Gareth Southgate has told James Ward-Prowse he can force his way into the England senior squad - despite axing him for the under-21s in the summer.
The Southampton midfielder was earmarked for a Three Lions call-up by Roy Hodgson last season but has remained with Southgate's squad.
Hodgson admitted in April he was keen for the 20-year-old to make the step up after this summer's Under-21 European Championship.
But Ward-Prowse played less than an hour as Southgate dropped his captain for their final two games as England were knocked out of the group stage and he has remained with the under-21 squad for Tuesday's Euro 2017 qualifier with Kazakhstan in Coventry.
Tottenham's Dele Alli made his England debut against Estonia on Friday after earning a call-up ahead of Ward-Prowse but under-21 boss Southgate has moved to ease any fears for the Saints star.
"I'm due to speak with James pre-game and it is an area I will touch on," he said.
"Roy's view is that Dele is a different profile of player to James but James is still somebody that I know Roy likes a lot.
"I thought he gave a very mature performance for us and he's started to force his way back into the Southampton side.
"The seniors is a realistic long-term goal for a lot of our lads. How long that takes is a case-by-case basis but for James that can still be a realistic mid-term target for him."
Ward-Prowse scored the winning penalty in the 1-0 win in Norway last month as England opened their Euro 2017 qualifying campaign and he began to exorcise his summer demons.
But Southgate believes his skipper, who scored his first senior goal for Southampton at the Ricoh Arena in 2012, has recovered from the setback.
"He was understandably disappointed with the summer, when he obviously wanted a different outcome," said the former Middlesbrough boss.
"He has been terrific for us but I just felt at the time his form dipped a little bit.
"It wasn't a decision I expected to have to make or wanted to make but he's got fantastic character and really outstanding attributes to recover from a setback like that and see it as a challenge and something he can put right and come back stronger.
"I feel that's what he's taken from the summer.
"It's not something he wanted to happen but we value him enormously, he knows that, and the penalty in Norway shows the responsibility he's willing to take and the technical ability that he has."