SAINTS defender Taylor Harwood-Bellis described training with England’s senior team last month as a “really good experience.”

The 21 year old was pictured training with Gareth Southgate’s first team ahead of their 2024 European Championship qualifier against Malta.

Harwood-Bellis was making the step up from the Under-21s team, who he captained to European Championship glory earlier this year.

Speaking to Saints’ club media about his experience training with England’s first team, he said: “I’ve trained with them before when it’s not been made public.

Daily Echo:

“I missed the second one with a hamstring (injury), but the first camp of this season I trained with them, and I trained with them last season as well.

“It wasn’t made public those times, which I probably prefer, but it was a really good experience to train with the senior team. Going forward in my career, it’s obviously about making sure I’m with them permanently.”

Naturally, training with England meant the young defender got to brush shoulders with some of his country's best players.

Having come through at Manchester City, training alongside the elite level of players isn’t something new to the Stockport-born centre-back.

However, facing off against England’s all-time record goalscorer Harry Kane has clearly left its mark.

“He’s good. I don’t think I need to say too much, do I? To come up against him and test yourself in training – it might not be as intense, but he’s still unbelievable. You still have to be at the top of your game to even not look silly up there.

Daily Echo: Taylor Harwood-Bellis is training with England's senior team

“It’s really good to test yourself, but all of them are a joke. The standard of training is unbelievable. There’s not a player that stands out that you think, ‘he’s not up to it’. They’re all different class – it’s a completely different level.”

Asked about England manager Southgate, Harwood-Bellis added: “He’s really nice, you can have really good conversations with him, and he’s obviously a really good coach as well.”

Harwood-Bellis clearly has ambitions to reach the top level of English football. The City academy graduate he’s watched on as players he grew up with have cut their teeth in the Premier League.

The defender may get his chance to play in the top flight next season should Southampton get promoted. Saints can exercise a clause in Harwood-Bellis’ contract to sign him permanently should they achieve that goal.

The hectic Christmas period could be a “defining” moment in the trajectory of this season Harwood-Bellis believes.

Daily Echo:

“I look at it as season defining, in a way – obviously it doesn’t definitely define your season, but it can set the tone.

“You can look at it in January when hopefully we’ve gone through a Christmas period where we’ve kept the run going. I could probably put a good bet on that if you do well in December, you’re probably up there.

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“We had a sticky patch, but there was no panicking. There was no spike in our anxiety or fear or anything like that.

“We just kept the same level, as we are now – we’re unbeaten in 11 games and we’re still exactly the same as we were when we lost four in a row.

“I think that’s the key ingredient to being up there and making sure you stay up there as well – not being too low, nothing’s a crisis, because we know the level of the group.

"We know the manager and the staff will drive us, so I think it’s been a really good start, but this period now is massive for us going into January.”