Having made his England U21 debut at right back against the United States last week, Joe Gomez is set to earn his first competitive cap for the youth team when they take on Norway in U21 Euros qualification tonight as the young defender continues his meteoric rise to prominence.
According to England U21 manager Gareth Southgate, though, it's not a complete surprise for those who had been tracking the young defender as he worked his way through the youth ranks. He may have exceeded most expectations with pace of his development, but this is where he was always likely to end up.
"Joe was in our U17s that won the European Championships, and he was the outstanding defender in that group," said the England manager during a break in Norway preparations. "We moved him up a year early to our U19s last year, and he was the best defender in that group as well.
"We wanted to try to keep that U19 group together if we could because it won the Euros and we wanted it to progress together, but we also need to look at what is the right challenge, individually, for the player. And with the level he is playing at every week, we felt that coming with the U21s was right for his development."
Having impressed in training and against the United States, Gomez will now get his competitive U21 debut, and it's likely to be on the right behind Jordon Ibe. Ibe similarly got his first taste of U21 action last week, and as with Gomez, Southgate was impressed by what he has seen from the Liverpool youngster.
"Their first impressions with us, character-wise and in training, has been really good," Southgate added. "That's why we started them both. Because of the club they're at, they're used to playing under pressure. They're used to playing in front of a supportive but demanding crowd, and that's good for us.
"We need as many players as possible who are used to playing in pressure environments. Those two have coped with that at club level already really well, and that should stand them in good stead with us."
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