Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount were all included in Gareth Southgate’s recent Nations League squad and all three have taken unique routes to get there. They are the first set of players coming from the academy set-up that threaten to overshadow the wonderful era of Gerrard and Lampard and could well usher in an exciting period for our international team.
Foden is a player whom the Premier League knows well already. He’s 50/1 with Paddy Power to be named PFA Young Player of the Year and if he breaks through at Manchester City, there’s every chance he could be collecting that prize. He’s a tenacious and clinical forward looking to share the international goalscoring burden with Harry Kane.
Sancho has taken a unique road to the England set-up and it involved splitting from Manchester City and, indeed, from England. He traded in our domestic game for a move to Germany with Borussia Dortmund, a seemingly risky switch to one of Europe’s top sides.
He didn’t want to settle for under-23 football with Guardiola’s side, so he joined Die Schwarzgelben (the black and yellows) and hasn’t looked back. Whereas, if he’d stayed put, he might have been facing Stoke City’s under-23 side on a Thursday. Instead, he’s taking centre-stage in the wonderful Westfalenstadion.
This season alone he accrued six assists in his first seven matches and has inherited the number seven shirt vacated by Barcelona-bound Ousmane Dembele. They’re big boots to fill, but he’s proving to be more than capable of doing just that.
Mason Mount chose a third route. Whereas Foden stayed put and fought and Sancho upped sticks and emigrated, Mount remained at Chelsea but sought loan spells away from the club. He was a roaring success with Vitesse in the Eredivisie, scoring nine times during a loan spell last season. He looked comfortable playing top-flight football in the Dutch league.
That resulted in a loan move to Derby County where he has once again shone through. His efforts have seen Frank Lampard’s side rise to the playoff race as well as dispatch Manchester United from the League Cup. Mount earned a call-up despite playing outside the top flight, sparking belief that others could follow suit.
Each of these young men is fresh to the international set-up but they are set to add value to the England side that performed heroically in the summer. Whereas Jamie Vardy and some of the other 30-somethings will begin to migrate away from the international set-up, these bright young things arrive with English football’s hopes and dreams on their shoulders.
They’re not alone either. Ryan Sessegnon is following Foden’s route and sticking with his parent club. Harvey Barnes is emulating Mount, tearing up the Championship on loan at West Brom from Leicester. Could anyone else emulate Sancho?
The future of the English game looks very bright, whichever route these exciting kids choose to take to get there.