Daily Mail - - Football - DO­MINIC KING

DeMARAI GRAY should have been elated but the over­whelm­ing feel­ing for one of eng­land’s young stars was re­lief.

his goalscor­ing dis­play in Thurs­day’s 3-0 drub­bing of Poland helped pro­pel the Un­der 21s into their first euro­pean Cham­pi­onship semi-fi­nal since 2009 and it was partly fu­elled by the frus­tra­tion of spend­ing much of the past 12 months on the pe­riph­ery at Le­ices­ter City.

Gray’s pace, power, skill and eye for goal mean he is be­ing mon­i­tored by sev­eral clubs, headed by Liver­pool, but he is irked by his lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

It is a mood to which many in the eng­land squad can re­late. The 20-year-old saw just 1,038 min­utes of Pre­mier League ac­tion last sea­son. Ben Chilwell, his Le­ices­ter team-mate, was given only 696 min­utes and Nathaniel Chalobah ap­peared in just 159 min­utes of Chelsea’s ti­tle-win­ning cam­paign.

Yet those three have been key fig­ures in Poland, as have James Ward-Prowse (Southamp­ton, 1,884 min­utes) and Ma­son hol­gate (everton, 1,371 min­utes).

All they want when they re­turn, Gray says, is the chance to show they can do it for their clubs as well.

‘I was on the bench a lot last sea­son and it was frus­trat­ing,’ said Gray. ‘I kept my­self mo­ti­vated with this tour­na­ment.

‘I’m hun­gry and want to make my mark. I want to ex­press my­self as much as I can. I don’t feel like I have been able to do that as much as I want. These are great oc­ca­sions to ex­press your­self. I thought I was ready last sea­son but some­times you have to be pa­tient.

‘Play­ing at first-team level is how you progress best. You learn about the real game. If op­por­tu­ni­ties are given you’ll see more of the young­sters com­ing through.

‘Man­agers have to trust you and give you a chance. If they do we’ll have more english tal­ent com­ing on show. I’ve got a great re­la­tion­ship with (Le­ices­ter man­ager) Craig Shake­speare and I’m look­ing for­ward to next sea­son. Any op­por­tu­nity you get you have to ex­press your­self.

‘The young eng­land gen­er­a­tion has some very good play­ers. I hope op­por­tu­ni­ties will be given to all those lads com­ing up.’

Those views were shared by Nor­wich for­ward Ja­cob Mur­phy, who said: ‘ Nor­wich give young play­ers a chance and that’s what we need more of. That’s the only chance we’ll get to de­velop young english tal­ent — play them reg­u­larly.’

eng­land left their base in Kielce yes­ter­day to set up camp in Krakow. They will learn tonight who they meet in Tues­day’s semi­fi­nal, but there is a pos­si­bil­ity of a clash with Ger­many.

Aidy Boothroyd, eng­land’s head coach, gave his squad an easy day but he is still con­cerned about the in­juries that forced off Chalobah and Nathan Red­mond against Poland. Of the two, Chalobah is the big­gest doubt.

Hun­gry for more: Gray (left)

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