Morgan Gibbs-White had to be content with a watching brief as England Under-21s got off to a losing start in the European Championships.
The 19-year-old midfielder was an unused substitute as Adey Boothroyd’s side were beaten 2-1 by France in their opening Group C game after a 95th-minute own goal by Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Manchester City’s Phil Foden put the Three Lions ahead in the 54th minute only for Leicester midfielder Hamza Choudury to be sent off on 63. France equalised in the 89th minute through Nanitano Ikone.
Nevertheless, Gibbs-White believes the season he has just had at Wolves and the Molineux factor have convinced him he can make a difference to England Under-21s this summer.
Gibbs-White is with Adey Boothroyd’s squad for the first time as they seek glory in in Italy, with their next game against Romania on Friday (5.30pm).
The Stafford-born midfielder has come on in leaps and bounds, making his Premier League debut this term and going on to make 31 of his 54 appearances for Wolves in 2018-19, 26 of which were in the top flight, with five starts.
And having seen first-hand the commitment required to be a success at the top level, he’s looking to make even more of an impression with head coach Nuno Espirito Santo next season.
“To make my debut in the Premier League, start five games and make 25 appearances, I’m chuffed with how the season’s gone and I’m hoping next season will be even better,” said the Wolves Academy graduate.
“When you’re growing up as a youngster, you’re just enjoying it, but when I first made my debut for Wolves, I thought this is the career that I want and this is the life I’m going to be living from now on.
“It just clicked from there really, that I wanted to take this chance. I was always dedicated before but then it hit home to go in and train every day and play games in front of 30,000 people is what I want to do.”
With so many games under his belt, Gibbs-White is one of the most experienced players in the camp, despite being one of the youngest. But he also brings a winning mentality, having won the U17s World Cup in 2017 along with Manchester City’s Foden.
“I believe my athleticism and my experience around the first team at Wolves can add something to the squad,” said Gibbs-White. “And in terms of tournament football, there was the Under-17s World Cup so I can add that as well.
“It’s been the best achievement in my career so far, it still leaves me speechless each day. It all seemed so quick, but it was best experience and feeling I’ve ever had in football.
“You need a strong chemistry (in the team) but the main thing is the belief to see it out and go through a tournament, winning every single game.
“All the age groups are progressing, so hopefully this time around it will be nice to go to Italy, win every game and bring the trophy home.”
Gibbs-White’s inclusion comes after a lengthy ‘vetting’ process, as Under-21 coach Boothroyd explains.
“With Morgan, we’d been out to see him quite a few times,” Boothroyd told Sky Sports News. “He’s played a few games for Wolves, who are a really good team. He’ll have certainly learned a lot being surrounded by so many good players and a terrific manager in Nuno Espirito Santo.
“I went to Wolves and had dinner with Nuno and had a good chat with him and his coaches. After I had a chat with Morgan, just to see where he’s at, to explain where he is in my thinking, how much we think of him.
“It’s not just his maturity, he’s got a big smile on his face, and he is going to learn plenty in that environment.
“It’s a really good place for him right now. He’s not playing every single week but he’s around players who are seventh in the Premier League.
“They had a great season and when I went there I really liked what I saw. It’s a really good environment and you can see why they are doing well.”
The plan was always to promote Gibbs-White for his tournament, but he also got his chance after Everton’s Tom Davies got injured. “Initially he (Gibbs-White) wasn’t in the squad but unfortunately for Tom Davies he got himself injured so in came Morgan,” said Boothroyd. “We look at the squad now and it looks very strong. The quality of the squad is shown by the boys that haven’t got in it.”