England Under-21 head coach Lee Carsley has challenged Keane Lewis-Potter to keep his place in the squad this summer, after making his debut in a 3-0 European Championship qualifying victory in Albania on Tuesday evening.
The Hull City star came off the bench with a little under 10 minutes left at the Elsaban Arena with the Young Lions cruising to a second successive victory in the space of four days, and Carsley says it’s now down to the 21-year-old to keep himself in contention over the remaining seven games of the Championship campaign.
England have four games remaining in Group G and face leaders the Czech Republic in June knowing three points on the road would see them go top of the group and make themselves firm favourites to qualify for next year’s competition, and Lewis-Potter, having had a taste of international football, will hope to keep his place in what’s a hugely competitive squad.
“You never want to give a cap away, but Keane’s more than earned the right to get on the pitch tonight,” the England chief told Hull Live at full-time. “He’s had a really strong camp, and I suppose looking forward now he has to make he’s in and around that squad. We’re missing a lot of good players and ultimately we’ll make sure we pick the strongest squad we can for the summer.
“He’s doing well as he is, he keeps scoring and he keeps assisting so if he can keep doing that until the end of the season he’ll have a chance,” he added, before expressing his delight at seeing Nottingham Forest’s Djed Spence and West Ham United’s Ben Johnson also get off the bench.
“It was really good to get the three or four debuts. It’s great seeing Keane play, Djed Spence as well, they deserve it because it’s always difficult at the end of these camps with the players who haven’t got on at all, like I said at the start of the week, congratulations on even being in the squad because it’s tough and it’s a good squad to get into.”
England toiled for much of the first half and despite their dominance, Carsley’s side failed to break down a determined, if not defensive Albania side. Early in the second half Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun rattled in the opener before Liverpool star Curtis Jones won the ball high up the pitch and then went on to apply the finish.
Balogun, who is on loan at City’s Championship rivals Middlesbrough then added the third to round off a comfortable victory, leaving Carsley pleased with the reaction of his players in the second period after overcoming a half of frustration.
“We knew how resilient and difficult they would be to break down,” he said. “At half-time we spoke about playing with a bit more tempo and variation, making sure we affected their backline with our forward runs and to just keep doing what we’d been doing,” he said.
“I was really happy with the amount of control we had on the game in the first half. The lads spoke (at half-time), I could hear them speaking amongst themselves about being patient, about concentrating – overall I’m really happy with the two games and not just tonight.”