Aidy Boothroyd has received a major boost ahead of next month’s Under 21 European Championship, with Gareth Southgate giving him access to some of England’s finest young players.

Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Mason Greenwood, Jude Bellingham and Harvey Barnes have all been selected by Southgate over the past 12 months but England’s head coach is happy for them to drop down to the Under 21s next month.

The quintet all featured for Boothroyd through the qualification process and they are all in consideration to be included in the squad for the tournament which begins next month in Slovenia.

Reece James is one of the young players who will be available for England U21 next month

Reece James is one of the young players who will be available for England U21 next month

U21 boss Aidy Boothroyd will be able to pick several young players who have been in the senior squad

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has given permission for the players to step down

U21 boss Aidy Boothroyd (left) has been given the green light to pick several young stars for the European Championship by senior boss Gareth Southgate (right)

England have been drawn in Group C with Portugal, Croatia and Spain and the first phase is being held next month, with the knockout fixtures staged in May and June and the final in Budapest on June 6.

The unusual format is to avoid a direct clash with this summer’s senior Championship.

Southgate, who is planning for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland, is eager to give these exciting talents as much exposure to tournament football as possible, even if they are potentially part of his plans for the main tournament which begins on June 11.   

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood will also be available for Boothroyd next month

Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood will also be available for Boothroyd next month

Hudson-Odoi won the first of his three senior caps against Czech Republic at Wembley in March 2019 before his career was disrupted by a serious achilles injury the following month. James, Greenwood, Bellingham and Barnes were all called up for the first time this season.

James is the most established within the senior set-up as he has made four appearances and is a regular at Chelsea, but is battling for a place in arguably the most competitive area of Southgate’s squad at right back.

The experienced duo of Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier both appear to be ahead of him in the pecking order, as does Trent Alexander-Arnold, and former Chelsea team-mate Tariq Lamptey is another contender who is likely to join him in the Under 21s.

Everton defender Ben Godfrey is also in Southgate’s thoughts — he has been scouted twice in recent weeks — but will remain with the Under 21s for now.

Manchester United forward Greenwood returns to the England camp having not featured at any level since being sent home with Phil Foden from England’s UEFA Nations League double-header against Iceland and Denmark for breaching Covid-19 protocols last September.

Harvey Barnes was called up to the senior squad but could also drop down to the U21's

Harvey Barnes was called up to the senior squad but could also drop down to the U21’s

That was followed by a slump in his club form, but he is back in favour at United and has done enough to earn a return.

Foden was recalled by Southgate for England’s November matches, having also been omitted the previous month, and is expected to retain his place in the seniors despite being eligible for the Under 21s.

The Manchester City midfielder is viewed by Southgate as a regular squad member, as are Chelsea’s Mason Mount, Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho — so they will not be asked to bolster the Under 21s.

Southgate’s thinking has been influenced by the unusual split format of the Under 21 championship, which could lead to Boothroyd picking different squads for the group and knockout stages.

The tournament starts next month with the knockout stages taking place in May and June

The tournament starts next month with the knockout stages taking place in May and June

Southgate’s thinking has been influenced by the unusual split format of the Under 21 championship, which could lead to Boothroyd picking different squads for the group and knockout stages.

Youngsters such as Greenwood and Bellingham could still be fast-tracked into the senior squad this summer if they continue to impress over the rest of the campaign.

The expected return of James, Bellingham and Barnes, after they were promoted to the seniors last autumn, will bolster the Under 21 squad, with Liverpool’s Curtis Jones also expected to feature.