PREMIER League managers may already be concerned about letting some of their promising youngsters play in the European Under 21 Championships next summer, but Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Jason Steele is in no doubt about the benefit of tournament experience.

Steele has packed a lot into his fledgling career, and that includes two championships away with the Young Lions, in 2011 and 2013, as well as being part of the Team GB squad for the London Olympics in 2012.


The 24-year-old, on loan at Rovers for a season from Middlesbrough, was a member of the squad for Euro 2011 in Denmark, but did not feature against Spain, Ukraine or the Czech Republic as England crashed out of the tournament at the group stage.

Two years later he made the squad for the 2013 tournament in Israel, and played the final group game, a 1-0 defeat to the hosts that meant Stuart Pearce’s side went out again with three defeats from three games.

But Steele will cherish those memories of being away with an England side, and believes that kind of tournament experience can only help the development of young players.

“Absolutely (it can help),” he said.

“They’re memories I’m going to take with me forever.

“I’ve had a couple of U21 Championships and the Olympics, it’s something I’ll cherish forever and I’ll never take it for granted because I know how hard I’ve worked and I know how hard I’ve got to keep working to achieve my goals.”

In Denmark, Steele missed out on a place in the first XI to Blackburn-born Derby County keeper Frankie Fielding, who came through the youth system at Ewood Park but left for the Rams before making a first team appearance.

Phil Jones, who was at Rovers at the time, was also in that squad, while Kieran Gibbs, Micah Richards, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker, Tom Cleverley, Jordan Henderson, Jack Rodwell, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck have gone on to represent the senior side, to varying degrees of success.

In 2013 Jack Butland played the first two games before Steele was given his chance, while Rovers graduate Jason Lowe was also in the squad, as well as current Burnley striker Marvin Sordell, and the Clarets on-loan midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah.

Steele finished with seven caps for the U21s, but will also be able to say he represented his country at the Olympics, after being selected in the 2012 squad, alongside Jack Butland.

The County Durham-born keeper didn’t feature during the tournament, but did play 45 minutes in a warm-up match against Brazil at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, conceding a goal to Neymar during a 2-0 defeat.

Steele believes his experience during those three tournaments has held him in good stead so far, having made 138 appearances in the Championship, with the repetition of two games a week often seen in the Football League something that is a regular occurrence during international tournaments.

“There’s probably at times a little more quality in those tournaments,” said Steele, “but you are playing every three days and you’re recovery and your mental state in getting prepared for what is round the corner is key, and I think it stands you in good stead for the Championship and other leagues.”

At 24 Steele is a similar age to many of his Rovers teammates, with 11 of the squad aged between 20 and 24.

He has been playing with and against some of his teammates for 12 years, and the similarities in ages is something that Steele, who has started Rovers’ last seven games, believes can only help the squad.

“Mixing in with a few of the older lads it’s a great balance we’ve got,” he said. “I’ve known the majority of the lads since we were really, really young, playing against each other from when we were 12 up to 15, people like Tom Cairney I’ve played against since I was 11-years-old, so it’s easy to fit in when you come to a club like that because you’re generally all the same age and you share the same hobbies and interests.

“Hopefully that is benefitting us out on the pitch because we’ve got a fantastic team spirit.”