The England squad is a sea of players who once cut their cloth in the EFL, but who can grab the headlines right now? English football pundit Gab Sutton picks his 10 Championship players to watch out for at Euro 2020.
Connor Roberts - Wales
The right wing-back has been part of a strong Swansea side in the Championship this season.
Driven, energetic and committed, the 25-year-old is not somebody who will hug the touchline like a classic wing-back, but will make strong, inverted runs towards the right side of the penalty area.
In fact, Roberts took as many as 28 shots in 2020-21 of which 17 were from inside the penalty area. No right-sided operator in the division who would not be classified as a wide forward managed more.
With Wales stalwart Chris Gunter coming to the end of his international career, Roberts is the undisputed first choice for Rob Page.
Harry Wilson - Wales
Wilson has found it difficult to go from being a great player in the Championship to a good one in the Premier League.
The Welshman’s parent club are Liverpool who, under Jurgen Klopp, have a well-documented template of one pressing, central forward, then two wide forwards who break ahead of him at pace.
The 24-year-old, while not exactly slow, is not blessed with the searing pace that Mohammed Salah had, and to perhaps a lesser extent still has.
Instead, the wide forward’s game is drifting into pockets of space just in front of the opposition defence, then firing into the near, bottom right-hand corner on the swivel.
That skillset may not ultimately be compatible with the Reds and, after a tough first Premier League stint with Bournemouth in 2019-20, needs a great Euros to become an appealing option for top flight clubs to give him another chance to shine at that level.
Kieffer Moore - Wales
While Wilson has broken into the Wales setup having come through the Liverpool youth academy, Kieffer Moore has taken a rather different route.
The 6’5” striker had to twice work his way up through the non-league system, before excellent stints in League One with Rotherham in 2017-18 and Barnsley in 2018-19 earnt him a Championship move.
Moore caught fire in the second half of the 2019-20 campaign with Wigan, scoring seven goals in the final 14 games and although the ‘Tics were relegated through external circumstances, he earnt a move to Cardiff and had his best ever season.
Not only did the 28-year-old make the £2 million paid look a steal by scoring 21 league goals for the Bluebirds, he also won on average 10.5 aerial duels per game, which was by far the most in the Championship last term.
On top of that, Moore is far more mobile than one would expect for a player of his height, which means that he does not need to be playing in an extremely creative system to be effective.
That makes life easier for Wales, who are unlikely to dominate possession against Italy, Turkey or Switzerland.
Y Dreigiau can be under the cosh and yet, if they punt the ball vaguely in Moore’s direction, he can use his height, mobility, physical qualities and hold-up play to help the team up the pitch.
Moore would improve the options up top for Burnley or Crystal Palace, so a good Euros might spark some Premier League interest.
Mathias Jensen - Denmark
The energetic midfielder has massively enhanced Brentford since signing in the summer of 2019 and takes credit for the club’s rise from being enterprising outsiders to a serious force in the Championship promotion race.
The Dane, who normally plays on the right of a midfield trio, supports the press fervently and, when close to the 18-yard box, can lift in the odd pin-point cross with his strong left-foot.
Denmark have competition in the form of Tottenham midfielders past and present in Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg respectively along with Dortmund’s Thomas Delaney, but Jensen can certainly play a part.
Jensen won Player of the Year in 2017-18 for FC Nordsjælland and has brief European experience to his name.
Grant Hanley - Scotland
Hanley has enjoyed a key role in Norwich City’s Championship title win.
Ironically, Hanley was a signing catalysed by the Canaries’ 4-0 loss at Millwall in September 2017, when they knew they needed a centre-back to deal with the aerial threat, rather than somebody the club brought in to serve their playing identity.
The Scot was very much second-fiddle to Ben Godfrey and Christoph Zimmermann in the 2018-19 title-winning campaign but, when the latter struggled with injuries in the Premier League, he earnt some game-time. But it was a bad season for the Norfolk club, who finished bottom of the table.
Hanley has enjoyed a fabulous resurgence this season, though, displaying strength, aerial prowess and deceptive pace, alongside more of a ball-player in Ben Gibson.
