York City goalkeeper Russ Howarth is at the forefront of young England's charge to the European Championships.

The teenage starlet has been named in the England under-18 squad to take part in a preliminary mini-tournament in Acona, eastern Italy, between October 7 and 12.

Like City's Chris Hogg, who last week was picked for England under-15s, Howarth is the only player outside the Premiership or Division One to have earned a place in the national squad and will battle it out with Chelsea's Rhys Evans for the coveted number one jersey.

Riccall-based Howarth, 18, and England's young guns have been drawn in a group with Andorra, the Faroe Islands and the hosts, Italy.

Only the winner of the group goes forward to the intermediary round next spring.

Success in the intermediary round, in March and April next year, will secure a place in the final of the tournament, to be held in Finland in July 2001.

Howarth's call-up sees him link-up with the England squad on October 1 for training, with the first match against Andorra on October 7.

It means Howarth will be unavailable for just one City senior match - the rearranged game with Mansfield on Friday, October 6.

He will miss two reserve outings, the rearranged game against Shrewsbury on Tuesday, October 3, and trip to Wigan on October 11.

After playing the Faroe Islands on October 9, Howarth and England's final crunch game, against Italy, takes place on October 11.

Earlier this month, Howarth, already capped by England at under-16 and under-17 level, played for the under-18s in their 3-1 victory over Israel.

His absence then led to former Everton and Wales goalkeeping legend Neville Southall, the goalkeeping coach at City, being named as substitute for York's League games with Barnet and Darlington. He also kept a clean sheet in the 3-0 reserve victory over Stoke City.

The under-18s, coached by Martin Hunter, represents the final youth international stepping-stone for the country's finest teenage talent before progressing to the Under-21 and senior England squad.

England Under-18 squad: Rhys Evans (Chelsea), Russ Howarth (York City), Michael Chopra (Newcastle United), Peter Clarke (Everton), Ben Clark (Sunderland), James David (Manchester United), Jermaine Defoe (West Ham United), Rory Fallon (Barnsley), John Halls (Arsenal), Matthew Hamshaw (Sheffield Wednesday) Brian Howard (Southampton), John Jackson (Tottenham Hotspur), Neil Jenkins (Wimbledon), Leon Knight (Chelsea), Jolean Lescott (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jamie McMaster (Leeds United), David Noble (Arsenal), Stuart Parnaby (Middlesbrough), Jermaine Pennant (Arsenal), Marc Richards (Blackburn Rovers), Rohan Ricketts (Arsenal), Frazer Richardson (Leeds United)

City's reserve match with Shrewsbury Town at Bootham Crescent, scheduled to be played on October 4, has been brought forward by 24 hours because both clubs' senior teams are in action on Friday, October 6.

City's home match with Mansfield has been brought forward to the Friday night due to England's World Cup qualifier with Germany on the Saturday.

While Graham Potter has shaken off the worst of a virus, York manager Terry Dolan revealed today three youth team players, Kieran Darlow, Scott Emmerson and Marvin Boyce, had been laid low by the bug.