Eddie Nketiah has dethroned Alan Shearer as England Under 21’s goalscoring king after averaging a goal every 63 MINUTES with the Young Lions… but is the Arsenal starlet ready for a senior call-up?
- Eddie Nketiah became England Under 21’s all-time highest goalscorer this week
- He netted his 14th strike against Turkey to overtake record-holder Alan Shearer
- Some big names have played for the U21s, while others failed to make an impact
- Sportsmail takes a look at the top 10 top scorers for the England U21 side
Playing for the England Under 21s is a real chance to put yourself in the spotlight while providing a stepping stone for youngsters to prove their worth at senior level.
Consistent displays for the Young Lions can be a real indication that a youngster is set for greatness, and this week Arsenal starlet Eddie Nketiah broke a long-standing record by becoming the all-time top goalscorer after netting in England’s win over Turkey.
He moved above Newcastle legend Alan Shearer and Francis Jeffers in the record books with his 14th strike for Aidy Boothroyd’s men, with the Arsenal forward ranking higher than some big names who have gone on to forge successful careers.
Eddie Nketiah has overtaken Alan Shearer at the top of the scoring charts for England Under 21
Not everyone has cut the mustard, however. We’ve seen a handful of promising stars excelling in the England youth teams but failing to make the crucial breakthrough.
Sportsmail looks at the top 10 top goalscorers with the England U21 side, analysing their success and how they fared in the future.
Eddie Nketiah (2018-present) – 14 goals
The Gunners star enjoyed a successful first year with the U21s as he received his first call up for the Toulon Tournament in 2018, which England went on to win. He only scored twice in the competition but started the final – setting up Kieran Dowell’s winning goal as they beat Mexico 2-1.
The early triumph clearly gave him a confidence boost as he’s now the leading marksman, averaging a goal every 63 minutes with the U21s. He’s also shown loyalty to the Three Lions after turning down a chance to play for Ghana.
This year he was given the captain’s armband by manager Boothroyd and last month netted a hat-trick against Kosovo, before stroking his record goal home in the dying minutes against Turkey this week – his 14th in just 12 games.
Arsenal star Nketiah has entered the history books after scoring his 14th goal against Turkey
He’s now been tipped to push into Gareth Southgate’s senior squad ahead of Euro 2020, as well as Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal team this season. His U21 boss Boothroyd has joined the chorus of plaudits and said he offers plenty both on and off the pitch.
‘There’s no doubt about it. He’s destined for big things,’ he said before Nketiah’s record strike. ‘His personality and his persona around the lads, he has an aura of responsibility and leadership about him.’
Alan Shearer (1990-1992) – 13 goals
Shearer won’t be too displeased after losing his record to Nketiah – he’s still the all-time Premier League goalscorer. He received his first call-up to the U21 side in 1990 by then-manager Dave Sexton when he was still a prospect at Southampton.
And like Nketiah, he also won the Toulon tournament in his first year. It took him just 11 games to rack up his 13 strikes before the future goal-machine’s quality was quickly recognised by England boss Graham Taylor in 1992.
Now a football pundit, Shearer’s record with the U21s would stay unbeaten for nearly 30 years, and went on to score 30 goals for the senior England team in that time, as well as 283 in the First Division and Premier League with the Saints, Blackburn and Newcastle.
Alan Shearer made easy work of his spell, blitzing his way to 13 goals in just two years
Speaking in 2018, Shearer said making the switch from the U21 side to the senior team was harder than people thought, saying only himself and David James went on to make it out of the group that won the Toulon tournament.
‘When you’re 21 you’re nearly there, you’re near first team football and I think the numbers should be better,’ he told Coral. ‘That just shows you how hard it is from transferring to the U21s to get into the full squad.’
Francis Jeffers (1999-2003) – 13 goals
Often used as an example of a young talent who failed to make the grade, Francis Jeffers drew level with Shearer as the top scoring England U21 star, having made his debut in September 1999.
However, he took slightly longer than Shearer to reach the landmark, playing 16 games for the team. The boyhood Everton star was touted to be England’s future star striker after flourishing in the youth teams before making his Toffees debut aged just 16, with his early promise being rewarded with a move to Arsenal in 2001.
Francis Jeffers was a teenage sensation and managed to draw level with Shearer’s 13 goals
But after struggling to produce the goods in north London and now too old for the Under 21s, he was called up to the senior squad by Sven Goran Eriksson for a friendly against Australia in 2003 – scoring a consolation in a shock 3-1 loss at Upton Park.
It would end up being his first and last cap for the Three Lions, as Jeffers’ career took a nosedive, becoming a journeyman by playing for the likes of Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship. He later featured for the Newcastle Jets in Australia before finishing his career with League Two side Accrington Stanley.
Saido Berahino (2013-2015) – 11 goals
Now known as a Premier League flop, there was a time when former West Brom star Berahino was highly rated in the England youth set-up after making his way from the U16 squad all the way to the U21s in quick succession.
Having previously excelled for the U17 team, helping them win the European Championship in 2010, he picked up his first U21 cap in August 2013 – scoring on his debut against Moldova, which was Gareth Southgate’s first match in charge and went on to net 11 times for the team as he become one of the manager’s favourites.
That form, coupled with his impressive displays for West Brom in 2014-15, saw him called up by Roy Hodgson to the senior squad for a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia, as well as a friendly with Scotland, but failed to feature in either game.