The former Blackburn defender’s exploits put him in a good position to attack the Euros with confidence in what could be his only international tournament.
Scott McKenna - Scotland
A younger Scottish centre-back is Scott McKenna, who has earnt credit for his solid showings for Nottingham Forest this season.
The Kirriemuir-born defender, who played as many as 91 games for Aberdeen, is reasonably mobile and brings plenty of ball-playing qualities, thus complimenting Hanley’s no-nonsense style.
McKenna being left-footed gives him the edge over right-footed Liam Cooper, giving Na H-Abhagan Breacan a better chance of beating the press with vertical passes down the channel.
On top of that, McKenna is 24 and, in comparison with 29-year-old Cooper, offers Steve Clarke’s side a long-term option.
A Premier League move might not come this summer, but a top tournament with the Tartans would certainly boost his confidence ahead of what Forest hope will be a top six challenge next season.
Lyndon Dykes - Scotland
If England go into their game against Scotland without an aerially dominant centre-back like Harry Maguire, there is the possibility of Dykes doing damage, should the Tartan Army get into positions to swing crosses in.
Czech Republic do not have a first choice centre-back who is taller than 6’1” while Croatia possess only Dejan Lovren, so there should be opportunities for Dykes to isolate weaker defenders and get on the end of crosses from John McGinn, Andrew Robertson and Ryan Fraser.
Plus, nine of Dyke’s 12 goals in the Championship came with his feet and the former Livingston man enters the tournament with momentum behind him, having scored six goals in his final eight games.
The 25-year-old currently plays for Queens Park Rangers and has also represented Queen of the South – but will he be King, this summer, for Scotland?
Tomáš Kalas - Czech Republic
Since Kalas’ 90-minute debut in Chelsea’s iconic 2-0 win at Liverpool in April 2014 – best remembered for THAT nightmare moment for Steven Gerrard – his career has not gone quite as hoped.
In fact, the Czech has played in the Championship in each of the following seven seasons, albeit winning promotions with Middlesbrough and Fulham.
After moving to Bristol City permanently for £8 million in 2019, the centre-back had been affected by injuries in 2019-20 but has been one of their more reliable performers this term.
With the Czech Republic struggling for available centre-backs, Kalas looks set to play alongside Ondřej Čelůstka in defence, whether as part of a back four or three and will be looking to repel Scotland and Dykes in the opener.
Michał Helik - Poland
Helik has been an inspired signing this season for Barnsley.
The Pole’s aggression got the better of him in the second game of the season, when he was sent off at Reading, but since then he has been imperious for the Reds.
At 6’3”, the 25-year-old is imperious in the air, which not only makes him a real threat in both boxes, especially when defending and attacking set pieces, it also means he is perfect for the way Valerien Ismael’s side plays.
The South Yorkshire outfit are renowned for their fabulously frenetic pressing game which causes chaos for opponents and forces them in to panicked clearances, which an aerial specialist like Helik can claim.
Helik was signed from an overachieving Polish side in Cracovia but has already elevated himself in value and, if he can produce a star showing against Spain, then there is every chance a top Eastern European side like Zenit St Petersburg could show interest.
Ádám Nagy - Hungary
An exciting addition from Bologna in August 2019, Nagy started his Bristol City career positively, conducting midfield play and controlling the tempo with a series of short, snappy and inventive passes.
The Hungarian has clearly had an impact on his side this season, because City have taken 33 points from 25 games when he starts and 18 from 21 when he does not.
Nagy is the most internationally experienced out of everyone in the Magyars’ provisional squad with 46 caps to his name and only captain Ádám Szalai has collected more for the Carpathian Basin country’s national side.
Despite this, Nagy is only 25, which means he is still only on the fringes of his peak and could, therefore, be an appealing option for Premier League clubs, or for others across the continent, should he enjoy a strong Euros.
City boss Nigel Pearson, who likes a robust 4-4-2 with two physical, combative central midfielders, might be open to the possibility of selling Nagy, whose price would rocket with an impressive tournament showing.