 however. He should be a full international by then, regardless of who the England coach is at the time.

If not something will have gone seriously wrong. Hopefully he will not live to regret his City move.

Joe Gomez – Liverpool (23 May, 1997)

Eyebrows were raised when Liverpool paid £6 million for an 18-year-old defender who had played just 21 times in the English Championship.

But Gomez had long been regarded as one of England’s most promising. Arsenal were just one of the clubs to try and sign him before he signed his first professional contract with Charlton Athletic.

Tall, strong, elegant and quick there are few defenders more comfortable at starting attacks through dribbles or passes than Gomez. Arsene Wenger may regret not beating Liverpool to his signature.

He epitomises the type of defender Brendan Rodgers is seeking to employ at Liverpool. Although he has spent the majority of his career at centre back Gomez can also perform comfortably at left back.

Rodgers may look to exploit this versatility as Gomez acclimatises to Premier League football.

His development will be closely watched by the England manager.

Gomez is well liked in the England setup and was voted onto the team of the tournament as the Under 17s won the UEFA Under 17 Championships (Patrick Roberts was also included).

With England lacking quality central defenders at Under 21 level expect Gomez to feature in Gareth Southgate’s squads in the not too distant future.

If he ends the season as a first team regular at Liverpool there may be more than one England manager seeking to select him.

EURO 2016 is probably a tournament or two too early for Gomez but he looks to have the quality to be an England international for years to come.

Why do some young players make it while others do not? That and other questions are the main focus of this site. Football prodigies, next-big-things, never-quite-were's and yet-may-be's.

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