HAVE-gloves-will-travel York City goalkeeper Russ Howarth today woke up in dreamland.

The 20-year-old City 'keeper will be on the bench for England's crucial Under-21 European Championship clash with Italy tonight after he answered a dramatic SOS from young guns' boss David Platt.

Howarth was on his way back home from the U-20s' Toulon Tournament in France - where he had also been a late call-up - when he got a telephone call asking him to jet out to Switzerland's capital of Basle for the European U-21 championships.

West Ham net-minder Stephen Bywater had suffered a wrist injury prompting an initial appeal to the U-20s for Chelsea's Rhys Evans, who shared number one duties in Toulon with Howarth. But Evans was also injured so the call went out to Howarth to come in as the third goalkeeper behind Leeds United's Paul Robinson and Stuart Taylor of Arsenal.

Recalled the City ace, who was about two hours from his Riccall home as he and otherU-20 stars were being chauffeur-driven back: "It was an unbelievable shock. But I did not need to think a second about it. I couldn't stop the smile from spreading across my face and I agreed to fly out the next day.

"Now I'll be on the bench tonight. The travelling has been a bit of a hassle, but one that's been totally worth it.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for me. There are some brilliant players here and I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I might get to see some action."

U-21s' coach Platt revealed he did not know much about Howarth, who starred in the U-20 win over Portugal in Toulon, but was delighted at the arrival of the Minsterman, who has represented his nation at every level from U-16 to U-20.

Platt, who had already lost Liverpool's Chris Kirkland with a back injury before he named his squad, admitted the goalkeeping situation had given him real problems with potential stand-in Evans on the casualty list.

"Once Chris Kirkland got injured, I phoned up Martin Hunter (the U-20s' coach) and called up Stephen Bywater, after which Martin made a phone call to England to call up Russell.

"The boy has been pulled from pillar to post a little bit."

After starting the European Championship with a 2-1 win over Switzerland, Platt's charges -- who also include Middlesbrough's ex-York starlet Jonathan Greening - would seal a place in the semi-finals if they beat Italy tonight.

Updated: 11:56 Monday, May 20, 2002