England Under-21 goalkeeping coach Martin Thomas has hailed the current crop of goalkeepers at his disposal
England Under 21 goalkeeping coach Martin Thomas has hailed the current generation of young goalkeepers.
Thomas has worked with the national side for 15 years and believes the current crop could be as good as England has ever seen.
Birmingham City's Jack Butland, who has already featured in the senior squad, is seen as Stuart Pearce's first choice but Middlesbrough's Jason Steele, Hull City's Ben Amos and and Norwich City's Declan Rudd are pushing him hard.
"Jack is a bit younger than Jason, Ben and Dec, but with them all being part of the international scene then there's been good continuity," Thomas told theFA.com.
"Jack is three years young for this group, but he's had a lot of experience over the last 18 months. It's been a meteoric rise, unbelievable for him, but every challenge that's come his way he's coped with exceptionally well.
"He's become the youngest goalkeeper to play for the senior team and yet is still eligible for the next campaign for the Under-21s."Thomas also believes there is further strength outside the current squad.
"It's not only those four, there's also other lads like Alex Smithies of Huddersfield and Wes Foderingham who's at Swindon," explained Thomas.
"It is a good crop of goalkeepers in terms of both quality and quantity.
"Prior to this, the best group for goalkeepers who have all gone on to play to a good level is in the 1981 birth group, which was Chris Kirkland, Stephen Bywater, Matt Murray and Paul Rachubka.
"All four were involved with the U16s and went on to have long careers. All the goalkeepers that are currently involved with the Under 21s have been involved in international football since they were 15 years old.
"We were only having a discussion when we were in Serbia about the Victory Shield and the lads were saying how much they enjoyed playing in it.
"There's obviously competition between them, but there is also the support as they have all come through the system together.
"This group now have all played a lot of games at club level and international level."
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