As Scotland U21s fell to a 3-1 defeat to their English counterparts on Friday evening Celtic fans may have been wondering why Patrick Roberts wasn’t part of the Three Lions’ victory.
Roberts has been slowly gaining momentum after finally completing his loan deal to the champions from Manchester City. He played a starring role in an emphatic victory against Hamilton Academical before slicing through the Rangers defence with a fine pass for Leigh Griffiths to score, and recently finding the back of the net himself in the famous Champions League victory over Anderlecht in Brussels.
Yet, why no place for the 20-year-old who cost City around £11million?
Aidy Boothroyd, England U21 coach, explained: “I just felt that Jack Harrison had warranted a place in the squad for the simple reason he had more assists and had been scoring more goals and is in better form.
“Pat is doing well at Celtic and played really well in the Champions League but I felt Jack had more game time.”
Harrison is another 20-year-old attacking option who has netted ten times in the MLS this season for New York City FC, where he plays alongside David Villa, Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Boothyrod, whose side now face Andorra, dismissed the idea that Roberts’ omission is to do with him opting against joining up with the England U20 side in the summer, concentrating on helping Celtic complete an unbeaten domestic treble.
Without Roberts, England won their first World Cup at any age group since 1966.
“I found Pat at the last camp and told him why he was not in the squad, and Izzy Brown is the same, another good player playing in the Premier League,” he said.
“But he hasn’t got the game time yet to get into the squad, which is a good place for me to be. Because I know in two years time that when we hopefully get to Italy, all being well, we will lose some players through injury or other things, so it’s important to have a good pool of players.”
A big future is still expected of Roberts, however.
“I keep in contact with all the boys,” Boothroyd said. “We have a long squad of players that could play from the 1997 and ‘96 groups.
“We’ve got some massive talent and Pat will be a big player for us in the future - I’m sure of that.”