Demarai Gray has demanded England’s Young Lions are given a chance to shine in the Premier League.
The Leicester forward wants bosses to start trusting home grown talent instead of splashing out £30m on new recruits from abroad.
But far from basking in the glory, he spikily took the chance to speak up for English kids, including himself, who have become frustrated with limited opportunities at their clubs.
Gray admitted to being “frustrated” at a lack of games with Leicester last season.
He was on the bench too many times for his liking after Ahmed Musa’s arrival. If Riyad Mahrez is sold, Gray is set for a bigger role.
But after seeing England U20s win the World Cup, and the U17s reach their Euro final, losing on penalties, Gray says England has the talent in the pipeline for a prosperous future at senior level – if the players are allowed to play first team football.
Gray said: “Managers have to trust you and give you a chance. If they do we will have more English talent coming on show.
“The young England generation has some very very good players. Hopefully there is opportunities given to all the lads coming up from Under-17 onwards. The future is bright for England.
“The way football is today, the way the game is changing all the time I think we can progress and see young players come through.
“But it is all about opportunities. Playing at first team level is how you progress the best. You learn about the real game. If opportunities are given you’ll see more of the youngsters coming through.
“I am hungry and want to make my mark. I want to express myself as much as I can. I don’t feel like I have been able to do that as much as I want. These are great occasions to express yourself.
“I used this tournament last season to motivate me to show what I am capable of. As soon as I get a chance I want to have my best game.”
Gray’s pace and directness should be well suited to the top flight, but he’s only made 10 league starts for City, 32 appearances off the bench.
He says he was “down” at times last season, growing impatient, but used the Euro U21 tournament as “motivation.”
He added: “I am pleased to be out there and scoring for England. That is what I want to do whenever I play. I enjoyed that formation and it gives me a bit of freedom. I got a goal and an assist and most importantly we got three points against Poland.
“I thought I was ready last season but sometimes you have to be patient. Any opportunity you get you’ve got to try to express yourself. All I can do is what I did against Poland and carry it into the next game.
“I was on the bench a lot last season and it was frustrating. It was one of those things. I kind of kept myself motivated with this tournament.
“I didn’t start the first two games here in Poland but I have had to apply myself. I have good people around me and I believe I will get my opportunity, I scored and got an assist, so I am buzzing.
“Players like Danny Simpson and all the lads at Leicester kept my up at times when I have been down. I got through that season, and I’m looking forward to the next season with Leicester. Right now I want to progress in this tournament.”
England face a big semi final test on Tuesday evening and will only discover their opponents on Saturday night, with Germany a strong possibility.
“We will take anyone. Keep playing like we did today and we can challenge anyone,” he said.
Gray says Aidy Boothroyd’s men are desperate to continue a golden summer for the Football Association.
“The U20s achievement was massive and kind of gave us motivation to follow in their footsteps. They are younger and to win something so big was nice to see. We saw their celebrations and we want the same celebrations here.”
Once back at the King Power Stadium for the new season, Gray has welcomed Craig Shakespeare getting the manager’s job permanently.
He said: “Shakey has always been there for me at Leicester. He always speaks to me one on one. With him getting the job now I am happy with that and hopefully I will get more of an opportunity. I have to train properly and get my chance.”
OUR KIDS NEED TIME TO SHINE
Minutes played in Europe’s top 6 leagues by U21 squads:
(Source: Scouted Football)