Maddison sees no entitlement in England youngsters

Leicester player takes nothing for granted after Under-21s flopped in Italy.

By Press Association Published: 7 September 2019 - 9.45pm


James Maddison insists no one who was part of the disappointing European Under-21 Championships earlier in the summer expected to automatically be promoted into the senior set-up.

The Young Lions took just one point from three Group C games as they put in their worst tournament performance since 2013.

England suffered defeats to France and Romania before losing the lead three times to draw their final match with Croatia.

England Training Session – St George’s Park
James Maddison was part of the England team at the European Under-21 Championships in the summer (PA)

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has been keen to promote youngsters into the England team since he took charge – a trend that continued when he announced his 25-man squad for Saturday’s 4-0 win against Bulgaria and Tuesday’s match against Kosovo.

Maddison was one of three players from the Under-21s side that faltered in the tournament to be called up – with Mason Mount and Aaron Wan-Bissaka also included before the latter pulled out with a back injury.

Southgate said none of that squad show have taken progression as a given, saying last week: “They won’t get in just because they’re young. You know, I’ve felt some of the young ones in the summer were kind of: ‘well, we’re done with the under-21s now and the next step is the seniors, because that’s what happened last time.”

“It is a massive achievement when you get called up for England and I don't think just because we were in the Under-21s that we expected to be put in”
- James Maddison

And Maddison claims no-one involved in the tournament would have assumed a senior call-up was on the cards purely because they were already a part of the system.

“No-one expects to just be put into the senior squad,” Maddison, who was an unused substitute against Bulgaria on Saturday, said.

“Look at the talent, people playing in the Champions League-winning team, the Premier League-winning team. No-one expects to just come up like that.

“The pathway is obviously there for us and Gareth and the team have given us the best opportunity but we have still got to perform well enough to challenge the guys who are already here.

England v Bulgaria – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group A – Wembley Stadium
Gareth Southgate kept an eye on the England Under-21s in the summer (PA)

“So no one expects, if you spoke to me, Mason or Aaron, no one expects to be called up at all – the feeling you would get is ‘wow, I’m in’ rather than ‘I should be in because of the pathway’.

“It is a massive achievement when you get called up for England and I don’t think just because we were in the Under-21s that we expected to be put in because we know that is not the case, it would be naïve to say that.”

Southgate, who was in Italy for the competition and spoke to Aidy Boothroyd’s squad at times during the group stages, felt the players may have shown a level of over-confidence in their ability – something Maddison concedes may well have been the case.

“We look back and maybe we were over-confident, it didn’t feel like it at the time,” he added.

Croatia v England – 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship – Group C – San Marino Stadium
Aidy Boothroyd and his players were left disappointed in Italy (PA)

“We were so motivated and hungry to do well and worked so hard so I can tell you categorically that it wasn’t the case because if there was even a slight hint of that before me and the other senior lads would have pulled people up on that because we wanted to do so well.

“But looking back, maybe we did think we were one of the best teams in the tournament and I think with the talent we had we weren’t stupid to say that. But we lost to Romania in a must-win game, so I don’t think we took it for granted – but it is something we have got to learn from.”

“No one was more disappointed than us lads but as soon as I got back to pre-season with Leicester I kind of put that to bed because I didn’t want to dwell on it for too long and think I wouldn’t get called up because of the failure we had in the summer.

“The way I felt after the Romania game I have never felt like that in football to be honest. We were out after two games and we went into the tournament trying to win it.”