England were beaten on penalties by Spain tonight in the final of the U17 European Championships and the situation must have been even more frustrating for Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe, who had to watch events unfold from the bench as an unused substitute.
It was an agonising end to what has, overall, been an impressive campaign for the talented young winger; one which has seen him make his debut for Arsenal U23s, train with the first-team and make a significant impact at U18 level.
Whilst most members of this season’s scholarship intake were used sparingly, that certainly wasn’t the case with Smith-Rowe, who scored six goals and provided an assist across his 15 appearances for the U18s.
Capable of linking play effectively, Smith-Rowe possesses excellent technical ability and is a very difficult player to defend against.
The 16-year-old is undoubtedly one of Arsenal’s standout prospects and will hope to make further strides forward next season by becoming increasingly involved at U23 level.
Although he was used sparingly, the experience that Smith-Rowe gained at the U17 European Championships should be hugely beneficial in terms of preparing him for the tournament situations he will face later in his career.
Smith-Rowe will hope to progress further on the international stage next season and represent England U18s, but the main focus will be on his development at club level.
This summer he is expected to sign his first professional contract and will then look to make a major impact in pre-season.
Smith-Rowe has already made history by becoming the first player born this millennium to represent both Arsenal U18s and U23s and he will hope to replicate that feat at senior level.
The prospect had a trial at Chelsea aged nine before deciding to join Arsenal shortly afterwards, while he turned down approaches from Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur last summer to remain with the Gunners.
Now he will be hoping to show that he can fulfil his vast potential.