Burnley winger Dwight McNeil inspired by England's golden generation

Burnley's Dwight McNeil has been both inspired and encouraged by the bounty of young players making their mark on the international scene.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 6:00 am
Dwight McNeil of Burnley controls the ball ahead of Josh Sargent of Norwich City during the Premier League match between Burnley and Norwich City at Turf Moor on October 02, 2021 in Burnley, England.

The winger has served his time with England' s Under 21s after making 10 appearances since being handed his debut two years ago.

Now he's looking to make that next evolutionary step by emulating the likes of Reece James, Fikayo Tomori, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Declan Rice.

McNeil said: "It's good, especially seeing how well they did at the Euros with such a young squad. There are a couple of lads that I played with in the Under 21s so it's good to see them playing at senior level. What Gareth [Southgate] is doing is giving the young lads a little bit more hope.

Jordan Lotomba of Switzerland (L) and Dwight McNeil of England fight for the ball during the 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group D football match between England and Switzerland at Bonifika Stadium in Koper, on March 25, 2021.

"The long-term goal is to play at international level. The main thing for me at the minute is to do what I'm doing for Burnley.

"I'm too old to play for the Under 21s so I've had a bit of a break so it's been nice to have a few days to shut down and spend some time with the family.

"We'll have to see what happens in the future but at the minute I'm happy at Burnley and I'm happy playing my football here."

The ex-Manchester United man was called up to represent his country for the first time in early 2019 when Paul Simpson was in charge of the Under 20s.

Phil Foden of England is challenged by Joachim Andersen of Denmark during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Semi-final match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium on July 07, 2021 in London, England.

McNeil started the Group 1 game against Poland in the Elite League at St George's Park and featured in a 1-0 loss in Portugal five days later.

After getting more minutes under his belt in international friendlies against Japan U23, Portugal U19, Chile U23 and Guatemala U23, he started to work his way up the ladder.

The 21-year-old's first taste of life with the Young Lions was a 2-2 draw in Slovenia and he would go on to help Aidy Boothroyd's side top Group 3 of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifying stages.

England dropped just two points from 10 games — a 3-3 draw in Andorra having led late on — but failed to replicate that form at the finals, which was hosted by Slovenia and Hungary earlier this year.

They were seconds away from progressing in Group D, despite defeats to Switzerland and Portugal, only for Domagoj Bradaric to score a decisive goal for Croatia with the last kick of the game.

McNeil, who had laid on the assist for Curtis Jones when England went 2-0 up, said: "We knew the Euros weren't our best with the expectations that were on us and the team that we had. We thought we would go far.

"It wasn't meant to be, but the main thing was getting that experience behind me because I hadn't played a competitive tournament at international level before. That was nice."