Brief England Under-21 career continues rapid development of Norwich City winger Jacob Murphy
As a busy season finally come to an end for Norwich City star Jacob Murphy with the England Under-21s, David Freezer takes a look at what the future holds for the in-demand Canaries academy product
The valuable experience of representing England at under-21 level looks to have been a short but productive spell in the blossoming career of Jacob Murphy.
On Tuesday night the winger was among the Young Lions group consoling his former Norwich City team-mate Nathan Redmond after his spot-kick was saved in a 4-3 shootout defeat to Germany.
That unfortunate method of defeat saw Aidy Boothroyd’s side fall just short of the European U21 Championship final in Poland, but the tournament was still more than worthwhile for Murphy.
He only made his U21 debut in March, having played at U20 level under Boothroyd permanently, and forced his way into the final 23-man squad for the competition.
However, the Canaries academy product is already 22 years old and was born before the cut-off date of January 1, 1996, for the 2019 Euros in Italy and San Marino – so his U21 days are effectively over, just four months after they started.
As the Norfolk-raised wide man was born in February 1995 he is caught between a rock and a hard place.
Redmond is already 23 but could play this summer as he was born in March 1994, with the cut-off having been January 1, 1994, for the current group.
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City loanee Angus Gunn is 21 and was born on January 22, 1996, so does make the cut for the next tournament and is poised to succeed Jordan Pickford as number one for the Young Lions.
The Everton keeper, signed from Sunderland this summer in a £30million deal, is one of the 18 players from the current squad who will be too old next time around, including Redmond, his Southampton team-mate James Ward-Prowse, Swansea defender Alfie Mawson and Chelsea midfielders Nathan Baker and Nathaniel Chalobah.
In fact, just nine of the current 23-man squad are 21 years old or younger – begging the question, why not just call it an under-23 competition, as has been seen in club football with Premier League Two?
England have an exciting crop coming through though, who won the U20 World Cup earlier this month, with the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman, Lewis Cook and Dominic Solanke set for elevation to the U21 squad.
All of which means Murphy can now enjoy a well-earned break before making a delayed start to pre-season with the Canaries.
He has joined the likes of Chris Sutton, Dave Watson and Darren Eadie as having represented England at U21 level while a Norwich player, earning six caps and scoring once, in the 3-0 win over Poland as England topped their group at the Euros.
That adds to one U20 cap, three at U19 and one at U18 – also scoring twice in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Iceland ahead of the U21 Euros.
With a profile-rising Twitter message from former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand praising a superb long-range goal from inside his own half during training, posting to his 1.8million followers, the City winger’s stock has never been as high – even if Ferdinand is aligned to New Era Global Sports, who include Murphy among their clients.
During his time in Poland the London-born youngster has been linked with five Premier League clubs: Newcastle, Swansea, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Southampton.
The £7m price tag floated by national newspaper the Mirror was laughed off by many Canaries fans but Norwich undoubtedly have a saleable asset on their hands now should they decide to cash in.
That follows a breakthrough season of 10 goals in 41 games in all competitions, making Murphy one of the bright lights of a disappointing last campaign, following on from 10 in 42 matches while on loan with League One side Coventry in 2015-16.
In total he has been involved in 90 matches in a little under two years for Norwich, Coventry and England – so has earned his rest.
He also featured at right-back twice during the U21 tournament, including in the closing stages of that painful semi-final loss to Germany. That defensive experience is sure to be helpful to the development of Murphy’s all-round game.
What remains to be seen is whether he will be a key cog in the new Canaries machine being constructed by head coach Daniel Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber, or if his efforts will take him to the Premier League this summer.
Either way, City and Murphy look to be in a good place ahead of the 2017-18 season, with the winger posting on Instagram to say: “Most amazing time away with this talented squad! Honoured to be part of it! It wasn’t to be, but what an experience. Love to everyone who supported us on our journey!”
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