By Tony Leighton
Middlesbrough's England Under-21 goalkeeper Jason Steele is aiming to end the season on a high for club and country.
The 22-year-old keeper is determined to help Boro clinch promotion from the npower Championship to the Premier League and then to play his part in what he hopes will be a triumphant summer for England at the European Under-21 Championship finals in Israel.
As England began their build-up to the finals, Steele was in the starting line-up for Tuesday evening's comprehensive 4-0 friendly victory over Sweden at Walsall's Banks's Stadium.
Now he is set to return to his club team's goal as Middlesbrough, sixth in the table after spending much of the campaign in the top two, look to put their automatic promotion drive back into gear by winning two successive home games after losing their last four Championship outings.
Boro entertain Barnsley on Saturday then Leeds United on Tuesday and Steele told football-league.co.uk: "We've got to make sure we pick up points from these games to give ourselves another platform to build on.
"We had an excellent start to the season, we were flying, but at the moment we're having a little rocky patch.
"We've been a bit unlucky at times, but there's been a couple of games lately where we've not played well. We just have to stick together, start to put together another good run of results and build from there."
Steele has been a Boro regular since the 2010/11 season, the club's second campaign back in the Championship after spending a decade in the top flight.
Though he is still very young in goalkeeping terms, he already has almost 100 Championship games under his belt and hopes to progress his claims for a senior England call-up by becoming a regular in the top flight.
"Playing in the Premier League is the pinnacle of anyone's career, it's the best league in the world," he said. "Hopefully I'll get there with Middlesbrough, and in the not too distant future.
"With the squad we've got at the club I think we've got a very good chance of getting there this season, although for me the Championship is the most difficult league to get out of.
"It's a tough, tough league and it's great for young players to be playing in it week-in, week-out.
"There's a number of Championship players in the England Under-21 squad at the moment, and quite a few of the lads with Premier League clubs have gained a lot of their early experience in the Championship."
Steele has played for England at every level from Under-16 upwards and, as he is now 22, will end his age-group international career at the Under-21 Euro finals.
Graduating to the senior England team is one of his biggest ambitions, but he said: "I'm not looking that far ahead.
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