Gareth Southgate has admitted Eddie Nketiah’s prolific record for England’s youth teams helped earn him a maiden call-up to the senior squad.
Nketiah, 24, has been named in Southgate’s squad for September’s internationals against Ukraine and Scotland after netting two goals in Arsenal’s first three Premier League games of the season.
While such form is obviously impressive, Southgate instead pointed to Nketiah’s outstanding record with England’s youth sides as reason for his selection.
In two appearances for the Under-18s, Nketiah netted four goals, before crashing in nine in ten games for the Under-19s. He’d bag six goals in nine outings for the Under-20s before finding his best form for the Under-21s, where he scored 16 goals in just 17 games.
“We’d like to have a look at him,” Southgate said. “He’s a young player with a really good pedigree. Very good finisher. It’s good for him to have some time with us.
“He’s, I think, record goalscorer with the Under-21s as well. He’s not had the chance to work with us up to this point, he’s a player that we’re really interested in.”
Nketiah is indeed England Under-21s leading scorer, five goals ahead of Saido Berahino, whose whirlwind start to his career yielded 11 in 12 outings for the team.
Burnley winger Nathan Redmond is the only other player to reach double figures, netting ten goals in 39 outings for the Under-21s.
Success in the Under-21s has not always translated to senior minutes but the Arsenal striker will be hoping to break the trend if he does see minutes against either Ukraine or Scotland.
Competition for game time in Southgate’s current squad is fierce. International captain Harry Kane remains the obvious starter but Newcastle United’s Callum Wilson and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford are all vying for opportunities as well.