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Keith Downing: It's a huge year for West Brom's Jonathan Leko

By Joseph Masi | West Bromwich Albion | Published: | Last Updated:

England under-20s boss Keith Downing believes the next 12 months will be crucial to the development of Albion's Jonathan Leko.

Jonathan Leko in action for England under-20s

The 20-year-old is currently enjoying a loan spell at Carlton where he has scored once and registered two assists in five Championship outings.

Leko has primarily featured on the wing in his time with the Baggies.

But Addicks boss Lee Bowyer has deployed him up-front with the youngster forming an impressive partnership with Lyle Taylor.

And England under-20s boss Downing – a coach with Albion between 2009 and 2015 – believes Leko could have a big future as a number nine.

"What everyone has to understand is he is in the first throws of playing as a number nine," Downing said.

"He has played on the wing. Charlton are giving him that licence to play up-front. So it's a really, really important year for him.

"I think he has got a future there. I have been impressed with him at Charlton. He has done really well, started really well.

"He got himself a goal on Saturday. I think he is a threat in-behind. He causes problems, he has got some trickery – we all know that.

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"I think with Jonathan everyone just has to be a bit patient with him. He has huge potential. He is one of those that you have to keep supporting because potentially he has a big future in the game."

Alongside Leko, fellow Albion youngsters Nathan Ferguson and Josh Griffiths were also named in the under-20 squad.

Both players remained on the bench as England played out a 0-0 draw with Holland at Shrewsbury's Montgomery Waters Meadow Stadium tonight.

But Downing hinted Ferguson will feature against Switzerland on Monday, with the boss having been eager to give the 18-year-old a rest.

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"Nathan is very strong defensively – he is a really tough defender," Downing continued.

"He has done very well, he is adaptable. He has played at right-back and left-back.

"He has loads of potential. He missed out against Holland because he has played a lot of games recently.

"But he will probably figure against Switzerland on Monday night."

Joseph Masi

By Joseph Masi
Football MMPJ - @josephmasi_star

Football journalist for the Express & Star covering Walsall FC.

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