Oliver Skipp can see the pathway to a senior England cap and regular Premier League football opening up in front of him, but the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder insists now is not the time to focus on his long-term future as he heads into this week’s Under-21 European Championship group stage.
The 20-year-old, who is spending the campaign on loan at Championship leaders Norwich City, will play a key role for Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions as they face Switzerland, Portugal and Croatia in the space of six days starting Thursday.
This month’s group stage and, potentially, the knockout rounds in early summer represent “the best platform to go and show what we can do” three-quarters of the way into a season in which he has been one of the Championship’s best midfielders.
Shielding the defence is an area in which his parent club and the senior international side are not blessed with outstanding depth compared to other departments, while he has been buoyed by seeing the likes of Jude Bellingham and Reece James make the recent jump from the under-21 ranks to Gareth Southgate’s side.
But Skipp is not thinking beyond the short-term at a time when plenty of supporters at his parent club are earmarking him as a key player in the not too distant future.
“There’s a clear pathway from the 21s into the first team,” he said. “I feel like if I continue to put in the performances then there is always the possibility.
“But I need to finish this season strongly and then look forward after this tournament is finished. It’s not a topic for this season at this moment but hopefully in a few months time we can be talking about it.”
Skipp is joined in the England squad by Spurs club-mate Japhet Tanganga, Arsenal duo Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe and Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi.
It is a group that possesses the talent to go all the way but reminders of this tournament’s previous edition, when an England squad featuring Tammy Abraham, James Maddison and Phil Foden failed to reach the knockout stages, are not far away.
Skipp added: “I think there’s pressure because when you’re representing England at any level, there’s an element of pressure. But I feel like us as a group will be able to cope with that and make sure that we do the basics right and let our football and quality take care of the rest.
“I can’t say there’s not pressure because you’re representing your country. But I think it’s one that we’re all looking forward to and hoping we can represent our country to the best of our abilities.
“Absolutely, this squad has a lot of talent in it. You look at the forward areas, everywhere really. There’s a lot of talent in this group but we can’t become complacent. Some of them are playing in some of the biggest clubs in England but we need to make sure we’re at it come the first game and doing everything right to avoid that complacency.
“This group has shown in the qualifying that there’s team spirit amongst us and I think that will really help us in these group games. I think the talent is there for everyone to see but we need to make sure we harness that in the right way that we can in these games.”
Skipp has started every one of Norwich’s 38 league games and could feel some wear and tear from late December as the relentless fixture list took its toll.
But the Canaries’ winning run and plenty of plaudits for his individual performances has kept mental fatigue to a minimum before this change of pace.
“Over Christmas I started to really notice that I could feel the regular games were beginning to catch up,” he added. “But over the last two or three months, your body starts to become accustomed to playing Tuesday, Saturday, Wednesday.
“I feel like I’m in a good shape. At Norwich sometimes it’s better to have the games every day because the training is on par with the games.
“I think my body is in good shape and I feel really ready to give this our best shot. It’s been difficult this season, it’s been tight and congested but I’ve really enjoyed it. If the team is playing well, then you can forget the physical demand on your body. A lot of it is mental.”