Liverpool striker Dominic Solanke will captain England’s Under-21s against Ukraine on Tuesday night if he is named in Aidy Boothroyd’s starting XI.
The 20-year-old was not risked for Saturday’s friendly win over Romania in Wolverhampton because of a knock but he trained at Bramall Lane on Monday, along with goalkeepers Angus Gunn (back) and Freddie Woodman (hip), who were also missing at the weekend.
Demarai Gray wore the armband in Solanke’s absence and though Boothroyd spoke of the Leicester winger delivering a “captain’s performance” against the Romanians, Solanke is expected to be the Young Lions’ skipper in Sheffield.
He has only started three Premier League games for a Liverpool side that has revolved around the attacking triumvirate of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, but Boothroyd thinks the ex-Chelsea forward has a bright future.
Asked whether Solanke, who has one senior England cap already, would be his skipper on Tuesday, Boothroyd replied: “If he’s starting, yes.
“He was due to start in the game (against Romania) but we wanted to look after him. He’s got every chance of starting and being captain.
“He’s a terrific player and hopefully he can get more game time at his club. He’s got his work cut out there with those three (Salah, Firmino and Mane) but we think he’s a massive talent, as do his club.
“Hopefully we can give him a good opportunity to show what he’s all about at Bramall Lane.”
There may also be a first chance at the under-21 level for Fulham youngster Ryan Sessegnon, who can be deployed at either left-back or left wing.
Though he is just 17, Sessegnon has scored 14 Championship goals for the play-off chasing west London side and his name has littered gossip columns regarding potential moves to Tottenham and Manchester United.
Boothroyd insists he has been impressed by the teenager’s down-to-earth nature ahead of possibly handing Sessegnon his under-21 debut.
“The most impressive thing about Ryan is his humility,” Boothroyd admitted.
“He’s a very humble, impressive young man. When you ask him about his game that’s all he’s interested in – getting better. He’s got a real growth mindset. Being around this lot is perhaps a little quicker than what he’s used to with the younger (England) age groups but he’s playing in a Championship team that’s doing really well and he is a key player for them.
“Hopefully he can grow and become a key player for us. He’s certainly been very impressive on and off the pitch.
“He’s got his feet on the ground, he doesn’t get all excited by all the stuff that goes around, he’s very level-headed.
“He knows what he is, where he wants to get to and what he wants to be.
“He’s willing to put the work in. Hopefully he can steer clear of injury and be a really talented player for us.”
Jack Harrison, who is on loan at Middlesbrough from Manchester City, has withdrawn from Boothroyd’s squad due to a minor abdominal strain.
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