5 of Gareth Southgate's England under-21 Toulon champions who could make the step up


If England fans are searching for a silver lining to the Sam Allardyce debacle, it could take the form of Gareth Southgate looking to youth to take the nation forward.

The England under-21 coach has four games to navigate with the senior side after Allardyce's ignominious departure, starting with Saturday's World Cup 2018 against Malta, and it could be more if he gets the job full time.

Southgate's under-21s thrived at the 2016 Toulon Tournament earlier this year, so here are five players who started in the final who Southgate could promote to the senior side. No pressure, lads.

1. Jordan Pickford (goalkeeper)

Jordan Pickford - (John Walton/PA)

Jordan Pickford plays for Sunderland, and has been thrown in at the deep end this season after Vito Mannone was sidelined with injury. The 22-year-old has done his time in the Championship, League One, League Two and the National League while out on loan, and is finally getting his Premier League chance, albeit with Sunderland, whose defence aren't exactly protecting him.

Pickford kept two clean sheets in the two games he played in the group stage of the Toulon Tournament, earning his place in the final. With Pickford and Jack Butland coming through, England have options between the posts for the future.

2. Calum Chambers (centre-back)

Calum Chambers competes with Tottenham's Dele Alli - (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

From Southampton to Arsenal, and now plying his trade at Middlesbrough, Calum Chambers has been earmarked for big things with England. The Saints academy graduate has been patiently gaining experience with the under-21s, but has picked up three caps with England as well.

With 60 Premier League excursions under his belt, at just 21 years old Chambers has all the time in the world, but of the starters in the Toulon Tournament final, he looks the closest to another England cap.

3. Matt Targett (left-back)

Matt Targett takes a throw-in for Southampton - (Mike Egerton/PA)

Another player off the Southampton production line who has displayed intelligence and talent to break into the first team. Matt Targett earned plenty of game time last season, contributing two assists to the Saints' cause, and has appeared three times this season so far.

Ryan Bertrand looks to have edged him out having returned from injury, and with Luke Shaw available it's hard to see him claiming the England left-back position just yet, but his time will come.

4. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (midfielder)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek takes on Danny Drinkwater - (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)

It seems like Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been a promising Chelsea youngster for the better part of a decade now, but at just 20 years old, he remains one for the future.

With a bit of Premier League experience to his name, Loftus-Cheek is on the fringes, and had a great time at the Toulon Tournament, scoring three times including once in the final. We're still waiting for him to make an impression at Chelsea however; for now he remains a nice idea.

5. James Ward-Prowse (midfielder)

James Ward-Prowse celebrates scoring for Southampton - (Adam Davy/PA)

James Ward-Prowse is the third Southampton academy graduate in this list of five, and that's no coincidence. The South-coast club have been a picture of professionalism when it comes to youth players, bringing them through whenever the big clubs come calling for their other home-grown stars.

JWP is a composed, technically proficient central midfielder who will boss the Premier League for years to come, and although appearances have been limited this season, he has managed to hit the back of the net. He consistently appeared for Southgate's under-21s throughout the Toulon Tournament, and it would not be a surprise to see Southgate promote him to the senior side.