Saido Berahino became a favourite under ex-U21 boss Gareth Southgate and scored 11 goals
Southgate tried to bring him back to the U21 fold for the 2015 Under 21s European Championships, but he was ruled out through injury. It turned out to be a sour end for his Three Lions involvement as he opted to pledge his allegiance to his birth country Burundi in 2018 after failing to win a senior call-up.
His career began to falter after falling out with West Brom in 2015 over their refusal to let him join Tottenham. He went on strike and later left for Stoke, where he scored just five times. The forward is now plying his trade with Belgian side Charleroi.
Nathan Redmond (2013-2017) – 10 goals
Another player heavily involved in the early England youth teams, it was only a matter of when Redmond would make his bow for the U21, and his first nod came in 2013 as he was picked by Stuart Pearce for the 2013 U21s European Championships.
He started in the first game of the tournament and impressed despite the team losing in a 1-0 loss to Italy. Redmond then had to wait until later that month for his first goal after England were dumped out in the group stage.
Nathan Redmond has just one cap for the senior team but scored 10 goals with the U21 side
He netted in the 6-0 win over Scotland, with England boss Roy Hodgson taking over the team for one game, finding his feet the following year as he bagged a hat-trick against Wales. He was recognised by fans as U21 player of the year in 2016 as he went on to find the back of the net 10 times before the seniors came calling.
The Southampton star has won just one cap, which came against Germany in 2017, but while he has been named in a handful of Gareth Southgate’s squad, he is yet to add to his tally.
Frank Lampard (1997-2000) – nine goals
We know all about Lampard’s success with both Chelsea and England – who he earned 106 caps for – but you may not know much about how he laid down the foundation for his superb career with the U21s.
His first game was against Greece under manager Peter Taylor. At the time he was still a youngster coming through at West Ham, but made quite an impression as he scored nine goals in 19 games for the team.
Lampard was part of a talented U21 team from 1997 and 2000 as he showed his early promise
The future Chelsea legend featured in a star-studded U21 side alongside the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry – leading by example and giving fans a sign of what was to come with his goals from midfield.
Given his unique talent, it’s no surprise that England gifted him his first cap just two years after playing for the U21s as he played his first game against Belgium. Despite missing out on the 2000 Euros and the 2002 World Cup, Lampard went on to become a staple for the Three Lions with 29 goals as he played at three major tournaments.
James Milner (2004-2009) – nine goals
‘Mr Reliable’ was just that for the U21 side – Milner played a whopping 46 times for the team across a five-year spell, which remains an unbeaten record.
Taylor gave him his debut against Sweden in 2004, with his first strike coming against Wales in the same year.
Milner has never been known as a prolific goalscorer, but his dedication to the U21 side allowed him to rack up plenty of experience and chip in with the odd goal here and there.
James Milner was never a prolific goalscorer but scored nine times for the U21s in 46 games
He featured at the 2007 and 2009 U21s European Championships – the latter of which saw England finish as runner-ups to a talented Germany side as Stuart Pearce’s men were thumped 4-0.
That crushing game turned out to be his last game for the team, which he slammed as ‘not good enough’. His senior England debut arrived later that summer against Holland, where he won 61 caps in total before retiring in 2016.
Darren Bent (2003-2006) – nine goals
Bent made his name as a prolific young striker with Ipswich and Charlton and it was no different early into his international career.
He tasted disappointment on his debut for the U21s against Italy in 2003 as the team lost 1-0, but grabbed his first goal later that summer with a late winner in a friendly against Serbia and Montenegro.
Darren Bent earned more caps and goals for the U21s than he did for the senior England team
He would go on to fire in nine goals for Peter Taylor’s side, the last of which came in in a Euro play-off defeat to France in 2006 after 14 appearances – one less than the amount of caps he won for the senior squad.
The former Tottenham, Sunderland and Aston Villa star, who is now retired and taking on punditry roles, would go on to score just four goals for the main England team.
Dominic Solanke (2015-2019) – nine goals
Getting to the recent generation of stars and Solanke is starting to look like he might join the crop of talent who don’t quite realise their potential.
Solanke joined Bournemouth for around £20m from Liverpool last year but has scored just five goals, despite earning rave reviews while featuring in England’s youth sides.
He’s represented the Three Lions at every level, rising to prominence as he earned the golden ball as England won the U20 World Cup in 2017.
He wasn’t able to replicate the same success with the Under 21s but still managed to net nine goals across 18 appearances, with England youth bosses utilising him across numerous different levels at the same time.
Dominic Solanke (L) and Tammy Abraham (R) both managed nine goals while playing for U21s
Tammy Abraham (2016-2019) – nine goals
Also joining the nine-goal club is Chelsea star Abraham, who scored a brace on his full U21 debut against Bosnia and Montenegro.
Having played under Boothroyd for the Under 19s, Abraham continued to impress the former Watford boss in the U21 set up as his goals helped push the team to the Euro finals in 2017. The following year he joined Nketiah as a winner of the Toulon tournament, coming on in the final against Mexico.
Now 23, Abraham has started to establish himself in the Chelsea team after making 55 appearances, and a call-up to Southgate’s England team has followed too. He’s picked up a total of four caps, scoring his first goal in a 7-0 win over Montenegro last year.
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