Dwight McNeil's chance with England's Under 21s will come again

Dwight McNeil playing for England Under 20s against Portugal Under 20s. Photo: Getty
Dwight McNeil playing for England Under 20s against Portugal Under 20s. Photo: Getty

At just 19 years of age Burnley winger Dwight McNeil has already experienced more than most teenagers.

It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for the former Manchester United academy starlet, who grew up with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs for company at Carrington.

McNeil, the 13th youngest player to feature in the Premier League this term, has European experience on his resume, he’s netted in England’s top flight, represented his country at Under 20 level and trained with Gareth Southgate’s senior squad.

And he ticked another box off his bucket list when earning his first Under 21 call for the Three Lions last Friday, becoming part of the new wave under coach Aidy Boothroyd at St George’s Park.

McNeil subsequently had to withdraw on Monday with a “minor injury”, but he was thrilled to get the recognition.

“It’s my first call up,” he said, after receiving the news of his selection.

“I’ve heard that the squad has changed a bit, there are a few new players in there and I know a lot of them already so that helps.

“It’s a big step in my career and hopefully, as the years go by, I’ll progress to the senior team.

“It’s really exciting being part of a brand new team with brand new lads going in to the Euro qualifiers.

“We’re all coming together as a new group so hopefully we can do well in the qualifiers.

“It’s another confidence booster, another marker for me personally.

“It was a really proud moment for me and I was really happy to be called up.”

McNeil, who spent the summer at the Toulon Tournament with Paul Simpson’s Under 20s, was not risked with the Under 21s after collecting a slight niggle in the 3-0 defeat to European champions Liverpool at Turf Moor on Saturday evening.

But it’s something that he’ll pick up another time.

Burnley’s number 11 will sit out the UEFA Under 21 Championship Group 3 games against Turkey and Kosovo this month, but there’s always next month’s games against Slovenia and Austria to aim for.

Last season’s most productive teen in the top flight, tied with Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon statistically, will be one of the most experienced players in that group.

He’s made more Premier League appearances than 20 players within that 23-man Under 21 squad, with only Everton’s Tom Davies and Wolves midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White featuring more times.

“It’s all come around so fast since breaking in to the team in December,” he said.

“I’m happy that it’s come around this quickly, I’ve taken it on really well.

“Everything’s happened so fast, but it’s all about taking it in and cracking on with it.

“It really helped because I had Tarky and (Tom) Heaton there last time, it was really helpful having those two around.

“They got me in to the group and helped me settle nicely, which was good.

“For me, personally, I think you’ve got to get these experiences in as early as you can because it’ll help you progress in the future.”

England Under 21 fixtures:
UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifiers
Tonight, 6-45 p.m., Turkey U21 v England U21 (Recep Tayyip Erdogan Stadi);
Monday, September 9, 6-45 p.m., England U21 v Kosovo U21 (KCOM Stadium);
Tuesday, October 15, 6-45 p.m., England U21 v Austria U21 (Stadium mk);
Friday, November 15, 3 p.m., Albania U21 v England U21 (Niko Dovana).