Gareth Southgate has spoken of his faith in Dominic Solanke as he builds a new England Under-21s team to challenge for the 2017 European Championships.
England on Monday host Switzerland at Brighton’s Amex Stadium after dropping their first points in qualification for two years in Thursday’s 0-0 draw at Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In a competitive group also featuring Norway and Kazakhstan, the manager is wary of the task in front of his team in their bid to qualify for a sixth consecutive finals, and he must do so without the talented Eric Dier, Harry Kane and Jack Butland, who have progressed to the senior set up.
Despite Southgate retaining the highly promising James Ward-Prowse and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, his present team clearly lacks experience when compared with the previous generation.
The manager does, however, have confidence in Solanke, one of the more recent additions to his squad, and is happy with the far-from-traditional education he is receiving in Holland with Vitesse Arnhem, where he is on loan from Chelsea.
“I’m really pleased with him,” Southgate said. “I’ve watched him through our system since he was 16, he’s a player of high potential, playing very well in the Eredivisie with Vitesse, playing in men’s football every week against teams like Ajax and Feyenoord.
“That’s a fantastic experience for him, and also a good life experience for him to live away from home. He’s got a real good temperament, and we’re enjoying having him.
“Chelsea have a fantastic academy system. We have a huge number of players in our teams from their academy, some very, very exciting players.”
Dele Alli, like Dier, is with Roy Hodgson’s senior team; Brendan Galloway, Jordon Ibe and Nathan Redmond are injured, and Nathaniel Chalobah and Jack Stephens – who was sent off in Bosnia-Herzegovina – are suspended, further limiting Southgate’s options.
Tyias Browning may yet be declared available after returning to training following a knee injury, and Bournemouth’s Baily Cargill and Leicester’s Ben Chilwell have been called up from the Under-20s, but the manager remains wary of the threat posed by Switzerland, who like England have won two and drawn one of their three fixtures, and the likelihood that qualification will prove difficult to achieve.
“(Switzerland are) a good side, a very good side,” he said. “They move the ball very well, they’ve a pretty constant system of play, and some consistency in the selection of the team.
“Swiss football has a good youth system, most clubs seem to play the same way, which is fed down from the federation.
“This (qualification group) is going to be much tighter, all the teams are capable of taking points, and dropping points, so I think this will probably go down to the last game. We’re going to have to play extremely well to get (to Euro 2017).”