Gareth Southgate says Joe Gomez’s strong start to life at Liverpool has helped accelerate his rise to England’s U21 squad.
The Reds teenager made his bow for the Young Lions in the 1-0 win over a USA U23 side at Deepdale on Thursday night.
For the 18-year-old, it was just the latest step in a whirlwind few months. Having sealed a £3.5m move to Anfield from Charlton Athletic over the summer, Gomez has started all four of the Reds’ Premier League games so far this season, impressing plenty despite playing, ostensibly, out of position at left back.
For England, he managed an hour at right back, and Southgate says it is the right decision to move him from the U19s to the U21s.
He said: “Joe was in our U17s that won the European Championships, and he was the outstanding defender in that group.
“We moved him up a year early to our U19s last year, and he was the best defender in that group as well.
“So we were aware of him, but we wanted really 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 if he is playing at the level he is (with Liverpool) every week, then we felt that coming with the U21s is right for his individual development.
“His approach, the way he’s carried himself around the place, and his performance on Thursday night has solidified in my mind that this is the right step for him at this moment in time.”
Gomez was not the only Liverpool player making his U21s bow at Preston. Teammate Jordon Ibe, 19, was also handed a first cap by Southgate, and provided a couple of moments of genuine quality amid a low-key performance.
“Their first impressions with us, character-wise and in training, have been really good,” Southgate said. “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.”
Both Ibe and Gomez are expected to start England’s opening Euro 2017 qualifier away in Norway next week, as Southgate looks to rebuild following a disappointing performance at the European Championships last summer.
His new team began with a 1-0 win over the USA, with Manchester United forward James Wilson marking his own debut with the only goal of the game.
Source: Liverpool Echo
This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.