England under-21 manager Gareth Southgate has decided to name Chelsea under-21 captain Lewis Baker in his most recent selection, alongside the likes of the experienced Will Hughes and Nathan Redmond.
The 19-year-old, who is still yet to make a Premier League appearance or start in any competition for Chelsea, has been trusted by Southgate to make the step-up from under-19 level, in which he has been excellent.
The central midfielder has netted an eye-watering nine goals in 14 appearances for the England under-19 side and it was thought to only be a matter of time before he started making big career strides. Last season, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho boldly tipped the youngster to go on to play for England alongside two other young Chelsea players in Izzy Brown and Dominic Solanke.
‘‘My conscience tells me that if, for example, [Lewis] Baker, [Izzy] Brown and [Dominic] Solanke are not national team players in a few years, I should blame myself,’’ Mourinho said.
However, with very limited first team experience, some may argue that Southgate has made the wrong call, despite the player’s clear ability. The argument whether players who do play week in, week out for their club and are eligible to play for the young England side but have missed out to Baker will no doubt be a hot-topic leading up to the match.
Derby County’s Will Hughes, for example, made his 100th first-team appearance just over a week ago in a 2-0 win over Reading despite only being eight days older than the Chelsea starlet. A fantastic and quite frankly staggering achievement by Hughes which shows the gulf in the two players career paths.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a big difference between breaking into the Chelsea first-team and breaking into the Derby first-team. However, the point still remains the same, Baker is inexperienced and needs first-team football.
Leeds United and Derby County have previously been linked with the young talent, but as of yet no deal has materialised. Although, Championship teams are likely to wait in order to utilise the 93-day loan rule to its greatest effect and could strike when the time is right. Until then, Baker will no doubt continue to work hard and will hope to prove the doubters wrong when/if he takes to the field when England’s under-21 side face Croatia in next week's play-off match.