England and trophies; trophies and England. The two commodities just don’t go together. The Three Lions’ plight at senior level spans half a century, whilst the state of youth football within the English game is endlessly debated to the point of boredom.
But one rare exception to the rule came in 2010, when England’s U17 squad lifted the European Championship in Liechtenstein, beating none other than Spain in the final – the same year La Rojo dominated the senior World Cup to an almost unprecedented degree with their tiki-taka brand of possession-based football.
But what happened the 18-man squad manager John Peacock brought to the tournament? Who made it, who completed faded away and whose careers have fallen somewhere down the middle? As part of our Where Are They Now? series, Football FanCast takes a look…
From the 18 teenagers selected in the U17 squad, only three have graduated to England’s senior setup. Ross Barkley, who won a midfield slot in the European Championship’s Team of the Tournament, has gone on to earn 22 caps for the Three Lions and made himself a key component of Everton’s regular starting lineup – although he’s not actually picked up a single minute of international football during his last seven call-ups.
Jack Butland, meanwhile, boasts four caps for England and had it not been for a serious injury upon his latest appearance against Germany last year, could be pushing Joe Hart for the No.1 jersey right now. Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson, although yet to be capped, was a late introduction to Gareth Southgate’s latest squad amid a spate of defensive injuries.
In comparison to Barkley, Gibson and Butland, those who made our faded away category have practically fallen off the face of the earth. During the same year as England’s U17 triumph, Robert Hall (centre) and Luke Williams (right) were included in The Independent’s Five Young Players To Watch in 2010, but now find themselves both plying their trade in League One with Oxford United and Northampton Town respectively.
Despite being seen as prodigious winger-forwards during their Junior Lions days, they’ve netted a combined total of just 27 times throughout their club careers. Attacking right-back Bruno Pilatos (left), who had represented England frequently at U16, U17, U18 and U19 level, suffered the greatest fall from grace.
Not much is known of the former Middlesbrough youngster these days, but after leaving Jarrow Roofing last summer now plays his football with Ytterhogdals IK in Sweden – managed by former Carlisle striker Brian Wake.
The nearly men may not have quite made the grade to senior international football, but they all ply their club trade at a respectable level as regulars in the Premier League. Connor Wickham finished up as the U17 European Championship’s second-top scorer after Paco Alcarer but has struggled to maintain that proficiency throughout his career, netting just 17 times from his 108 top flight appearances for Sunderland and current employers Crystal Palace.
Benik Afobe was another real force at the tournament but took until January 2015 to make it to the Premier League, failing to make his mark at Arsenal but earning a big-money move to Bournemouth after netting 22 times in 46 Championship appearances for Wolves. Saido Berahino, meanwhile, was rated as one of the most exciting young English players after netting 14 times for West Brom in 2014/15.
But the Baggies’ refusal to sell him to Tottenham Hotspur in the subsequent summer, followed by a fall-out with the club’s hierarchy and recent revelations of a shock drugs ban, have seen the now-Stoke City forward’s career stagnate.
Their careers may not have progressed to the degree they hoped when they lifted the U17 title seven years ago, but Nathaniel Chalobah – the youngest member of John Peacock’s squad at just 15 – goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom still have a decent chance of representing England or at the very least establishing themselves in the Premier League. All three have endured similar careers of loan spells with lesser clubs, but the important thing is that they’re still on the books at Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
Chalobah, who boasts over 90 caps for England across the age groups, has even made eight substitute appearances in the Premier League under Antonio Conte this season, whilst Mourinho refused to let Johnstone leave on loan last summer but did sanction a loan switch to Aston Villa in January. Widsom has featured sporadically for Red Bull Salzberg this season, following stints in the Premier League with West Brom and Norwich.
At one time or another, all three were tipped as being a huge part of the future of English football, earning their academy educations at three of the Premier League’s biggest clubs in Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.
Perhaps the biggest culprit of failing to live up to the height is Josh McEachrin (left), billed as a midfield technician delicate enough on the ball to play for Spain and Chelsea’s greatest academy product since John Terry, yet unable to make his obvious talent in possession count at senior level. He’s now at Brentford.
Likewise, Conor Coady (centre) was one of many labelled with the ‘new Gerrard’ tag at Liverpool but has seemingly found his level in the Championship, making 60 league appearances for Wolves after spending 2014/15 at Huddersfield Town. Striker Will Keane (left), meanwhile, although currently employed by a Premier League club in Hull, has scored just four goals throughout his entire senior career – now aged 24.
The three remaining members of England’s U17 squad don’t particularly fall into any category. They were never particularly hyped as youngsters and they haven’t completely faded away or established themselves near the top of the English game. Luke Garbutt (right) spent the first half of the season on loan at Wigan Athletic but could become more involved at parent club Everton next term with Leighton Baines getting older and understudy Bryan Oviedo leaving for Sunderland in January.
George Thorne was a key part of the Derby County side that looked destined for the Premier League in 2013/14 but injuries have hampered his development since. And lastly, former Manchester United youngster Tom Thorpe looks set to gain promotion to the Championship with Bolton Wanderers this term, suggesting he won’t be sticking around at parent club Rotherham – who are ironically moving in the opposite direction.