May 22, 2024

England Under-23s: Five future Lionesses to look out for

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England Under-23s were unbeaten last year while playing in the new European competition format

The future looks bright for the Lionesses with a host of youngsters breaking into the international set-up – but who could soon become a first-team regular?

Grace Clinton stole the show on Friday night when the former under-23 international scored on her debut in Sarina Wegman's side's 7-2 win over Austria.

She is one of many players to have made the step in recent years, and with the Under-23s joining the European champions for a warm-weather training camp in Spain this month, there is an even greater desire for others to follow suit.

Here are five players to look out for.

Laura Blindkeled Brown (Manchester City)

The 20-year-old midfielder was a standout for Villa in the first half of the season, starting eight of their 12 Women's Super League matches and making over 50 appearances in total for the club before moving to City.

Her composure on the ball, WSL experience and ability to play in different positions suggests she will be a huge asset for the Lionesses.

Blindkilde Brown's recent move to City means she will need to fight for regular playing time at club level, but she trains with several Lionesses on a daily basis including Chloe Kelly, Lauren Hemp and Alex Greenwood.

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Laura Blindkilde-Brown (left) and Naomi Layzell (right) with the England Under-23s in Spain this week

Naomi Liesel (Bristol City)

Bristol City centre-back Naomi Layzell, 19, has been called into first training by Wegman twice and started in the 3-1 defeat to Spain on Thursday for the Under-23s.

Under-23s coach Emma Coates said: “I first started working with Naomi when I was under-18s, so I've worked with her for the last three seasons or so and her development has been very good.”

“This season, everyone has been impressed with her defensive performances. She is a proper defender and it is rare to find young players who only love defending.

“She is thriving in that aspect of the game and has improved significantly in some of the things she has. The fact that she has been given that opportunity [to train with the first team] It will give her confidence in the good world.”

Southampton's Ella Morris, 21, has also impressed at full-back – a position where England's first team lacks depth – while Liverpool's Hannah Silcock, 19, is highly rated, so… Keep an eye on her too.

Aggie Beaver-Jones (Chelsea)

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Aggie Beaver-Jones was an unused substitute for England in their 7-2 win over Austria after receiving a late call-up to the squad for the first time.

Chelsea striker Aggie Beaver-Jones, 20, is a serious contender for the Euro 2025 squad.

She leads the attack for the Under-23s and has had a breakout season for Chelsea this term with five goals in 10 WSL appearances – a better ratio of minutes per goal (46) than any other player who has scored at least four times.

There is intense competition for attacking places in the Lionesses, with Manchester United's Nikita Parris missing out on selection this month, while Under-23 regulars Ebony Salmon and Katie Robinson have played for the first team in England. Tottenham's Jes Naz has also impressed in the WSL.

But Beaver Jones could be a better choice. She was a late call-up to the senior squad for the win over Austria on Friday, replacing the injured Kelly on the bench, just a day after scoring in the Under-23s' defeat to Spain.

Messi Bo Cairns (Liverpool)

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“This is the most brutal answer I have ever received on honesty cards.”

There are few English youngsters with more Premier League experience than Messi midfielder Bo Cairns, 22, who has made 16 appearances for Liverpool this season.

She became the youngest player to captain the Reds at the age of 20, and has since captained the England Under-23s.

“We are all aiming to be in that first team and have a bit of experience and exposure around them. [This week] “It will make all of us hungrier,” Kearns said.

“But there is no need to put pressure on yourself. I believe in my footballing abilities and I hope it will happen.”

Regarding captaining the U-23 team, she added: “It was a big step for me but it was a good challenge. If I can learn different things about leadership, how to deal with certain situations and become mature, it will only help me in the future.”

Robbie Miss (Manchester City)

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Robbie Mess joined Manchester City on a three-year deal in 2021 from WSL rivals Arsenal.

Manchester City's Robbie Miss, 20, joined from Arsenal in 2021 and while she has struggled for regular playing time for the club, she has proven her worth in loan spells with Birmingham City and Leicester City in the WSL.

Used as a midfielder for the England Under-23s, she can also play at centre-back and is one of the best young players in England.

“Since I was little, all I wanted to do was climb the stairs to get there [to England’s first team]“I just want to keep working hard and hopefully I can get there one day,” Mace told BBC Sport.

But will her lack of playing time at City hold her back?

“Do we want the players to be playing every week at the highest level? Absolutely – because that will speed them up. But there's also a point where they have to be really brave and step into those environments in the WSL,” Under-23s coach Coates said.

“That may require trading minutes. That's where our jobs come in. We think Ruby has great potential. And with the right opportunities — hopefully coming thick and fast — we think Ruby will get there.”

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