How England’s young stars reached the top

8 Jul 2023
England Under-21 trophy lift

We look at how some of the key players have progressed from academies to the Premier League

Related Articles
Premier League stars help England U21s reach European final
Which of England's U21 heroes can reach the next level?
EPPP: Creating a world-leading Academy workforce

Lee Carsley's side became the first England team to win the UEFA Under-21 European Championship since 1984.

England didn't concede a goal in the tournament and also boasted a record eight different players to score in the finals.

Cameron Archer, Anthony Gordon and Emile Smith Rowe all notched two goals each, while Harvey Elliott, Morgan Gibbs-White, Cole Palmer, Jacob Ramsey and Curtis Jones netted one apiece.

Archer's semi-final goal v Israel

Indeed all eight of England's goalscorers have already gained top-flight experience with the help of the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), a long-term strategy launched in 2012 to support the development of homegrown players.

See: Which of England's U21 heroes can break through this season?

Archer, who scored 11 goals in 20 appearances on loan at Middlesbrough last season, has been with Aston Villa since the age of eight. He made the first of his nine Premier League appearances as a late substitute in a 1–0 victory at Manchester United in September 2021.

England U21s/PL appearances
Player PL apps/gls Player PL apps/gls
Aarons (NOR) 70/0 Harwood-Bellis (MCI) -
Archer (AVL) 9/0 Johnson (WHU) 55/2
Branthwaite (EVE) 10/1 Jones (LIV) 63/6
Colwill (CHE) 17/0* Madueke (CHE) 12/1
Cresswell (LEE) 5/0 Palmer (MCI) 18/0
Doyle (MCI) 1/0 J. Ramsey (AVL) 91/12
Elliott (LIV) 42/1** Rushworth (BHA) -
Garner (EVE) 18/0 Skipp (TOT) 56/1
Gibbs-White (NFO) 83/6*** Smith Rowe (ARS) 67/12
Gomes (LIL) 5/0**** Taylor (SUN) -
Gordon (NEW) 81/8***** Thomas (LEI) 56/1
Griffths (WBA) - Trafford (MCI) -

*Made on loan at Brighton **2/0 for Fulham ***48/1 for Nott'm Forest ****All for Man Utd *****65/7 for Everton

Newcastle United's flying winger Gordon started out on the books at Liverpool, before switching to the academy at rivals Everton aged 11. By the time he moved to Newcastle in January this year, Gordon had appeared 65 times in the Premier League for the Toffees and scored seven goals.

Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe, a graduate of the club's Hale End academy, is currently an U21 player his peers will look to emulate. 

Smith Rowe joined the club aged 10 and played ahead of his age group as he progressed through the system. He made his first-team debut as an 18-year-old, and has since scored 12 Premier League goals, while providing eight assists in his 67 appearances.

On the international stage, Smith Rowe has represented England at seven levels from Under-16s, culminating in his three appearances for the senior side.

Smith Rowe's Group C strike v Israel

Indeed, Arsenal team-mate Bukayo Saka and Manchester City's treble-winner Phil Foden, both academy graduates at their respective clubs and now regulars for the Three Lions, are still eligible for the U21s.

Gaining experience on loan

Like Smith Rowe and his U21 peers, Chelsea defender Levi Colwill has gained valuable experience outside of the top tier.

Colwill, who has been with the Blues since the Under-9s, spent the 2021/22 campaign at Championship side Huddersfield Town.

Last season, the defender tasted Premier League football for the first time at Brighton & Hove Albion, where he made 17 top-flight appearances and helped the Seagulls to qualify for Europe.

Latest Videos

More Videos